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2021 NFL Draft: Pick-By-Pick Breakdown and Grades for Each of the Bengals' 10 Selections

A breakdown of all 10 picks, plus grades and an overall outlook for each player.

CINCINNATI — The Bengals added 10 players to their roster in the 2021 NFL Draft

They started with a playmaker, before addressing the trenches with seven of their final nine picks. Here are my thoughts on each player below. 

5. Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU

Some criticized this pick, but that'll change the moment Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow connects with Chase on a deep ball this season. Chase's ability to create explosive plays downfield should change the way opposing defenses play against Cincinnati. 

The Burrow-to-Chase connection was one of the greatest in college football history. Burrow earned a 95.4 passing grade when targeting Chase according to Pro Football Focus. He posted a 142.3 passer rating on those plays, finishing with 85 first downs and 16 deep touchdowns. 

Picking an offensive lineman like Penei Sewell would've been tempting in most drafts, but Chase has a chance to be special. His mix of speed, athleticism and strength should translate to the NFL right away. 

Outlook: No one should blame the Bengals for taking Chase. He's going to be a star. 

Grade: A+

46. Jackson Carman, OL, Clemson

This 46th overall pick represents the theme of this Bengals' draft class. They clearly wanted to focus on the trenches, but the players they targeted weren't the ones that fans or analysts were talking about the most.   

After watching Carman, there's no reason why he can't be a plug-and-play left tackle as a rookie. He has good size and athleticism. He's physical and went up against high-end competition in big games. 

Related: Watch a Quality Film Breakdown of Jackson Carman

If Carman develops into a high-end starter and Chase is the player most think he is, then the Bengals' 2021 draft class is already a success. That's a big if according to some scouts and analysts that had Carman much lower on their board. Time will tell if the Bengals were right in their evaluation of the 21-year-old. 

Outlook: The pick was questionable at the time, but adding two extra fourth round selections helps soften the blow. Carman has a chance to be a really good starting guard in the pros.

Grade: C+

69. Joseph Ossai, Edge, Texas

Ossai might be the Bengals' best value pick. He's an elite athlete that works extremely hard and produced well in college. He had 10.5 sacks and 29 tackles for loss over the past two seasons. 

The Bengals lost Carl Lawson in free agency and replace him with a similar player. Ossai doesn't have the injury issues Lawson had in college and could end up giving the Bengals similar production on a line that includes Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard. 

Outlook: The Bengals needed pass rush help and they land a guy that was projected to be a top-40 pick. 

Grade: A

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111: Cam Sample, DL, Tulane

Sample's performance at the Senior Bowl vaulted him into the top 100 on most draft boards. He's a versatile defensive end that can kick inside when needed. 

Sample compiled 52 tackles (8.5 for loss), five sacks and three pass breakups in 11 starts. He should be an instant contributor on a defensive line that desperately needed an infusion of young talent. 

Cincinnati lost Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins and Lawson in a matter of months. Replacing them is much easier said than done, but the duo of Ossai and Sample helps. 

Outlook: Sample should contribute right away on the edge and inside. 

Grade: B

122. Tyler Shelvin, DT, LSU

This pick left some scratching their head initially, but Shelvin has tons of potential. He's a "big bodied, dancing bear" according to one source that watched him make plays at LSU. 

Look for Shelvin to be a two-down nose tackle in the NFL, which is extremely useful, especially in the AFC North. There is some risk with Shelvin, considering he's had weight issues in the past. He has the talent. If he puts in the work he could end up becoming a very good NFL player.

Outlook: The Bengals got run on way too much last season. They need to find a way to slow down Baltimore and Cleveland's rushing attack. Even Pittsburgh will run more this season with Najee Harris. Shelvin should help the Bengals accomplish their goal.

Grade: B

139. D'Ante Smith, OT, ECU

Smith has the length and athleticism to be a starting right tackle in the NFL. His 35-inch arms and 85-inch wingspan are rare in any draft, but especially in this class. Most of the tackles available didn't possess those measurables. 

Smith is inexperienced and will need guidance from offensive line coach Frank Pollack, but the traits are there for him to become the Bengals' starting right tackle in 2022 or 2023. 

Getting into an NFL strength and conditioning program should help him get stronger and gain weight. This is a low-risk, high-reward pick at this stage of the draft. 

Outlook: Smith will likely be a backup as a rookie, but could easily push for playing time in 2022. 

Grade: B+

149. Evan McPherson, K, Florida

There's risk in taking a kicker in the fifth round, but if the Bengals are right about McPherson and he becomes a top player at his position, then this was a steal. An elite kicker would do wonders for a Bengals team that hasn't had anyone that could consistently make 50+ yard field goals in decades. 

Outlook: McPherson is talented. Can he become the NFL's next elite kicker? 

Grade: C

190. Trey Hill, C/G, Georgia

Hill will battle for a spot at a position that lacks depth on the Bengals' roster. With Trey Hopkins coming off of a torn ACL and Billy Price's inconsistency, there's a path for Hill to push for playing time in 2021. 

It may not be likely, especially if Hopkins makes a full recovery and Price takes a step forward, but a scenario exists where the rookie pushes for a spot on the team. Cincinnati liked Hill's body of work and they believe Pollack can get the most out of him. 

Outlook: There's nothing wrong with adding a center that could push for a roster spot at this stage of the draft. 

Grade: C

202. Chris Evans, RB, Michigan

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This is my favorite day three selection. Not only does Evans share a name with Captain America, but they have a similar athletic profile. 

The 23-year-old is healthy and hungry after not being used much over the past two seasons. He should push for a spot on the team with Giovani Bernard no longer on the roster. The Bengals love his route running ability. The former slot receiver has great hands. If he can carve out a role on special teams, then there's a good chance he makes the team. 

Outlook: This is a perfect time in the draft to take a swing on an elite athlete with traits that should translate to the NFL. 

Grade: A

235. Wyatt Hubert, DE, Kansas State

The Bengals weren't expecting to have Hubert on their board at this stage of the draft. They thought he could be taken as early as round five He isn't a great athlete, but he had elite production and versatility that should help him transition to life in the NFL. 

Like Evans, special teams will be key for Hubert in his quest to make the team. 

Outlook: Hubert had 94 tackles (33 for loss) and 20 sacks in three seasons for the Wildcats. His work ethic and effort give him a chance to develop into a contributor on defense. 

Grade: B+

Final Analysis: The Bengals added the best downfield threat in the draft and then bolstered both sides of the line of scrimmage. They knew they needed to get more physical and that's exactly what they did. Even their new sports car [Chase] is built like an off-road vehicle. He's big, strong presence and a willing blocker. If Carman becomes a solid guard and Chase reaches his full potential, then this draft will be a success. Mix in top talents at their respective positions like Ossai, Shelvin and McPherson and it's easy to see the Bengals' vision for the future. 

Final Draft Grade: B

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