If there's one team picking in the top five of the NFL draft this year that definitely WON'T be taking a quarterback, it's the Cincinnati Bengals, which instantly makes them one of the most intriguing teams heading into the NFL's biggest offseason event.
If the top four teams in the draft all take a quarterback, which is looking more and more like it's going to happen, that means the Bengals will have the option to take the best non-quarterback in the draft when they go on the clock with the fifth overall pick and there will be plenty of options to choose from.
If the Bengals want to bring in some protection for Joe Burrow, they could take Penei Sewell out of Oregon, who just happens to be the consensus top tackle in the draft. If the Bengals want to add another weapon to their offense, they could go with LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase or Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, who would both instantly give the Bengals a more high-powered attack.
So what are they going to do?
Let's get to this seven-round mock and find out.
Fifth overall pick: OL Penei Sewell, Oregon
The Bengals are going to have a lot of options at the fifth overall spot and although it might be tempting to take an offensive weapon here like Chase or Pitts, the fact of the matter is that those weapons can't really help you if your quarterback doesn't have any time to throw the ball.
The Bengals' 2020 season was marred by Joe Burrow's season-ending ACL injury and because of that, you have to think the front office will do everything in its power to put more protection around Burrow, which is why I think they'll take Sewell in this spot. Although Burrow apparently wants the Bengals to take Chase, his former LSU teammate, he'll almost certainly be more than happy to if the team ends up taking Sewell.
One thing that's working in Sewell's favor is that Bengals owner Mike Brown knows how important it can be to have a franchise player at left tackle. This draft will mark the 12th time since 1980 that the Bengals have picked in the top five and only once have they taken a tackle. That came back in 1980 when they selected Anthony Munoz with the third overall pick and all that did was jumpstart the golden era of Bengals football. During Munoz's Hall of Fame career, the Bengals went to two Super Bowls and produced two NFL MVPs (Kenny Anderson, Boomer Esiason). It's also worth noting that the Bengals only have five playoff wins in franchise history and they call came while Munoz was on the roster.
This doesn't mean that Sewell is the next Munoz, it just means that it would be surprising if Brown lets his front office pass on the chance to take what could be a generational left tackle.
Of course, the ideal situation here would be for the Bengals to trade down to seven, but let's be honest, nothing ideal ever happens to the Bengals. If they did trade down, they'd grab a few extra picks and would likely still land either Sewell, Chase or Pitts. If they can get more picks and still land one of those three players, that would be a win-win situation.
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38th overall: WR Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU
Although the Bengals didn't land Joe Burrow's former teammate Ja'Marr Chase in the first round, they're going to make up for that by grabbing one of his former teammates in the second round with Terrace Marshall Jr. The Bengals went after Kenny Golladay in free agency and they haven't really been trying to hide the fact that they want to add an extra weapon, which is why Marshall would be a perfect choice here. To give Bengals fans a taste of what they would get with this pick, let's watch Burrow and Marshall connect for a touchdown in the 2020 National Title game.
The Bengals could definitely use some of that.
69th overall: EDGE Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma
You could argue that Perkins is a top-50 player, but one reason why he might drop this far is because he comes with some red flags. Perkins was suspended six games over two seasons for using marijuana and although pot isn't necessarily an issue in the NFL anymore, some teams might be scared off by his decision making (he smoked pot even though he knew he might get suspended). At 6-foot-3 and just under 250 pounds, he's also slightly undersized as a pass-rusher, which would be another reason why he could fall into the Bengals' lap at 69th overall.
111th overall: OG Ben Cleveland, Georgia
Even if the Bengals take Sewell in the first round, they'll still need some serious help at guard and that's where Cleveland comes in. When Burrow is under center, the Bengals love to throw the ball, which is why Cleveland would be the perfect pick here. According to PFF, Cleveland only allowed 13 pressures on 606 pass-blocking snaps over the past three years at UGA.
Would he have to change his last name to live in Cincinnati? Probably, but he can worry about that later.
149th overall: DL Chauncey Golston, Iowa
The Bengals need all the depth they can get on their defensive line, which is why they'll be grabbing another defensive lineman just two rounds after taking Perkins. The advantage of Golston is that he can play both inside or outside and at this point in the draft, if the Bengals can land a versatile defensive lineman who can play multiple spots, they should jump at the opportunity to take him.
190th overall: K Jose Borregales, Miami
202nd overall: TE Tony Poljan, Virginia
My dad (Jim Breech) spent 13 years as the Bengals kicker and he'll disown me from the family if I don't have the Bengals draft a kicker somewhere in this mock, so I'm going to do that now. That being said, even if my dad had never kicked a football in his life, I'd still have the Bengals taking Jose Borregales. This might seem a little high to draft a kicker, but the truth is, it might actually be too low. Over the past five years, the first kicker has gone off the board at 167 or earlier, which means Borregales might not even be around by the time the Bengals make either of their sixth-round picks.
The last time the Bengals selected a kicker came in 2017 and they let my dad announce it, so if you see him headed to the podium during the sixth round of the draft, you can probably go ahead and assume they're taking a kicker.
Of course, the Bengals have only drafted one kicker over the past 15 years, so there's always a chance they don't go this route, but they should, because Borregales could be their long-term answer at the position. The Bengals used a fifth-round draft pick on kicker Jake Elliott in 2017 and they might have to think about taking Borregales that early if they want to make sure they get him. As for Poljan, the Bengals need some tight end depth and there's a good chance he'll be the best one left on the board at this point in the draft.
235th overall: LB Paddy Fisher, Northwestern
Once the seventh round of the draft rolls around, teams are looking for someone who could add some depth at a position where they still have some holes. The Bengals definitely need some depth at linebacker and I should note that I won't be surprised at all if they grab a linebacker earlier in the draft. If they don't though, this is the perfect place to grab Fisher, who could definitely contend for a roster spot, which is all you can ask of a seventh-rounder.