Munoz says OL is right choice with first pick

FILE - In this Aug. 31, 2019, file photo, Oregon offensive lineman Penei Sewell (58) looks on as Oregon plays Auburn in an NCAA college football game in Arlington, Texas. The last NFL event not impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic was the 2020 combine in Indianapolis. A year later, with the 2021 combine canceled, the league has released a list of players who would have merited invitations. From such high-profile quarterbacks as Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields to guys who sat out last season such as Oregon tackle Penei Sewell, there are 323 players from 100 schools. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 31, 2019, file photo, Oregon offensive lineman Penei Sewell (58) looks on as Oregon plays Auburn in an NCAA college football game in Arlington, Texas. The last NFL event not impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic was the 2020 combine in Indianapolis. A year later, with the 2021 combine canceled, the league has released a list of players who would have merited invitations. From such high-profile quarterbacks as Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields to guys who sat out last season such as Oregon tackle Penei Sewell, there are 323 players from 100 schools. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins, File)

Credit: Ron Jenkins

Credit: Ron Jenkins

As a Cincinnati Bengals season ticket holder, Anthony Munoz will get to vote for the next inductees into the organization’s newly formed Ring of Honor he was announced to Thursday.

Munoz said he would have a hard time narrowing his votes down right away. But, if he got to have a say in the Bengals’ upcoming draft decisions, the Hall of Fame left tackle wouldn’t hesitate to tell them who to take with the No. 5 pick: Oregon offensive lineman Penei Sewell.

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Mock draft experts have zoned in on the Bengals taking Sewell, wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase or Florida tight end Kyle Pitts – all players that could help quarterback Joe Burrow.

“If they said, ‘Anthony, we’re going to allow you to make this first pick, the No. 5 pick, I would be pretty excited,’” Munoz said Thursday. “Even though he’s been a nemesis to my Trojans, I would have to go with the guy up from Eugene, Oregon, with Penei. I’ve watched him several times. I think having signed Riley Reiff, you got Jonah (Williams), you got (Trey) Hopkins coming back, you got (Xavier) Sua’Filo, and now you add Penei to the mix. I think if my name was Joe Burrow, I’d be pretty happy.”

Some believe this draft class has enough depth at offensive line that the Bengals could go with another weapon for Burrow, like Chase or Pitts, and still get a good lineman in the second round.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor and director of player personnel Duke Tobin spoke last month in virtual news conferences on how they are preparing for the draft and not surprisingly didn’t tip their hand on where they are leaning. Cincinnati should have a lot of flexibility, though, with the top three teams expected to take quarterbacks.

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“There’s a lot of good players that have been fun to watch so far,” Tobin said last month.

Vinnie Iyer, of The Sporting News, has Chase going to the Falcons at No. 4 and the Bengals taking Sewell, while ESPN’s Todd McShay has Pitts going to the Falcons and Cincinnati selecting Chase. Mel Kiper Jr., who originally had the Bengals taking Sewell until they signed Reiff, now has Carolina trading into the No. 3 spot and four quarterbacks going off the board before the Bengals select Pitts.

Trading down also could be an option for the Bengals.

“It’s something we’re going to have to be ready for,” Tobin said. “…We’ll go through all the different scenarios. We’ll drill down on our player list and understand what exactly it means if we’re going to move down five spots, 10 spots, 15 spots, exactly what we’re going to be looking at at that spot in the draft. There’s two different things we look at: Are we getting compensation that we want and are we getting a level of player that we feel good about passing up the current player that we would be selecting? We will go through that process. We do every year. And if opportunities come up, we’ll be ready for it. And if it doesn’t, we’ll be ready to sit and pick and feel great about where we are.”

Taylor said he didn’t like how the Bengals got the No. 5 pick (finishing 4-11-1 last year), but he likes the position they are in to add pieces to the offense. Cincinnati has focused its free agent additions on defense and likely will be using the draft to build around Burrow, whether that means weapons for him to target or guys to add better protection.

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If the Bengals do take Sewell or another tackle high in the draft, there is some speculation they would move Reiff – brought in to replace released right tackle Bobby Hart – to guard or shift left tackle Jonah Williams to another spot. Taylor said he views Williams as the team’s left tackle, regardless.

“I thought he made a lot of improvement in the games that he got to play last year,” Taylor said. “Again, everybody’s gotta be flexible with what pieces are available to you. You can never say anything is set in stone, but I’m very comfortable with Jonah at left tackle. I think he made some really solid improvements from game to game. And we’re excited him getting back there at that piece next year.”

Regarding how he currently views the Bengals’ wide receiver corps, Taylor said it’s a talented room of players that could always expand.

“We’ve got good depth there,” he said. “Adding another piece is never off the table when you are talking to a guy who calls plays. You always like to have as many weapons as possible. Again, we got to do whatever is best for our football team. However, that shakes out, could be a number of positions for us.”

Burrow already has indicated he would love a reunion with Chase, whom he played with at LSU, though that doesn’t mean the second-year quarterback wouldn’t also welcome help with protection up front.

Taylor said he gets input from his players who know some of the prospects from their own college playing days, and that is especially helpful now when the interview process is much different than past years because of COVID-19 and the elimination of the NFL Combine.

“We got guys that have played at some great programs, Clemson, Alabama, LSU, Ohio State,” Taylor said. “We’ve got those resources there at a lot of the places that have a lot of the prospects coming out. It’s always fun to get their opinions. Obviously, our scouts did a ton of the work and they get great information. That’s always our starting point but sometimes it’s good to get the opinions of some of the guys that have played with the other guys.”