The Cincinnati Bengals definitely surprised some people when they spent the fifth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase. It was common knowledge that the team desperately needed help on the offensive line so taking Chase despite already having Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins on the roster was a bit of a headscratcher.
Now that we're two years removed from the pick, however, it hasn't been hard to see that it was the right decision for the Bengals. Chase has gone over the 1,000-yard receiving mark in each of his first two seasons and won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award during the 2021 season.
In other words, no one is questioning that pick now.
In Adam Rank's 2021 NFL Draft do-over, however, he doesn't have the Bengals even being able to take Chase fifth overall. He had Chase going fourth overall to the Atlanta Falcons, who took Kyle Pitts in that spot originally.
"OK, so maybe Chase would have been just as underused as Pitts, who has been targeted just shy of 100 times in 27 career games (a knee injury ended his 2022 season prematurely). Either way, I'd argue Chase -- the 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year -- is the much better player, and the Falcons would have been wise to take him here. "- Adam Rank
Bengals don't have opportunity to draft Ja'Marr Chase in re-draft
With Chase off the board as well as Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields (who went No. 2 to the Jets), and Micah Parson (who went to the Niners at No. 3), who do the Bengals go with instead? Adding an offensive lineman was something they were expected to do with the fifth overall pick and Penei Sewell was the guy they were linked to a lot in mock drafts.
Shockingly, Sewell is not who Rank had Cincinnati taking here. He has them selecting Rashawn Slater who actually fell to the Chargers at pick 13.
"I don't know, man. Part of me wants to go with Kyle Pitts here. Maybe Jaylen Waddle. But the struggle for the Bengals back in 2021 was deciding between Chase and an offensive lineman. I would have to say the Bengals go offensive lineman in a do-over, with Chase off the table. (Even though I really want to put Pitts here. I do.) "- Adam Rank
The Bengals wouldn't be in their constant tight end conundrum had they spent their first-rounder on Kyle Pitts (though he was not available in the actual draft) because he'd have been that guy for them. That being said, Slater would have been an awesome pick assuming he played as well as he has for the Chargers.
Slater was injured in 2022 but he was a stud as a rookie, earning an overall PFF grade of 83.6 while playing 1,110 snaps at left tackle for Los Angeles. The Bengals certainly could have used that kind of production on the left side of the line.
What do you think of this decision for the Bengals in the 2021 draft do-over? Who would you have had them take at No. 5 if Chase was off the board?