Saturday was a busy afternoon in the Bengals front office. Cincinnati selected seven players on day three of the 2021 NFL Draft. The team continued attacking the trenches, beefed up the rushing attack, and selected what they hope is their next great kicker.
The Bengals added Tulane defensive end Cam Sample, LSU defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin, ECU offensive tackle D'Ante Smith, Florida kicker Evan McPherson, Georgia center Trey Hill, Michigan running back Chris Evans, and Kansas State defensive end Wyatt Hubert.
Those seven selections mark a crucial flashpoint for the future of this franchise. Finding a late hit is imperative. Here is my final Three Down Look of the 2021 NFL Draft.
First Down: Positional Impact
Sample set career-highs in tackles for loss (7.5) and sacks (5.0) last season at Tulane. The Georgia-native is a little hard to peg in the NFL, but there's a chance he could develop into an interior pass-rushing piece entering the league at 267 pounds. The veteran brings 38 starts of experience to Cincinnati after impressing Bengals coaches at the Senior Bowl.
A hulking man in the middle, Shelvin doesn't project as a pass-rushing defensive tackle (1.5 career sacks and 4.5 TFLs), but he'll have an immediate impact on the run defense. The 350-pounder should slot right into the rotation with DJ Reader, Mike Daniels, and Larry Ogunjobi.
Offensive line coach Frank Pollack has a lot to work with in Smith, whose injury struggles hampered his development. Smith suffered season-ending injuries to start his freshman and senior seasons, sandwiching 26 straight starts in between. Smith is light on his feet and possesses traits that Pollack can develop, including 35-inch arms.
Meet your new starting kicker, Bengals fans! McPherson has a howitzer attached to his right hip. This special teams weapon prompted Cincinnati to reach because they are sick of giving away free points. McPherson impressed the Bengals by making 21-of-22 kicks at his pro day. His only miss was from 58-yards. Austin Seibert is still on the Bengals roster, but he would have to be lights out to beat out McPherson for the starting job. For him, it's about auditioning for the other 31 NFL teams.
The Georgia product adds depth to a questionable position at the moment with Trey Hopkins still rehabbing from a torn ACL. Billy Price has been a bust since the Bengals selected him in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Things would have to get wonky for Hill to snap the ball to Burrow next year. The rookie can look at Hopkins' rise from an undervalued prospect who developed into a starter.
Cincinnati needed to add one more piece to the running back room after Giovani Bernard exited. Evans' projection is a mystery coming out of Michigan. The 23-year-old struggled with academic issues and only notched 25 carries over the last two years. Pass blocking is one of his strong suits to go with capable hands out of the backfield. Expect Evans and Trayveon Williams to battle for a roster spot in training camp.
Rounding out the new trio at defensive end, Hubert lacks athletic traits but has made up for it with production at Kansas State. He earned First Team All-Big 12 honors in 2019 and 2020, finishing with 15.5 sacks and 25.5 tackles for loss over the two seasons. Khalid Kareem, Amani Bledsoe, and Hubert figure to battle for the final edge-rushing spots in August.
Second Down: Wow! Highlight
This video defines double-take.
McPherson can do some special things when he connects his shoe with leather. NFL quarterbacks complain about having to fit the ball "through a keyhole." This takes that to a whole new level. I suspect this will be the only time Bengals fans see McPherson take "the top off" a defense.
Third Down: Stat To Know
Cam Sample - Along with a career-high in sacks, Sample led the American Athletic Conference in pressures (42) last season.
Tyler Shelvin - Weight issues have throttled Shelvin's career before. According to The Athletic's Dane Brugler, he served a suspension at LSU during the 2018 season for his size and laziness.
D'Ante Smith - His 85-inch wingspan was the longest among all offensive linemen measured at the Senior Bowl.
Evan McPherson - The Florida-kicker set the Gators record for most converted field-goal attempts of 50-plus yards (4).
Trey Hill - According to Pro Football Focus, Hill allowed three sacks, two hits, and five hurries across 882 career pass-blocking snaps.
Chris Evans - Wowed evaluators with a 9.85 Relative Athletic Score. That ranked 24th out of 1,463 running back prospects since 1987 according to Kent Lee Platte.
Wyatt Hubert - The KSU-alum finished his career ranked eighth among the Wildcats all-time sack leaders (20).
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