Cincinnati Bengals Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Jackson Carman, OT/G, Clemson – Round 2
The Bengals had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL in 2020, and improving the protection for second-year quarterback Joe Burrow was a critical point of improvement for the organization over the offseason. Cincinnati brought in some veteran talent, and after passing on Penei Sewell in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the team was fortunate to land Carman in Round 2. Carman has a great skill set and a ton of upside for the coaches to develop.

As a pass protector, the 6-foot-5, 340-pound Carman has unique ability because he is very athletic and a smooth mover with a large, round frame that makes him tough to get by. Jackson has quick feet and glides through the air, displaying rare movement skills for an offensive lineman of his size. Thanks to his excellent athleticism and quickness, Carman can mirror speed rushers and lock down the backside of the play. His thick build and strength let him anchor and stone wall bull rushes when he keeps his technique sound. Carman has the skill set to be a starting left tackle in the NFL.

Carman is impressive run blocker. He has a strong upper body to push back defenders and blocks with some nastiness. Going through the whistle, Carman fights and pushes defenders around, flashing some violence and a feisty attitude. When his technique is right, Carman can knock defenders off the ball and drive block them. He also uses his excellent quickness and athleticism to fire out to the second level, and his easy moving allows him to hit blocks in space. When Carman avoids bending at the waist, he can be a real forceful presence in the ground game.

There are significant technical issues that Carman needs to improve for the NFL. He can have a tendency to lose his balance when backpedaling in pass blocking, and that leads to trouble. Carman also allows his hands to get too wide in pass blocking, which can allow defenders to knock him back by getting into his chest. Carman having his hands wide also leaves him vulnerable to some pass-rushing moves like rips and dips underneath him. There are also times when Carman gets sloppy and bends at the waist to lunge at his block. That allows defenders to slap to slap his arms away to break free to the quarterback. Carman’s technical issues also lead to a lack of recoverability.

Carman landed in a good spot with the Bengals. They have Jonah Williams and Riley Reiff as their projected starting tackles, so Carman can start out competing at guard before eventually replacing Reiff. Playing on the inside to begin his career could help Carman work on his technique before he is asked to block on the edge. Either at guard or tackle, Carman could develop into a solid starter for Cincinnati.

2020: Tee Higgins, WR
2019: Jonah Williams, OT
2018: Sam Hubbard, DE
2017: John Ross, WR
2016: William Jackson, CB
2015: Paul Dawson, LB
2014: Darqueze Dennard, CB
2013: Tyler Eifert, TE

Most Likely To Bust

Joseph Ossai, LB, Texas – Round 3
This was a tough selection because I don’t dislike Ossai as a player. Cincinnati, however, may not be a great spot for him because he is a better fit in a 3-4 defense.

Ossai (6-4, 253) is a strong edge rusher who displays a good motor and fights hard. He has the strength to shed and uses that power to put quarterbacks into the turf with some violence. Off the snap, Ossai show some speed and explosion in a straight line to get upfield. However, he is very stiff and struggles to redirect. That stiffness makes it difficult for him to dodge blockers and utilize some typical pass-rushing moves. Ossai does not have the size, moves, or wiggle to be a 4-3 defensive end and looks limited to being a 3-4 outside linebacker.

In the ground game, Ossai is tough and finds a way to contribute, pursuing hard to the football and never quitting on plays. His straight-line quickness gives him an ability to get in on tackles from the backside, while his strength helps him to hold up. He could be a quality run defender as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

Sme 4-3 teams had Ossai graded on Day 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft because he was not a good fit for their defenses. He was drafted by the Bengals though, and they run 4-3 sets. In that defensive scheme, he probably only fits as a designated pass rusher. With Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard already three, Ossai could have a hard time seeing the field. Ossai looks like a potential misfit with the Bengals and the early-round pick of theirs with the highest likelihood of busting.

2020: Logan Wilson, LB
2019: Drew Sample, TE
2018: Malik Jefferson, LB
2017: Carl Lawson, LB
2016: Nick Vigil, LB
2015: Tyler Kroft, TE
2014: Russell Bodine, C
2013: Shawn Williams, S

Potential Boom Pick

Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU – Round 1
While Joe Burrow had an incredible 2019 season at LSU and played extremely well, he was surrounded with an amazing supporting cast featuring an excellent set of wide receivers, a first-round running back, and an experienced and talented offensive line. Of that amazing supporting cast, Chase was the best player, and you could make an argument that Chase was the best pure football player on LSU’s 2019 squad; he was electric. Chase made a ton of big plays for Burrow, taking short catches for big gains and being a bail-out receiver who would get open and move the chains when everything else was breaking down. He averaged 21.2 yards per reception over 84 catches for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns. His dominance helped other LSU receivers and tight ends to produce big seasons as well. LSU had a dream season going undefeated and winning a National Championship with Chase being an integral player to the Tigers success.

Chase has the skill set and ability of a future No. 1 receiver in the NFL. The prospect of reuniting Chase with Burrow was too good for the Bengals to pass on, and they snatched up Chase with the fifth-overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Chase’s his speed and ability to separate stand out immediately. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder has a burst off the line with sudden explosive speed to quickly generate separation from cornerbacks. Chase is fast through his routes, and defensive backs have a near impossible task of running with him. Even top cornerbacks like Florida’s C.J. Henderson had some struggles to keep Chase from getting open. With his deep speed, Chase is a threat to take the top off of a defense. He regularly burns a secondary by running a go route down the sideline or a slant across the field. In the NFL, Chase is going to command safety help over the top. He is a fast receiver similar to a Calvin Ridley or Jerry Jeudy, but he doesn’t quite have the top-shelf speed of Henry Ruggs, John Ross or Will Fuller.

On top of game-breaking speed, Chase is a quality route-runner and sudden in out of his breaks. Being fast and sudden translates to Chase being a dangerous yards-after-the-catch weapon. He is elusive in the open field with good moves to dodge tacklers and vision to see openings for longer gains.

Other parts of Chase’s technique as a receiver are impressive. He high points the ball well and does a nice job on 50-50 passes even though he is not a receiver with mismatch height. With late hands, Chase does a good job of securing passes and is a reliable, natural hands catcher. He tracks the ball extremely well, and it looks almost impossible to overthrow him.

Reuniting with Burrow is a dream come true landing spot for Chase. He goes to a quarterback with whom he already has great chemistry, and the Bengals have quality receivers to help Chase avoid constant double coverage. With Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati has an excellent trio for Burrow to work with. As long as he stays healthy, Chase could be a boom pick for the Bengals.

2020: Joe Burrow, QB
2019: Germaine Pratt, LB
2018: Billy Price, C
2017: Joe Mixon, RB
2016: Tyler Boyd, WR
2015: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT
2014: Jeremy Hill, RB
2013: Giovani Bernard, RB

Future Depth Player

Tyler Shelvin, DT, LSU – Round 4
Some teams had a third-round grade on Shelvin, so he was a nice value for Cincinnati at No. 122 overall. Shelvin is a big heavy load at the point of attack who can eat up blockers and stuff rushing lanes at the line of scrimmage. The Bengals already have one of the best nose tackles in the NFL with D.J. Reader, but Reader is coming off a season-ending injury, so it makes sense for Cincinnati to have some rotational talent to lighten Reader’s load and seek to keep him healthy. Shelvin may not ever beat out Reader to be the starter, but he could be a quality backup and rotational player for the Bengals.

2020: Akeen Davis-Gaither, LB
2019: Ryan Finley, QB
2018: Mark Walton, RB
2017: Ryan Glasgow, DT
2016: Andrew Billings, DT
2015: Josh Shaw, CB
2014: A.J. McCarron, QB
2013: Margus Hunt, DE

Walt’s 2021 NFL Draft Grades:

5. Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU – B Grade
The Bengals had a difficult decision between Ja’Marr Chase and Penei Sewell. They ultimately decided on the former, which I don’t agree with, but don’t hate either. Sewell would have been much better for them, especially when considering Joe Burrow’s recent knee injury. That said, Chase is going to be a superstar receiver in Cincinnati for a very long time, and it’s not like he and Burrow have to develop any sort of chemistry.

46. Jackson Carman, OT/G, Clemson – A+ Grade
I love this pick. Back in February, some league sources told us that Jackson Carman could sneak into the opening round. He obviously didn’t, so the Bengals are getting awesome value with Carman, especially when considering that they traded down eight spots. They had to improve their offensive line to protect Joe Burrow, and they did just that with Carman.

69. Joseph Ossai, DE/OLB, Texas – B Grade
It was always going to be receiver/tackle, tackle/receiver and then edge rusher for the Bengals, who needed to replace Carl Lawson. Joseph Ossai is someone I’ve consistently mocked in the third round, so this pick makes sense. Ossai is a low-upside player, but he should be a solid contributor for Cincinnati.

111. Cameron Sample, DE, Tulane – B+ Grade
It’s no surprise that the Bengals are adding another edge rusher, given the powerhouse offenses they have to battle in the AFC North. They have yet to beat Lamar Jackson, so obtaining another pass rusher was a must. Cameron Sample is someone I had in this range, so this seems like a solid pick.

122. Tyler Shelvin, NT, LSU – B+ Grade
I wonder if Joe Burrow demanded Tyler Shelvin as well. Shelvin is a monstrous nose tackle who can help stop the run. Remember, the Bengals haven’t beaten Lamar Jackson yet, so this should help them stop Baltimore’s rushing attack. This is the right range for Shelvin.

139. D’Ante Smith, OT East Carolina – A Grade
It’s no surprise that the Bengals are drafting another offensive lineman so that Joe Burrow, coming off a knee injury, is as well protected as possible. I’ve had D’Ante Smith pegged around the third frame, so the Bengals seem to be getting strong value with D’Ante Smith.

149. Evan McPherson, K, Florida – C Grade
I hate kicker picks in the first three rounds, and I’m not a fan of them in the fourth frame. The fifth round is just OK, but know that kickers grow on trees. There’s a tree outside my house, and there are four kickers growing on it right now.

190. Trey Hill, C, Georgia – A+ Grade
I thought Trey Hill put himself in first-round consideration when he handled Derrick Brown well in a 2019 matchup. I eventually moved him to the third round because of some knee injury concerns. Apparently, teams were more worried, but this was the right time to take a chance on such a high-upside player.

202. Chris Evans, RB, Michigan – B- Grade
The Bengals lost Giovani Bernard this offseason, so it makes sense that they would find a running back at some point on Day 3. Chris Evans could become a solid complement for Joe Mixon. There were better running backs available, but this isn’t a bad pick.

235. Wyatt Hubert, DE, Kansas State – B Grade
Wyatt Hubert didn’t make my final mock, but he was slotted in the seventh round in a previous update. The Bengals are trying to load up their roster with as many pass rushers as possible to stop the dynamic offenses in the AFC North, so this pick makes sense to me.

2021 NFL Draft Team Grade: B+. Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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