NFL Draft guru Kiper on Bengals: No team has ‘clearer need’ at offensive tackle

Credit: David Jablonski

Joe Burrow: 10 things to know

Credit: David Jablonski

The Cincinnati Bengals know they need better protection for quarterback Joe Burrow.

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. sees them doing so through the NFL Draft. Last week in his second mock draft of the year, Kiper once again projected the Bengals would select Oregon’s Penei Sewell with the No. 5 pick.

While he made a few changes in the top four picks from his first version of the mock draft published Feb. 7, Kiper did not waiver on his belief Sewell will land with the Bengals. On Monday in a conference call with media, he explained why.

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“I think he’s ideal at Cincinnati at (No.) 5,” Kiper said on the 90-minute call in which he answered mock draft questions from media members around the country. “I think they’ll get a left tackle. People say, ‘Well, you know he’s a little overrated. I’m not buying that because he didn’t play this year.’ Had he built on what he did in 2019, he would have been regarded as the next (Tony) Boselli, (Jonathan) Ogden or (Orlando) Pace. So, I get why you wouldn’t put him in that category right now because he didn’t play this year, but for Cincinnati, he’s exactly what they’re looking for, and I think he would be an ideal pick at that point. So I would think Sewell to me, would be no later than five. Some are projecting him down at 10. I don’t see that happening. That’s just me. I think the Bengals will be the ideal spot.”

Kiper wrote in his most recent mock draft article that “no team in the top 10 has a clearer need than the Bengals’ hole at tackle. They have to keep quarterback Joe Burrow on his feet.”

Cincinnati allowed 48 sacks last season, which ranked as 28th most in the league, and Burrow – the No. 1 overall pick in 2020 – took 32 of those in 10 games before he tore his ACL and MCL when the pocket collapsed on him after making a throw in the third quarter of a loss at Washington.

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Sewell, despite opting out of the 2020 season, is Kiper’s No. 2 prospect overall, but the needs of teams picking ahead of Cincinnati don’t line up with him going sooner than No. 5. Kiper isn’t the only draft expert predicting that marriage – CBSSports.com’s Ryan Wilson, WalterFootball.com and others also have.

Kiper has compared Sewell to Hall of Famer and former Bengals great Anthony Munoz and says he is another “foundational player” the organization should be thrilled to get. The Bengals could insert Sewell at left tackle and move Jonah Williams to right tackle.

“The 2019 Outland Trophy winner has everything teams want in a franchise left tackle,” Kiper wrote. “Even though he didn’t play last season, his tape from the previous two years is enough to make him the top tackle in this class. Cincinnati could get a 10-year starter.”

Another hot topic during Kiper’s call Monday centered around expectations for Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Some mock drafts have him going as high as No. 2 to the Jets (including WalterFootball.com), while Kiper noted others have him as low as No. 24 to Pittsburgh.

Kiper has him going at No. 7 to San Francisco, which he predicted would trade up from No. 12 with Detroit.

“I think from who I speak to, he’s going to go top 10,” Kiper said. “I have him at seven, some think earlier than that. There is a huge range on Justin Fields. I don’t understand some of the criticism. I’ve spoken about that a lot the last couple weeks. You know, he had two rough games and that was it. In the championship game, he was banged up coming off the Clemson game where he got hurt. So, I think two questionable games I called hiccups. That’s it. If you go back to 2019 where he was going through progressions, he was picking out his third and fourth options. He wasn’t locking in, he wasn’t just you know, have to see it to throw it to a guy. There are plenty of games where you saw him do what he needed to do from that standpoint. So I would say he goes in the top 10.”

Ohio State is accustomed to having multiple first-round picks and that doesn’t appear the case this year. Kiper said guard Wyatt Davis and cornerback Shaun Wade are probably second- or third-round picks, and linebacker Baron Browning and running back Trey Sermon are players whose draft stock could be rising as third- or fourth-round picks.

Kiper said the lack of continuity for everyone in 2020 has to be factored into decisions and for players like Fields, looking back into 2019 could be more helpful in evaluating. As for what he likes about Fields, Kiper said he is a player who has incredible upside once he has some time to develop in the league.

“He’s gonna run athletically and from a speed standpoint, he’s gonna test incredibly well,” Kiper said. “He’s going to probably run in the 4.4s, maybe a 4.4. His arm strength, his competitiveness, his passion for the game, he loves to study the game, study film, study the opposition. You know, he’ll be the first one in, last one out of your building.”

“Justin Fields, in time with more experience, transitioning to the NFL, with his speed, his mobility, his arm strength and all that put it all together, you got what you want a quarterback once he settles into a pro offense.”

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