The Bengals added depth and a potential long-term starter with development when they drafted offensive tackle D’Ante Smith in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft on Saturday. Smith played 31 games, starting 29 for the Pirates in his collegiate career. Smith will be expected to back up at guard and tackle for Cincinnati.
Smith was the second tackle the Bengals drafted. Cincinnati chose Clemson tackle, Jackson Carman, in the second round. Some projections have Carman earning a starting spot at guard. Smith would then likely backup left tackle Jonah Williams and free-agent signee Riley Reiff at right tackle.
With Reiff signed to a one-year contract, Smith could compete to be the starting RT in 2022 or potentially move inside to guard. At 6’5, 305 pounds with an 85-inch wingspan and 35-inch arms. Smith also moves well according to his NFL.Com scouting report. The criticism is his lack of size and strength.
Smith can spend the summer and a year of development as a backup working on gaining strength. The specific criticism on Smith with lack of strength are “that he “has struggled to keep enough weight on his frame, upper-body strength is way below par and doesn’t have the body control or block sustain teams look for.”
The Bengals clearly drafted Smith because of his length and lateral movement. Offensive line coach Brian Callahan told Bengals.Com that Smith has the specific traits Cincinnati was looking for in a lineman. Smith was drafted by the Bengals in the exact spot he is at on the Consensus Mock Draft Database.
“You’re looking for traits and he’s got them…When you see guys with 35-inch, 36-inch arms , you do see how they recover and how they can get separation for the quarterback. It’s a factor.
Cincinnati is building young depth on the offensive line but they need someone to develop and made an impact. Jonah Williams has struggled to stay healthy with just 0 games played in two seasons. Billy Price who was a Bengals first-round pick in 2018, was passed on the depth chart at center.
The option on Price for a fifth season was not picked up. The 2021 season will likely be the last for Prie in a Cincinnati uniform. Carman and Smith developing for the Bengals in 2021 will be important for this season and the future. The Bengals desperately need improved OL play to better protect Joe Burrow.