Bengals undervalued factor in WR Ja’Marr Chase vs OT Penei Sewell

Nov 23, 2019; Tempe, AZ, USA; Oregon Ducks tackle Penei Sewell (58) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 23, 2019; Tempe, AZ, USA; Oregon Ducks tackle Penei Sewell (58) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cincinnati Bengals will make the fifth overall pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday night. Oregon tackle Penei Sewell and LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase seem to be front and center on Cincinnati’s radar. Plenty of arguments have been made for both players.

The Bengals draft history has been largely overlooked, but it should absolutely be relevant when the team goes on the clock in Cleveland for the first time. In general, the Bengals don’t have a good handle on the draft.

The Bengals’ lack of success in the NFL Draft is part of the reason why they are picking in the top five for the second straight year with a three-decade playoff victory drought. The WR  position is an exception over the last 20 years or so. Chad Johnson may end up in the Hall of Fame one day.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Johnson formed quite a duo on the Bengals team that went to the playoffs after the 2005 season. Current Bengals Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins racked up over 1700 receiving yards between them last year.

Bengals drafts are also dotted with solid contributors at WR like Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and the late Chris Henry in the not too distant past. Those players all have one thing in common, none of them were first-round picks. Cincinnati knows how to draft WRs beyond obvious first-round talents like A.J. Green and Chase.

With Higgins and Boyd already in the fold, the current roster is far from bereft of talent at that spot. They can afford to take chances on less polished prospects at WR later in the draft. As evidenced by the previous paragraph, they can probably hit on someone.

The Bengals offensive line is a different story

As good as the Bengals have been at drafting and developing receivers, they have been that bad with offensive linemen. The scar from franchise quarterback Joe Burrow’s surgery to repair a torn ACL and more tells you all you need to know about the unit’s performance last year.

Burrow was one of the most hit quarterbacks in football despite playing in just ten games. Offensive lineman Jonah Williams has a bright future if he can stay healthy. Center Trey Hopkins has carved out a nice career when healthy after being undrafted.

Other than that current duo and home runs with Andrew Whitworth, Kevin Zeitler, and Eric Steinbach, the Bengals’ semi-recent track record of homegrown OL is awful. Whitworth, Zeitler, and Steinbach eventually left Cincinnati for bigger money elsewhere.  First-round picks Andre Smith and Cedric Ogbuehi were Cincinnati busts.

Center Billy Price who was a 2018 first-round pick is running out of chances. The same can likely be said for 2019 fourth-round pick Michael Jordan. Bringing in 32-year-old Riley Reiff on a one-year contract is not enough help for this unit. Another injury to Burrow injury might be a career-ender.

The Big Question

There are seven rounds and lots of good OL and WRs in the draft. Cincinnati will address both areas. The Bengals picking a first-round lineman is far from a sure thing.

dark. Next. Bengals have dream scenario fifth pick in NFL Draft

Even so, Thursday night’s decision comes down to this. At which of the two positions are the Bengals more likely to find guys they can develop beyond the first round? History says it is at wide receiver. Thus, the right thing to do is make Sewell or perhaps even Rashawn Slater a Bengal on Thursday night.