The Cincinnati Bengals made some splash picks during the 2021 NFL Draft. In fact, they walked away setting themselves up for future success. Many believed the pick for Ja’Marr Chase was the wrong choice as the team could have selected Penei Sewell to protect Joe Burrow. However, the Bengals played the board and found a solid offensive lineman prospect in the second round.
The Bengals hit the nail on the head with their first five picks. Not only did they find Joe Burrow a new weapon and some protection, but the front office beefed up the defensive line. It was necessary considering they couldn’t re-sign Carl Lawson, and Cincinnati was able to snag three defensive linemen in rounds three and four.
From there, the team continued to add depth to the offensive line, to the running back spot, and added a much-needed kicker. Overall, the Bengals did a solid job in the 2021 NFL Draft. However, there were two mistakes the front office made that could impact the season negatively.
Didn’t draft a tight end
The Bengals have a solid wide receiver group after taking Chase fifth overall. He joins a group that already consists of Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, and Auden Tate. Even so, the Bengals seemed like a great landing spot for one of the rookie tight ends not named Kyle Pitts. With that said, Cincinnati’s tight-end group is well below average entering the new season.
To be fair, Drew Sample flashed in a few games last year, but he’s far from being considered a top tight end in the league. CJ Uzomah seems to be the main backup at the position and the front office brought in Thaddeus Moss to potentially earn some playing time as well. Each of these three serve better as backups than starters, which could cause problems for the Bengals next year.
Cincinnati will likely run 3 WR sets throughout most of the season. That is where this offense will be at its strongest. They’ll also look to utilize the tight end position more for blocking than anything else. Sample will probably find himself open, as opposing defenses will pay more attention to the receivers. He’ll be more of a possession type of target for Joe Burrow but doesn’t add much of a passing threat vertically for the offense.
Completely ignored the secondary
The Bengals were one of the worst defenses last year which played a large factor in having a top-five pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. The passing defense struggled throughout the season. They finished in the middle of the pack in passing yards allowed (3,859) but allowed the seventh-most touchdowns through the air (32).
Jessie Bates III is the clear leader of that secondary group. However, outside of him, that unit is lacking firepower. According to ESPN, Trae Waynes, Chidobe Awuzie, Mike Hilton, and Eli Apple make up the core of the cornerback group. After losing Mackensie Alexander in free agency, the Bengals are left with a mediocre cornerback room.
The offense might be exciting next year, but the defense still needs improvements. Due to the lack of help defensively and not replacing Alexander, the Bengals might find themselves in plenty of shootouts next season.