CINCINNATI — The Bengals have plenty of needs heading into the offseason, but none bigger than their issues in the trenches.
Cincinnati's offensive line is desperate for a talent infusion. They need to find a way to keep star quarterback Joe Burrow upright. He took way too many hits this season, which ended [for him] in Week 11 when he suffered a torn ACL, MCL and other damage to his left knee.
Protecting Burrow has to be the Bengals' No. 1 priority and ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. thinks they should move up for the top offensive tackle in the draft.
"The Cincinnati Bengals desperately need Penei Sewell for Joe Burrow to keep him upright and healthy," Kiper said on the First Draft podcast. "I think you go from [picks] 5-to-2. The Jets go down from 2-to-5. You're going to get Smith or Chase in that move down and the Bengals are happy going from 5-to-2 to guarantee Penei Sewell."
Kiper is high on Sewell. While some believe quarterbacks like Ohio State's Justin Fields or BYU's Zach Wilson are the second best player in the draft, he thinks it's the big man from Oregon.
"It's Penei Sewell the tackle from Oregon," Kiper said without hesitation. "If you go back [to his] freshman year, flawless. He missed some games that year with a high ankle sprain. In 2019, doesn't allow a sack, one or two quarterback hits. I wouldn't say perfect, but close to it."
Trading up for Sewell sounds good, but he's far from a guarantee. The Bengals have plenty of weaknesses on their roster. Trading multiple picks to move up is risky.
Free agency is the key to the offseason.
The Bengals aren't known for moving up in the draft. Why not spend big time money on a proven commodity like Taylor Moton, Trent Williams or even Brandon Scherff and Joe Thuney.
Adding two of those free agents would give the Bengals plenty of draft flexibility. If Sewell falls to No. 5, then you can still take him. If not, then they could stay put and take the best player or move down and add multiple draft picks.
There's plenty of time between now and the 2021 NFL Draft, which kicks off on April 29.
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