After a losing 2020 campaign, this offseason has had a very “out with the old, in with the new” mentality for the Cincinnati Bengals. Out went long-time wide receiver, A.J. Green. In came a host of free-agency acquisitions, shiny new uniforms, and even more players through the 2021 NFL Draft. If the theory that you “look good, feel good, play good” holds true, then the Bengals are ready to go. However, that won’t keep star quarterback Joe Burrow upright. How do they balance multiple needs to return to winning ways in this Bengals 7-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft?
Cincinnati Bengals Post-Free Agency 7-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft
- Round 1, Pick 5: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
- Round 2, Pick 38: Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
- Round 3, Pick 77: Payton Turner, EDGE, Houston
- Round 4, Pick 111: Kendrick Green, OG/C, Illinois
- Round 5, Pick 149: Divine Deablo, S, Virginia Tech
- Round 6, Pick 190: Ta’Quon Graham, DT, Texas
- Round 6, Pick 202: Frank Darby, WR, Arizona State
- Round 7, Pick 235: K.J. Britt, LB, Auburn
Bengals 2021 NFL Mock Draft | Pick-by-pick analysis
Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
If the 2021 NFL Draft goes the way we presume — with a historic four quarterbacks selected in the first four picks — then the draft starts with the Bengals at No. 5. This puts Cincinnati in a unique situation. They will have the option of taking one of the best wide receivers, tight ends, and offensive tackles in the class. It just so happens that those are amongst the biggest needs the Bengals have to address.
There’s a conversation to have here for sure. Reuniting Burrow with former LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase is certainly alluring. The connection that the pair enjoyed during the Tigers’ run to the 2019 National Championship was electric.
The success of Justin Jefferson — the second option to Chase at LSU — in the NFL last season provided a mouth-watering glimpse of what Chase could be. Anticipation has only been fuelled by a performance that left analysts drooling over Chase’s athletic ability at LSU’s Pro Day.
Then there’s Kyle Pitts. A do-it-all pass catcher from the tight end position, he would also be an exceptional offensive addition.
Protecting Burrow is the prime focus for the Bengals
Still, it would be tantamount to negligence for the Bengals to allow Penei Sewell to slide past them at No.5. Anyone that saw Burrow scrambling for his life before having his season ended by a knee injury last year knows that they need to make more than one addition on the offensive line. They did sign OT Riley Reiff and OG Quinton Spain in free agency, but that isn’t going to get the job done. Oregon offensive tackle Sewell will.
Strong, athletic, equally adept in both pass protection and run blocking, there isn’t a tackle prospect like Sewell in this class. That’s not to disrespect what is a very, very deep offensive line class. It’s just a ringing endorsement of how good I believe the Oregon prospect is. That’s why he’s the pick here in this Bengals 2021 7-Round NFL Mock Draft. Plug him in on Day 1, switch Jonah Williams across to right tackle, and allow Burrow to thrive.
It should speak volumes about why the Bengals need to make this move in that the primary focus of their uniform launch was the glaring scar down the middle of their star QB’s leg. Add in the statistics that the Bengals allowed the sixth-most sacks in 2020 (48) while totaling the second-most sack yardage, and the picture couldn’t be any clearer.
Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
What if I told Bengals fans that you could have the best offensive tackle prospect we’ve seen for years AND an athletic wide receiver from LSU? Sounds good, right? It might not be possible to reunite Burrow and Chase in this Bengals 7-Round NFL Mock Draft. But, selecting former Tigers receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. at the top of Round 2 would be a no-brainer for Cincinnati.
The need for a pass catcher couldn’t be clearer. I alluded to the departure of Green in the introduction, and there were multiple other departures through the spring. Former first-round selection John Ross can confidently be called a bust for the Bengals. He was joined on the open market by Alex Erickson.
At present, the WR room at Paul Brown Stadium is extremely bare. Tee Higgins impressed as a rookie, and Tyler Boyd continues to be one of the best slot receivers in the NFL. Yet, they need more weapons for Burrow.
Marshall is a size, speed, and pass-catching triple threat who was once in consideration for the top high school receiver in the nation. Although Chase and Jefferson somewhat overshadowed him early in his career, Marshall still recorded 10 touchdowns in 2019 while averaging 14.6 yards per catch.
Despite a transitional year at the quarterback position for LSU in 2020, he caught 13 touchdowns. Furthermore, he generated over 700 receiving yards in just seven games.
With Higgins and Marshall outside and Boyd in the slot, Burrow will have no shortage of weapons in 2021. It certainly is an upgrade compared to the bottom-five unit that played last season.
Payton Turner, EDGE, Houston
The offseason overhaul was certainly not reserved solely for the offense. The Bengals added multiple pieces on the defensive line, including the flashy signing of former New Orleans Saints defensive end Trey Hendrickson. In total, they added four defensive linemen, and they also added seven players in the secondary.
The need to rebuild the defensive line is evident. Cincinnati ranked 30th in pressures created in 2020. Moreover, their 17 sacks were the lowest in the league. This lack of production was even more concerning, given they blitzed on 31% of their defensive snaps.
Payton Turner offers an intriguing option to address those needs in the third round. There are obvious developmental aspects, but Turner is an extremely promising edge rusher. He owns exceptional size and speed as a 4-3 defensive end.
An incredibly long pass rusher — he has 35-inch arms — Turner also displays impressive bend. His skill set isn’t only limited to coming off the edge. He has flashed the ability to be disruptive from the interior, making him a versatile weapon on the defensive front for the Bengals.
Kendrick Green, OG/C, Illinois
Having secured a franchise left tackle with the No. 5 overall selection in this 7-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, the Bengals turn their attention to the interior of the offensive line in the fourth round. Although the addition of Spain adds competition inside, Cincinnati needs to add talent.
Illinois’ Kendrick Green addresses both of those issues in one player. A former defensive lineman in high school, Green switched to the offensive line as a redshirt freshman. Although he is relatively new to the position, he gained considerable experience at Illinois with 33 consecutive starts. He’s also been incredibly versatile, making starts at both center and guard for the Fighting Illini.
With a background in wrestling, Green is powerful and athletic enough to impact the ground game at the second level. As a result, he adds value in pass protection for Burrow and as a run blocker for the Bengals’ backfield, led by Joe Mixon.
Divine Deablo, S, Virginia Tech
Although the Bengals signed Ricardo Allen and Brandon Wilson in free agency, they need to make further acquisitions to a secondary that was partly responsible for ranking 26th in passing touchdowns allowed. Similarly, Cincinnati’s defense also ranked 26th in yards allowed and 28th in yards per play. The cornerback room may be addressed, but the lack of depth at safety warrants more immediate attention.
Divine Deablo is a plus-size safety prospect who can add further value by lining up at linebacker. He’s disruptive flying downhill where his size and speed make him a weapon against the run. Additionally, Deablo flashed coverage ability during his time at Virginia Tech.
Along with his skill set on the football field, he brings an element of leadership to a defense. Deablo and Jessie Bates III, as the heart of the secondary, should strike fear in opposing offenses.
Ta’Quon Graham, DT, Texas
The Bengals added Mike Daniels and Larry Ogunjobi as depth pieces on the interior of the defensive line. That shouldn’t preclude them from striking on a defensive tackle in the 2021 NFL Draft, however. They desperately need to shore up a unit that got trampled on in the run game.
Cincinnati gave up the fourth-most rushing yards in the NFL last season. When you face two potent rushing offenses twice a year in the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns, ensuring you can stop the run effectively has to be a major consideration.
Former Texas Longhorn Ta’Quon Graham would be a solid pick in the late rounds of this Bengals 7-Round NFL Mock Draft. One of the most dominant defensive players in Texas during his high school career, Graham has finally grown into his potential at the college level over the last two seasons.
His impact against the run is well demonstrated by his 17.5 tackles for loss over that period. Graham played as a defensive end in high school, and his ability to rush the passer will also prove valuable for the Bengals.
Frank Darby, WR, Arizona State
There are several ways the Bengals could go late in the 2021 NFL Draft. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them add a running back or tight end on offense. Yet, having opted to address wide receiver in the second round, they double dip to add a pass-catching threat with their second sixth-round pick.
Frank Darby entered 2020, hoping to establish himself as the next potential first-round wide receiver out of Arizona State. Due to the disruption of the 2020 season, however, he was never able to prove himself as a true WR1. Still, Darby has some clear playmaking ability and would add a physical pass catcher to the Bengals’ wide receiver room. Darby also brings an exceptional work ethic and an element of leadership.
K.J. Britt, LB, Auburn
Cincinnati completely overhauled their linebacker room last season, and they made another addition in free agency this year with Jordan Evans. Despite that, they lack any element of depth at the position, and therefore, should look to improve the position in the draft.
With the final pick in this Bengals 2021 7-Round NFL Mock Draft, they add some depth with Auburn linebacker K.J. Britt. Somewhat of a throwback linebacker, Britt is a heavy-hitting and run-stuffing middle linebacker who impressed at the Senior Bowl. Given Cincinnati’s struggles against the run, Britt would be a valuable addition late in the draft with the potential to outplay his draft position in the NFL.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.