Bengals address needs on offensive, defensive line on Day 3 of draft

Credit: Matthew Hinton

Credit: Matthew Hinton

The Cincinnati Bengals struggled in the trenches last year, and the organization made it clear on Day 3 of the NFL Draft, that wouldn’t be acceptable in 2021.

Cincinnati continued its run on defensive linemen with the team’s first two of three picks in the fourth round Saturday, then finished the round by adding another offensive lineman.

The Bengals selected Tulane defensive end Cameron Sample at No. 111 overall and LSU defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin at No. 122 to open a busy final day of the draft, which included nine picks over the final four rounds. They then added East Carolina offensive tackle D’Ante Smith at No. 139 to finish their fourth round, which included two extra picks thanks to a trade down with New England in the second round.

“I felt like the organization did a just a tremendous job in free agency of adding players in depth to the back end (of the defense), and now in the draft addressing the front,” defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said after also adding Texas defensive end Joseph Ossai in the third round Friday. “And last year, we did a great job with the linebackers that we drafted, so you know, full steam ahead, we’re ready to go and can’t wait to get to work.”

Sample, a three-year regular starter, garnered first-team All-American Athletic Conference accolades in 2020, recording 52 tackles, 8.5 for loss with five sacks and three pass breakups in 11 starts, but there were some questions about how that would translate to the NFL coming from a smaller conference.

He solidified his draft profile when he dominated his one-on-one matchups and was named defensive MVP of the Senior Bowl.

“I’m very confident in my ability so I think it just reassured things for some other people, not necessarily myself,” Sample said in a virtual news conference with local media Saturday. “But it was definitely good to get out there and compete against very high regarded guys playing in the power five conferences so you know my game translates on that level too.”

Shelvin comes with just as much to prove. He opted out of the 2020 season and only had one full season as a starter because of an academic redshirt and issues getting his weight down early in his career. However, the former five-star recruit showed his full potential during the Tigers’ national title run in 2019 along with his new Bengals teammates Joe Burrow and first-round pick Ja’Marr Chase, and Shelvin said that was a better reflection of what he can do.

The 6-foot-6, 346-pound nose tackle started 14 of 15 games that season and recorded 39 tackles, three for losses and two pass breakups. He took an academic redshirt in 2017 and played in just six games in 2018.

“After the 2018 season, after the last few games after I played a lot, got that feeling of the college level at LSU and understood the standards that they wanted me to meet, I matured during spring and before the 2019 season,” Shelvin said, noting he weighed 380 pounds by winter of his freshman year and was down to 346 by 2019. “…That’s when Coach O (Ed Oregon), all the staff members locked in with me and I appreciate them for that. It was just time with me being young, getting ready. They had standards that they wanted me to meet. That’s what really helped me out to mature to the 2019 season.”

Smith, a three-year starter at guard and tackle for the Pirates, played just one game in 2020 but suffered a concussion in the opener and eventually shut down his season because of a knee injury that needed scoped. He was regarded as one of the top offensive linemen in East Carolina program history.

The Bengals had a chance to see what he might have brought to the table this past fall during the Senior Bowl when he impressed throughout the week of activities.

“That’s what I planned on showing during this 2020 season, though I didn’t get the chance to do that,” Smith said. “I got to show a glimpse of it at the Senior Bowl.”

Evan McPherson of Florida will enter training camp as the favorite to win the kicker job in a competition with Austin Seibert, after Randy Bullock left in free agency. McPherson took over the starting job for the Gators as a true freshman in 2018 and had an impressive three-year career, which he finished in 2020 by going 52-of-52 on extra points and 17 of 22 on field goals (77.3 percent) with four conversions over 50 yards and a long of 55. He also had 40 touchbacks on 80 kickoffs. McPherson was selected in the fifth round.

The Bengals finished the draft taking Georgia center Trey Hill (No. 190 overall) and Michigan running back Chris Evans (No. 202) in the sixth round and Kansas State defensive end Wyatt Hubert in the seventh.

Hill battled through knee injuries during his eight games in 2020 and eventually shut down to undergo microscopic surgery to repair his meniscus in both knee. Evans came with a one-year academic suspension on his record (2019) but Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said he showed character in how he used that time away working three jobs and helping coach a high school football team. Evans played 42 career games and rushed for 1,795 yards and 15 touchdowns on 320 carries.

Hubert tied for eighth in the FBS with 8.5 sacks in just 10 games in 2020, posting 27 tackles, 13 for loss and two forced fumbles.

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