Zac Taylor left the Cincinnati Bengals’ draft room Saturday night feeling like they added depth on both sides of the ball. A trade down in the second round proved to be the key to it all.
After taking LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase at No. 5 overall, the Bengals traded down eight spots in the second round to add a pair of fourth-round picks and still got an offensive lineman they liked in Fairfield High graduate Jackson Carman.
That began the Bengals’ run on linemen on both sides of the ball with Texas defensive end Joseph Ossai (third round), Tulane defensive end Cameron Sample (fourth round), LSU defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin (fourth round) and East Carolina offensive tackle D’Ante Smith (fourth round). They also added Georgia center Trey Hill in the sixth round and Kansas State defensive end Wyatt Hubert in the seventh.
Another depth piece was at running back with the selection of Michigan’s Chris Evans in the sixth round.
“The depth on both sides of the ball, that was something that we felt like we really needed to address,” Taylor said. “I feel getting those two fourth-round picks really helped us. We came into (Saturday) having those three options there in the fourth round, and there were a lot of players on the board that we really had regard for. So, to be able to walk away with three of them there in the fourth round was really good for us.”
The Bengals went into the draft with a clear need on the offensive line after allowing 48 sacks, including 32 in Joe Burrow’s 10 games before his pocket collapsed and he awkwardly fell on his leg, tearing the ACL and MCL.
A non-existent pass rush in 2020 also had to be addressed, though it was less clear if that would be done in the draft after Cincinnati signed former Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi and former Saints defensive end Trey Hendrickson in free agency.
“There just kept being value there that we liked, and we just kept adding competition,” Taylor said of how they approached drafting guys in the trenches. “Our depth took a hit last year. You go into training camp feeling great about everything, and then your depth just takes a hit. That’s just the nature of an NFL season with 17 games in a physical division. We don’t want to go down that road again. I don’t want to be in Week 12, Week 13 and you’re signing guys to walk in off the street and play. We’re going to go get depth and get the guys that we like. We really feel good about how we came out of this weekend on both sides of the ball there.”
Credit: Matthew Hinton
Credit: Matthew Hinton
The Bengals did get some players with question marks that they felt were answered at the Senior Bowl or pro days.
Sample, coming from a smaller conference, showed he could compete with Power 5 conference players when he won the Defensive MVP at the Senior Bowl. Evans, whose playing time was limited at Michigan, also had a good showing there, Taylor said. Smith was coming off a knee injury that he proved recovered from at the Senior Bowl as well.
“You really put some guys on the radar before we went in depth and studied them as a coaching staff,” Taylor said. “It really was a great starting point … and we got a lot of guys that played in that game.”
The depth added through the extra fourth-round picks enabled the Bengals to feel good about taking the top kicker on the board a round earlier than he probably would have gone. Cincinnati took Florida kicker Evan McPherson in the fifth round, believing he wouldn’t be available with the sixth pick of the sixth round.
McPherson, who is expected to unseat Austin Seibert as the team’s kicker, had an impressive three-year career at Florida and hit 21 of 22 field goal attempts during his pro day event with Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons watching. The miss was from 58 yards.
“He was the guy that we wanted, and we just felt like we needed to get up there and get him,” Taylor said. “Again, having those extra two fourth-round picks really helped us because we were able to get some of those guys we wanted to get. That freed us up to make a decision like that there in the fifth round. We really just felt good about how it worked out, and we’re really glad that we got Evan (McPherson) there.”
The Bengals didn’t add any players to the tight end room or the back end of the defense through the draft, though some of that was expected to come through college free agency. Taylor said last year’s draft – with three linebackers taken – provided some flexibility, but the Bengals didn’t intentionally neglect players in the back seven.
“There are times we could have taken players at positions to add depth, but ultimately we didn’t,” Taylor said. “We felt like there was a good player sitting there staring us in the face. We’re happy with where we’re at with those guys.”
CINCINNATI BENGALS 2021 DRAFT
Round 1 (5th overall): Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Round 2 (46): Jackson Carman, OT, Clemson
Round 3 (69): Joseph Ossai, DE, Texas
Round 4 (111): Cameron Sample, DE, Temple
Round 4 (122): Tyler Shelvin, DT, LSU
Round 4 (139) D’Ante Smith, OT, East Carolina
Round 5 (149) Evan McPherson, K, Florida
Round 6 (190): Trey Hill, C, Georgia
Round 6 (202): Chris Evans, RB, Michigan
Round 7 (235): Wyatt Hubert, DE, Kansas State
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