CINCINNATI — The Bengals have less than two weeks to finalize their NFL Draft board. That means they'll have to be ready to decide who they're taking if Kyle Pitts, Ja'Marr Chase and Penei Sewell are all still available when they're on the clock with the fifth pick.
NFL.com's prospect rankings are officially out. Lance Zierlein releases them every year ahead of the draft.
Pitts is second ranked prospect on the board, with a 7.19 grade. Only Clemson's Trevor Lawrence is ahead of him.
"While the player comparison for the purposes of this scouting report is Darren Waller, Pitts may have the traits and talent to create mismatches similar to those created by Calvin Johnson and Tyreek Hill," Zierlein wrote. "His rare blend of size, athleticism and ball skills are reminiscent of Megatron’s. His ability as a pass-catching tight end could force defenses in his division to alter the way they construct their roster. He’s a tough matchup for most linebackers and too big for most cornerbacks. He offers offensive coordinators the ability to align him all over the field and, like Waller, can become a highly targeted, highly productive pass catcher from the tight end position. He puts in effort as a blocker but with limited success. That’s not what makes him special, though. Along with Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, Pitts has a chance to become the biggest game-changer in the 2021 NFL Draft."
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Chase is fourth with a 7.12 grade. Even though he's considered the top receiver by most analysts, he's a tad lower than Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (7.13) in the rankings.
"We could sit here and talk about the marginal route-running issues or challenges getting off press. However, Chase is supremely talented as a ball winner and playmaker," Zierlein wrote. "After all, routes and release can be coached. He had some issues when Trevon Diggs and Cameron Dantzler gave hard jams to his release in 2019, so that will need to be addressed. His burst is effortless, which tends to catch coverage off guard when he really hits the vertical gas. His competitive nature and play strength simply act as multipliers for his outstanding ball skills. He hasn't played football since very early in 2020 and still has work to do, but he should be an early starter and a future Pro Bowler."
Sewell is ninth on the list with a 6.73 overall score.
"Rare-breed tackle with good size and the elite foot quickness to make the most challenging move blocks the game has to offer," Zierlein wrote. "He’s an explosive athlete who is better at moving forward than backward at this point, and his tape shows an ability to single-handedly spring touchdown runs (both long and short) with "wow" blocks. He possesses average balance and core strength, but he has trouble protecting his edges when rushers get into his frame. Improvements in technique and strength should be expected, though. While block-finishing needs to be upgraded, his initial snap quickness gives him the ability to take early leads in positioning as both a run and pass blocker. Sewell could take a giant step forward in both departments if he can control the action with better hand dominance. His flashes are exceptional, and his ceiling is substantial. However, questions about play strength and maturity due to his age/inexperience create a little more uncertainty than we usually see with high-end tackle prospects."
The Bengals may not agree with these rankings, but they give us another perspective ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft. The chances are good that the Bengals will end up with Chase, Sewell or Pitts.
One analyst believes they've already made their decision. Time will tell if that's the case.
Check out Zierlein's entire rankings here.
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