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Bengals' Draft Grades: National Analysts Weigh in on Cincinnati's Haul

The Bengals received mixed reviews following 10 additions to the roster

CINCINNATI — The Bengals selected 10 players in the 2021 NFL Draft, including a game breaking wide receiver in Ja'Marr Chase, three offensive linemen led by Jackson Carman and four defensive linemen, including Texas edge rusher Joseph Ossai. 

Add in a kicker Evan McPherson and a pass catching running back like Chris Evans and Cincinnati's roster looks much different than it did a week ago. 

The AllBengals Draft grades will be released in the near future, but what are the rest of the analysts across the country saying about the Bengals? 

Here's what national outlets are saying about Cincinnati's draft haul. 

Sports Illustrated: C+

"Joe Burrow’s knee injury was not the fault of his tackles. You can separate that argument from the fact that the Bengals’ offensive line has been perpetually scattershot and, in 2021, is highly dependent on young players developing on schedule. Picking Ja’Marr Chase at No. 5 is a fine decision in the context of a deep tackle class. Trading down in the second round beyond the wave of top second-round tackles and then nabbing Clemson’s Jackson Carman, though, was a bit puzzling. Perhaps Carman will find his own at guard, which will give the Bengals more of an interior presence. The hope, then, is that Riley Reiff can hang on as he enters his age-33 season.

"I tend to agree with those who would have preferred the Bengals take Penei Sewell and then a wide receiver in the second. Among the available: Terrace Marshall Jr., D’Wayne Eskridge and Rondale Moore."


"The Bengals were in a great spot with the No. 5 overall pick, because they have their quarterback of the future, unlike the teams that had the four picks in front of them. Joe Burrow is their guy. Would they go with Burrow's buddy Ja'Marr Chase, an elite receiver? Or maybe Penei Sewell, a tremendous linemen who could be the team's left tackle for the next 10 years? They also could have traded down to pick up more premium picks for a team trying to get one of the leftover top quarterbacks. 

In the end, they went with Chase, the 2019 Biletnikoff Award winner who makes this offense must-see TV. He had 1,780 receiving yards and caught 20 touchdown passes from Burrow in 2019 before opting out of last season. Burrow now has Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon as good—and young—playmakers around him, though the Bengals still need to upgrade at tight end. This is a group that can grow together and should terrify defensive coordinators. On Day 2, Cincinnati traded down and took Trevor Lawrence's college left tackle Jackson Carman (46), who coach Zac Taylor will have compete for one of the starting guard spots. It was high for Carman on my board. He dealt with a back injury during the pre-draft process, and there were better linemen available. I even think D'Ante Smith (139) could be better in the long-term. The organization did well in the trade, though, adding pick Nos. 122 and 139—the pick that yielded Smith—for moving down eight spots.

Edge rusher Joseph Ossai (69) adds to a young defensive end rotation that was boosted in free agency by the signing of Trey Hendrickson. Ossai is a speed rusher who never quits on plays, and he should get plenty of third-down snaps as a rookie. Cameron Sample (111) is a hulking defensive end who is totally different physically than Ossai. Could he move inside to tackle? Tyler Shelvin (122) is a massive two-down nose tackle, which makes me wonder about the future of D.J. Reader in Cincinnati. The Bengals got my top-ranked kicker Evan McPherson (149) and could have a steal in my third-ranked center Trey Hill (190).

I don't see how Chase fails in the NFL, barring injury, which means this long-term grade for this class could come down to whether Carman turns into a quality starter. It's no sure thing. Osaai and Sample are solid picks. 

The Ringer: A-

"The Bengals’ decision to go with Chase over Penei Sewell at no. 5 was controversial, and I probably would have taken the foundational offensive tackle instead of this draft’s top wide receiver. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love Chase, who could put up massive numbers after being reunited with his former college quarterback Joe Burrow. And Cincinnati did address its offensive line needs by taking Carman in the second round, Smith in the fourth, and Hill in the sixth. They should give Burrow a little more time to operate than he had during the 2020 season."

Pro Football Focus: B

"The Bengals bring in former LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase, reuniting him with national championship-winning quarterback Joe Burrow. Chase dominated the 2019 season, posting a 91.1 PFF grade to go along with 20 touchdowns, all thrown by Burrow. Cincinnati passes on an offensive lineman to bolster a receiving corps that was lacking a contested-catch monster. They now have one."

"After reuniting Joe Burrow with Ja’Marr Chase in Round 1, the Bengals attack the offensive line as expected here. It remains to be seen whether Carman plays tackle or guard in Cincinnati, but he raises the talent level of the group regardless of where he lines up. Carman has an impressive combination of size and athleticism and was playing his best football toward the end of the 2020 season."

"The Bengals lost Carl Lawson to the New York Jets earlier this offseason in free agency. They’ve since offset that loss by bringing in Trey Hendrickson in free agency and Ossai here. Ossai is an explosive athlete off the edge whose biggest strength, as listed in the PFF Draft Guide, is his motor. That motor and his athleticism form a winning combination off the edge. He should make an impact early as a rotational pass rusher."

"Cincinnati got great value with Cameron Sample, who we projected as a third-round pick. He blossomed as a pass-rusher in 2020 with a 90.4 grade in that facet, tying for fifth-best among all FBS edge rushers. He then proceeded to post the highest win rate of any defensive lineman in the one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl. Sample is a nimble, versatile and powerful player who should’ve come off the board on Day 2."

The Sporting News: B+

"The Bengals could afford to choose Chase as a go-to guy for Joe Burrow over protection for Burrow with some options at offensive tackle and landed another in Carman. Ossai, Sample and Hubert add to Trey Hendrickson revamping the edge pass rush and Shelvin gives them a powerful run-stuffing presence inside. They also hope McPherson will clean up the kicking game and Evans can be a good supplement to Joe Mixon."

New York Post: B-

"Cincinnati might have gotten a little too cute. They passed on Penei Sewell at No. 5 to reunite Chase with former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (coming off ACL injury). Then they traded from No. 38 to No. 46, allowing three other OTs to come off the board." B+

"The Bengals had a choice between a dominant left tackle in Penei Sewell and an outstanding receiver in Chase. They chose Chase despite the fact that their young quarterback, Joe Burrow, had his rookie season cut short by an injury suffered in the pocket. They hope selecting Carman will rectify the situation and allow Burrow and Chase to rekindle the connection that led them to a national title. I’ll be interested to see if other tackles available at No. 46 turn out to be better players. Ossai’s high character and athleticism make him a shrewd pick in the third round."

"Getting Sample early in the fourth round should help the pass rush. Shelvin’s powerful base makes him a nice run-stuffer in the fourth round -- something the Bengals really needed, as well. I’m a Smith fan because of his length and consistent effort. McPherson was bound to be a fifth-round pick, and the team needed to upgrade that position, but selecting a kicker comes with its share of risk. Hill is a thick-bodied center who could take a veteran’s job if they don’t perform up to expectations. Evans was suspended for the 2019 season due to an academic issue and didn’t see much action in 2020, but he has the skills to be a steal in the sixth round."

The Washington Post: C-

"There’s little doubt that Ja’Marr Chase was the top WR prospect in this class. Reuniting Chase with former LSU teammate QB Joe Burrow revs up the Bengals’ passing game considerably. But that doesn’t mean the Bengals were right to take Chase over the draft’s top offensive tackle, Penei Sewell, at No. 5. Burrow absorbed far too many hits last year and had his rookie season cut short by a knee injury. The Bengals should have prioritized safeguarding Burrow and should have taken Sewell. When the Bengals got around to taking an offensive tackle in Round 2, their choice was Jackson Carman, who was projected as a third-round prospect by some observers and could begin his NFL career at guard."

NBC Sports: C-

"Reuniting LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase with his college quarterback Joe Burrow was a good pick at No. 5 overall, but the primary need for the Bengals was finding a franchise left tackle. The Bengals missed their second opportunity when they traded the No. 38 pick in Round 2 to the Patriots with Teven Jenkins, Dillon Radunz and other good offensive linemen still on the board. When Cincy was on the clock at No. 46 overall, they took Clemson left tackle Jackson Carman, who was ranked 96th on NFL Network draft expert Daniel Jeremiah's Big Board."

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