The Cincinnati Bengals entered the 2021 NFL Draft with the fifth overall selection and a decision to make regarding their young quarterback Joe Burrow. Would they protect him or find him a weapon?
Cincinnati chose the latter, drafting his former LSU teammate, wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
The duo set records on their way to a national championship in 2019, connecting for 84 completions, 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns. Chase was awarded the Biletknickoff and named a unanimous All-American.
“There were a lot of great options, but we’re fired up to have Ja’Marr Chase,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor. “The things that he’s done, he’s one of the best receivers I’ve evaluated in the draft. You can see the chemistry that he and Joe had together in that 2019 season. He comes in and makes a difference. He adds to a great receiver room that we already have and gives us one more great playmaker to have. We’re really fired up how (the pick) shook out.”
The Bengals drafted Chase ahead of top offensive line prospect Penei Sewell, but addressed their pass protection woes in the second round, ultimately selecting Clemson tackle Jackson Carman. A national champion and two-time All-ACC honoree with the Tigers, Carman is expected to compete with Riley Reiff and improve a Bengals line that allowed Burrow to be sacked 32 times in ten games.
“Yes. I think he has tremendous athleticism. There’s a lot of things we like about this guy,” Taylor said. “He can anchor, pass protect, and has great movement in the run game. He has high football intelligence. In talking to him over Zoom the last few weeks, its really impressive how quickly he’ll walk in and understand the schemes. He’s just a really impressive person when you talk to him.”
Cincinnati also beefed up their defensive front with three straight selections in the third and fourth rounds. They nabbed a pair of defensive ends in Texas’ Joseph Ossai and Tulane’s Cameron Sample that are expected to immediately factor into their pass rushing rotation.
Ossai was highly productive for the Longhorns, tallying 145 total tackles, 29 tackles-for-loss and 10.5 sacks over the last two seasons. Sample had a similarly impactful four-year career for the Green Wave with 162 total tackles, 20.5 tackles-for-loss and 10.5 sacks of his own.
“He’s relentless. He really brings a nice physical presence, has great burst off the edge. I really like what he brings to the table,” Taylor said of Ossai.
The Bengals also took former LSU defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin in the fourth.
2021 Draft Picks
R1, No. 5 WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
R2, No. 46 OT Jackson Carman, Clemson
R3, No. 69 DE Joseph Ossai, Texas
R4, No. 111 DE Cameron Sample, Tulane
R4, No. 122 DT Tyler Shelvin, LSU
R4, No. 139 OT D’Ante Smith, ECU
R5, No. 149 K Evan McPherson, Florida
R6, No. 190 C Trey Hill, Georgia
R6, No. 202 RB Chris Evans, Michigan
R7, No. 235 DE Wyatt Hubert, Kansas State
NFL.com’s Chad Reuter: B+
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.: B
CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco: B-
Sports Illustrated’s Connor Orr: C+