Bengals dropped the ball in 2021 NFL Draft thanks to Jackson Carman

Cincinnati Bengals offensive guard Jackson Carman (79) lines up for a snap in the first quarter
Cincinnati Bengals offensive guard Jackson Carman (79) lines up for a snap in the first quarter / Kareem Elgazzar via Imagn Content

Remember when the Cincinnati Bengals spent their second-round pick on Jackson Carman in the 2021 NFL Draft? Fans weren't crazy about the decision at the time and it appears they were right to feel that way, as Carman was a healthy scratch and listed as inactive this past Sunday against the Jets.

Carman didn't do much as a rookie, starting just six games and appearing in 42% of the offensive snaps over 17 games. He was the favorite to win the starting left guard job entering training camp but was outshined by rookie fourth-round pick Cordell Volson, who won the job fair and square.

As a result, Carman was relegated to backup duties and then didn't even dress for game day this past week. That's not good for a former second-round pick and now Bengals fans are even more irritated at how that pick could have been spent on someone who actually contributed to this team.

Bengals missed out on adding an impact player by drafting Jackson Carman

Last December, I wrote an article about seven players the Bengals could have had at the No. 46 pick (or at No. 38 had they not traded that particular pick to the Patriots) had they not gone with Carman. Two names that really could have helped this team in a big way are Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith, both of whom were still on the board when Cincinnati added Carman to their roster.

Humphrey was also a second-round pick, falling to No. 63 overall and honestly could have won Offensive Rookie of the Year last year if centers were actually given the respect they deserve in the awards. The Chiefs center appeared in 99% of KC's offensive snaps last year and has played in 100% of the offensive snaps in all three games this season. The dude is ferocious upfront.

Now I know that the Bengals went out and signed Ted Karras this offseason and Karras has been awesome but remember how poorly Trey Hopkins played at center last year? Having Humphrey around would have caused us to have fewer headaches during the 2021 season and the Bengals would have had the Oklahoma product for at least half a decade.

As for Trey Smith, a lot of teams passed on him due to a history of blood clots. The Chiefs ended up drafting him in the sixth round and he went on to win the starting right guard job in KC last year. Smith appeared in 100% of the Chiefs' offensive snaps last year and has appeared in 80% of the snaps through three games this year.

Right guard was another position the Bengals shored up this offseason, which they did by signing Alex Cappa. This was a good move made by Cincinnati but wouldn't have had to be made had Smith been on this team.

It's truly painful how much better the Bengals' offensive line could have been last year had they not gone with Carman at No. 46 and instead took Humphrey or Smith. I know Smith would have been considered a huge reach but the guy is definitely playing better than a sixth-round pick.

If Cincinnati had an average offensive line last season, they're probably the reigning Super Bowl champions right now. Just imagine if they had opted for Humphrey or Smith over Carman. Things could have been a lot different right now.

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Teams aren't going to hit on every draft pick and Carman is proof of that but it's the fact that he's a second-round pick that makes this sting even more. Second-round picks shouldn't be inactive despite being healthy two years into their career. This is a mistake that Bengals fans will remember for a long time.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference