Cincinnati Bengals: 6 bold predictions for the 2021 rookie class
By Jack Lane
Cincinnati Bengals Rookie Class Bold Predictions
D’Ante Smith will earn enough trust from the coaches to start at least one game this season.
As noted above, the Bengals’ offensive line had to be a major point of emphasis in the offseason, and simply selecting one lineman in the draft in Carman would not have been sufficient. The front office understood this, adding developmental offensive tackle D’Ante Smith in the fourth round out of East Carolina.
Smith, like Cameron Sample, had great reps at the Senior Bowl, which helped boost his draft stock. In addition to standing out against similarly talented potential draftees, Smith tested excellently pre-draft, including showing off impressively long arms relative to his peers.
What Smith provides as a prospect in terms of length, speed, and upside, he lacks in functional power and refinement. His technique is currently untenable for an NFL starter and his body needs an offseason in an NFL weight room. These flaws should not be seen as impediments to a successful career, but Smith comes to the Bengals as a project, to be sure.
Because of these hurdles that Smith must overcome, he will assuredly begin the season at the bottom of the depth chart behind more established players like Hakeem Adeniji and Fred Johnson. Adeniji and Johnson, though less talented than Smith, have been battle-tested following last season.
Throughout the course of the season, Smith will overcome his flaws, both with better training and more technical coaching from Frank Pollack, which should allow his natural talent to shine. As the coaches see this development and commitment to his craft, Smith should rise up the depth chart and pass Adeniji and Johnson.
Thus, in the case of injury, it will be Smith, not Adeniji or Johnson, who would get the start. Jonah Williams has played only ten games through two seasons, and Riley Reiff has missed at least one game each of the last five seasons. It would be a miniature miracle to get through the season without either getting hurt, so Smith should get a chance to start at least once during this season.