Sewell or Chase? NFL Draft decision finally here for Bengals

FILE - LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase is interviewed by the NFL Network during an NFL Pro Day at LSU in Baton Rouge, La., in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. Chase is expected to be a first round pick in the NFL Draft, April 29-May 1, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton, File)
FILE - LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase is interviewed by the NFL Network during an NFL Pro Day at LSU in Baton Rouge, La., in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. Chase is expected to be a first round pick in the NFL Draft, April 29-May 1, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton, File)

Credit: Matthew Hinton

Credit: Matthew Hinton

The Cincinnati Bengals have a good idea who will be available to them in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday, but the pick is not as much of a lock as it was with Joe Burrow last year with the first overall selection.

The Bengals will wait to see what the four teams picking ahead of them do before sending the No. 5 selection – unless they decide to trade down a few spots, which seems as much as they are willing to consider.

The external debate over whether Cincinnati takes Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell or LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase – assuming both are available after a run on quarterbacks to start the draft -- has leaned more favorably toward Chase in recent days.

ExploreBengals still finalizing draft board

That decision could be made for the Bengals if Atlanta takes one of them. Jacksonville is on the clock first, followed by the Jets, 49ers and Falcons. The NFL Draft is set to begin at 8 p.m. in Cleveland. Only the first of the seven rounds takes place Thursday. Each team gets 10 minutes to make its pick in Round 1.

“When you’re at five you just gotta have five players that you really like and are comfortable taking,” Taylor said in his pre-draft press conference Monday. “Certainly that’s part of the process that we meet through is what are the different scenarios. There’s tons of scenarios that can unfold before you, after you, all of those things. The team needs … is (more) second, third round when you got picks in front of ya and you’re trying to decipher what teams may be taking, what’re their needs, what player might fall to you — those are a lot of those conversations that factor into place.”

“It does feel different than when we picked Jonah (Williams) at 11 two years ago. When you have the fifth pick, there’s less guess work I guess you should say on what players will likely be available there at five than having to go through and make sure you rank those top 10 players, but I like the position we’re in and we feel good about it.”

After the Bengals make their pick, they wait and watch – though a trade back into the first round always remains a possibility.

ExploreTrio of area offensive linemen among NFL Draft hopefuls

Otherwise, they will ramp up discussions on possible Day 2 picks as they see who goes off the board and who falls from the first round. The Bengals likely have a plan for what they will do next but could also be swayed by what kind of steals might be available when the draft resumes with the second and third rounds Friday (7 p.m.). Cincinnati has the sixth pick of the second round (No. 38 overall) and the fifth pick of the third round (No. 69 overall).

The Bengals had great success with their Day 2 picks in 2020 with former Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins falling to them to begin the second round and former Wyoming linebacker Logan Wilson turning out to be pretty solid in his rookie season as well. Higgins finished with a rookie record 67 receptions and 908 yards with six touchdowns, and Wilson had 33 tackles (four for loss), two interceptions and one sack in 12 games.

“I do think our scouting department is very thorough with their approach,” Taylor said about last year’s middle-day success. “…They’ve done work over the course of this year, really the past two years, and a lot of these guys and the coaches, you know, started in January, trying to get up to speed, so you just get a chance to talk it all through and that’s what leads towards landing guys that you really like in the third, fourth, fifth six rounds, and just it’s been a fun process going through it with our scouting department. They’re very thorough. They give you great information. And then ultimately, we can make really good decisions on day two and day three.”

ExploreANALYSIS: Projecting the Bengals draft, round by round

It’s clear what needs the Bengals have, based on the current state of the roster, their desire to add around 2020 No. 1 pick Joe Burrow and how they attacked free agency with a heavy emphasis on defense. They could use offensive linemen, at least one wide receiver, an edge rusher and then it’s all secondary needs that could vary depending on who is available.

One position that wasn’t a need until three weeks ago was running back, but when Cincinnati released Giovani Bernard, that created a big hole that might open space for another draft pick on Day 3.

“We’re anticipating guys really coming on,” Taylor said of the running back room. “Samaje (Perine) has earned that. I thought Samaje was impressive in his opportunities last year. …He played more of a role for us this year and Trayveon (Williams) has to continue to come along. Jacques Patrick was a guy that showed well in the opportunities he got in the preseason and we carried him on the practice squad. Just like any position if the value is there in the draft where you like a guy then you make that addition to the room, but that remains to be seen how that will shake out.”

The draft concludes with the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds on Saturday, beginning at noon. Cincinnati has picks in each round, including two in the sixth round.

NFL Draft

Today: Round 1, 8 p.m., ABC, ESPN, NFL Network

Friday: Rounds 2-3, 7 p.m., ABC, ESPN, NFL Network

Saturday: Rounds 4-7, Noon, ABC, ESPN, NFL Network

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