With QBs expected to dominate top of draft, Bengals evaluate options at No. 5

Director of player personnel Duke Tobin said the Cincinnati Bengals are still going through their prospect rankings ahead of the NFL Draft. It’s no clearer a week out from the event which direction they are leaning for their first pick.

During a virtual news conference Wednesday, Tobin was asked about his thoughts on the debate between taking an offensive tackle or wide receiver, but he wasn’t about to tip his hand.

The Bengals currently hold the No. 5 pick, and fans, media and draft analysts alike have been split largely between them taking Oregon tackle Penei Sewell or LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. Florida tight end Kyle Pitts is considered by some the best non-quarterback option available.

“We’re having meetings daily on it and we’ll come out with the order for our current team and for the long term of the Bengals,” Tobin said. “I appreciate the question, but in terms of trying to rank some of the top names in the draft based on position or otherwise, I’ll probably avoid at this point.”

The good thing is, according to Tobin, with where the Bengals are situated, those involved in the draft process like all the options that should be available to them.

There might be differences of opinion on the ranking of players, positions that need addressed first or whether short-term needs outweigh the long-term, but those issues are easier to sort out at No. 5 than further down the list where it’s more of a guessing game who will be available.

“The position we are in right now we are going to have a guy that everybody likes,” Tobin said. “… We are going to have a choice between people we feel very strongly about. That is a good position to be in. We are just talking through what is the best way forward. Those discussions are ongoing and involve everybody that has had a hand in the evaluation. I feel strongly we’ll make the right call for us, but it is a call between really good options at different positions for different players.”

That’s why Tobin doesn’t want to move too far below the No. 5 position if the Bengals decide to trade down. He said the Bengals feel like there is a point where the group of players available significantly drops down a level, so while they are listening to offers, it would have to be the right move to where they are still in that top level of player availability.

The Bengals are looking to add weapons or protection for 2020 No. 1 pick Joe Burrow and could have their pick of the best non-quarterback players in the draft. That’s thanks to the No. 2-drafting Jets trading away Sam Darnold and San Francisco trading up for the third pick, the first three selections – and possibly even the fourth pick – are expected to be used on quarterbacks.

“You can read the tea leaves,” Tobin said, noting with a smile that he wouldn’t confirm he did a fist pump when those trades were made. “The one thing I know for sure is when we go to pick, we will have known what they have done. … I think all picks will be turned in ahead of us prior to the time expiring. So, we’ll know.”

The argument many make against taking Sewell is that linemen often need a couple of years more development before becoming impactful in the NFL, and even Tobin acknowledged that to be the norm. But, Sewell is considered a rare talent and some argue it would be like passing up on an Orlando Pace.

Tobin said elite skill position players tend to transition to the NFL right away, which is why some believe Chase is the best option, especially with his connection with Burrow from their days playing together at LSU. Passing up on Chase could be comparable to if the Bengals had not taken A.J. Green with the fourth pick in 2011.

The Bengals had plenty of representation at Pro Days for both Chase and Sewell, including Tobin attending both.

Regarding his evaluation of Chase, Tobin said: “I thought he did a real nice job, looked like he had been working well with the season off that he had. Looks very, very confident in every area a receiver can look competent, tested out really well and we enjoyed our time down there with him.”

Of Sewell, he said, “Physically, exactly what you’re looking for. He’s strong, he’s big, he’s thick. He has balance, he’s got good movement for his position. He’s got versatility and again it appeared he took the time to get himself ready to go in the season that he had off. It was also a very impressive Pro Day.”

Regardless of who they take first, the Bengals do plan to add to the offensive line through the draft.

There is some belief that Burrow has been lobbying for Chase, based on his glowing praise for his former teammate when asked about him. Tobin said player input is helpful, but he hasn’t heard of Burrow pushing specifically for one player.

“There is no active lobby for anyone,” Tobin said. “I do think he is aware of the universe and is on board with anybody we choose from that universe, and that’s a good thing. I’ve said it before, we’re going to do what we think is best to make Joe as successful as he can be. The more successful Joe is the more successful the Bengals will be. The expectation is always to win and that is his expectation, it’s mine, it’s everybody’s in the organization and so we’ll take the guy we think will help us achieve that.”

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