CINCINNATI — With free agency less than a month away, the Bengals still have plenty of time to put together a plan for April's NFL Draft.
Oregon's Penei Sewell and LSU's Ja'Marr Chase are at the top of most wish lists, but there's a chance neither guy falls to No. 5.
There are plenty of other great options if those two guys are off the board. Fans shouldn't expect Cincinnati to reach on an offensive tackle in the first round if Sewell isn't available. There's talk about Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater being in the same tier as the Oregon star, but I don't buy it.
If Sewell isn't available, the Bengals will either trade down for more picks or stand pat and take the top player on their board. That's exactly what they do in mock draft 3.0.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15) – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
2. New York Jets (2-14) – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
3. Miami Dolphins (10-6) (via Texans) – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
4. Atlanta Falcons (4-12) – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
5. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1) – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
With Sewell and Chase already gone, the Bengals take the best player on their board. Waddle is a speedy playmaker and most people in the NFL believe he has more upside than teammate DeVonta Smith.
Waddle averaged 18.9 yards-per-reception in three seasons at Alabama, appearing in 34 games. He did suffer a broken ankle in October, which derailed his junior year, but he has all the traits to be a top playmaker at the NFL level.
Waddle wins at the line of scrimmage with his speed, athleticism and technique. He doesn't let opposing cornerbacks get their hands on him, which is a requirement if they're going to keep up with a wide receiver with his speed.
The 22-year-old averaged 22.28 yards-per-reception in his first four games of the 2020 season prior to suffering the ankle injury. He had 25 receptions for 557 yards and four touchdowns. Smith had 38 receptions for 483 yards and four scores over that span.
As great as Smith was in 2020, Waddle was Alabama's No. 1 wide receiver and the guy that put the fear in opposing defenses before he got hurt.
He's a perfect fit with the current Bengals' roster. A trio of Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and Waddle would do wonders for Burrow, who's hoping to connect on more downfield throws in 2021.
This team needs a speed boost. Waddle runs and plays fast. He dominated in the SEC and even came back and played in the National Championship Game against Ohio State even though he wasn't 100%. He doesn't have an injury history outside of the broken ankle and is a proven kick and punt returner.
If Chase and Sewell are gone, there's a good chance Waddle is the top player on the Bengals' board. Kyle Pitts will get a lot of consideration in this spot as well. They go with the speedster at No. 5.
Watch some of Waddle's highlights and check out the rest of the mock draft below.
6. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1) – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
7. Detroit Lions (5-11) – Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
8. Carolina Panthers (5-11) – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
9. Denver Broncos (5-11) – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
10. Dallas Cowboys (6-10) – Patrick Surtain Jr., CB, Alabama
11. New York Giants (6-10) – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
12. San Francisco 49ers (6-10) – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
13. L.A. Chargers (7-9) – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
14. Minnesota Vikings (7-9) – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
15. New England Patriots (7-9) – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
16. Arizona Cardinals (8-8) – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
17. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8) – Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
18. Miami Dolphins – Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
19. Washington Football Team (7-9) – Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG, USC
20. Chicago Bears (8-8) – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
21. Indianapolis Colts (11-5) – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
22. Tennessee Titans (11-5) – Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
23. Jets (via Seattle Seahawks) – Trevon Moehrig, S, Missouri
24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
25. Jaguars (via Los Angeles Rams) – Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia
26. Cleveland Browns (11-5) – Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama
27. Baltimore Ravens (11-5) – Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
28. New Orleans Saints (12-4) – Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
29. Buffalo Bills (13-3) – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
30. Green Bay Packers (13-3) – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
31. Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) – Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) – Joe Tryon, Edge, Washington
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