The Chase for a Pen(n)ei
We’ve officially reached that point in the offseason—fans arguing about free agents, who they signed, who they didn’t sign. Thankfully, for most, their attention has turned to the draft. With just over three weeks to the NFL draft, Bengals’ fans are in utter disaccord.
On April 29th, the Bengals will most likely select another cornerstone for their franchise with the fifth overall pick, barring another rim-rocking trade. The number one pick has been a lock since the offseason started, and the Jaguars will select Trevor Lawrence out of Clemson. The New York Jets will proceed with another QB, most likely Zach Wilson, after shipping Sam Darnold off to Carolina. What San Francisco does at number three remains a mystery. However, one thing is sure, the 49ers will be selecting their new franchise QB.
Really, the draft starts at the number four overall pick, where the Atlanta Falcons will make a selection. Rumor mill indicates the Falcons, to, could be shopping the fourth overall pick. Could four straight QB selections be in the works? It is certainly possible, regardless if the Falcons strike a deal. Matt Ryan continues to age, and the franchise will need to find their new face of the franchise sooner rather than later.
That leads us to good ol’ Cincy. When the Bengals clock strikes, marquee players will be available across the board. Recent Twitter activity and rumors suggest that this pick comes down to Ja’Marr Chase (WR out of LSU) and Penei Sewell (OT out of Oregon).
All week, Bengals have been back and forth on who they should select, bickering like a divorced couple in a courtroom. Trying to prove who offers more value at the #5 position. And who will be able to contribute more to the team in both the short-term and long-term?
Before continuing, these are just two of many options for the Bengals. There are endless possibilities of what the Bengals could do with this pick. Just like a box of chocolates, you shall never know what you get come time of the NFL Draft.
Of course, the Bengals themselves may not even view Sewell or Chase as a top-five pick. In fact, it has been reported that some teams view Rashawn Slater as OT1 over Sewell. If that is the case, then this debate is practically obsolete. On the other hand, the Bengals may have players such as Kyle Pitts, or Devonta Smith ranked ahead of Chase on their big board.
A Penei for your Thoughts
It seems as if every Bengals fan argument for Sewell comes down to one thought summed up in a viral meme below.
Here we have the case for Sewell laid out very simply for us. Burrow needs protection to develop and take the Bengals’ offense to the next level. During the first 11 weeks of Burrow’s young career, he took 32 sacks and 42 hits, which tied for 2nd and 5th most, respectively.
Jonah Williams was one of the few bright spots on the line, where the former Alabama product was the only player to record a PFF overall grade over 70 on the unit. However, his run-blocking grade was an abysmal 53.4. As for the other starters, their guards were a disaster, finishing 56th and 60th in the league of 80 qualified guards.
Their center, Trey Hopkins, was average (18th out of 36 centers) despite playing next to two turnstiles. But Hopkins did tear his ACL in the regular-season finale, adding another question mark to the o-line. Perhaps Billy Price, the former first-rounder, will get one more chance to prove himself.
Entering free agency, it certainly seemed the Bengals were destined to make a splash or two. While it may not have been the splashiest of signings, they did bring in long-time veteran Riley Reiff. The former Viking tackle should make for a sizable upgrade at the tackle position. His 71.4 overall grade in 2020 would have bested top Bengals performer Jonah Williams.
It’s Reiff’s signings that questions the need for Sewell. Of course, any time you have an opportunity to bring in a cornerstone left tackle, you should at least make an inquiry. However, their two best linemen now reside in the tackle position. Bringing in Sewell to play guard or forcing Reiff or Williams to convert to guard doesn’t appear to be the logical move.
Instead, the Bengals could better utilize a later round to address the interior line, precisely the guard position. Due to the relatively low value placed on guards, the Bengals front office should find no issue finding a starting-caliber guard in the second or third round of the draft.
The Thrill of (the) Chase
It’s no secret that Ja’Marr Chase is one of the top wide receivers and a top player in this year’s draft. His pro-day numbers certainly silenced whatever few critics he had. Putting up a 4.38 forty time to go along with a vertical jump of 41 inches. His forty time may have just sealed Chase’s fate to be selected in the top seven.
What should excite Bengals fans even more is, he’s already shown the ability to produce against the best of the best. In 2019 (his last season), Chase had 487 yards and 6 touchdowns on 26 catches against AJ Terrel, Trevon Diggs, CJ Henderson, Noah Igbinoghene, and Patrick Surtain. His 6 touchdowns are double the amount the group collectively surrendered to all other wideouts in 2019. That’s a first-round pick, a second-round pick, a first, another first, and an expected first that Chase absolutely torched.
Still not excited Bengals fans? Did you forget that Chase and Burrow have already teamed up to form a lethal duo in 2019, culminating in a National Championship. The chemistry is already they between the two. Reconnecting the two college stars will be too hard to pass up for the Bengals front office. They may be able to find quality linemen in the later rounds of the draft, but they simply will not be able to find a player of Chase’s caliber nor a player with half the chemistry Chase has with Burrow.
Simply, the Bengals will be hard-pressed to pass up the opportunity to rekindle the fire that Burrow and Chase have. However, just like with that box of chocolates, we indeed won’t find out till Roger Goodell steps up to the podium with the fifth overall pick.