The Cincinnati Bengals couldn’t turn up the opportunity to reunite a pair of LSU Tigers, by drafting wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase with the No. 5 pick. He’ll catch passes from Joe Burrow, his teammate on the 2o19 national title team.
It is a fun story, and both former Tigers are fired up about the move. Still, plenty believe it was the wrong one. Many had penciled the team in to take top offensive tackle Penei Sewell out of Oregon. The Bengals had a really rough year at offensive line in 2020, culminating in the injury that knocked Burrow out of the season.
ESPN’s Ryan Clark is a proud LSU football alumnus, but the former Pittsburgh Steelers standout thinks the Bengals messed up with this pick. “It’s not what we wanted, it’s not what we needed,” he said during today’s NFL Live on ESPN.
“When the last picture you have of your superstar, young quarterback is him getting carted off the Field at FedEx Stadium, that’s not what you want to see. Conventional minds and minds that think long-term say, ‘Let’s protect him.’ At No. 5 in this draft was Penei Sewell. Obviously, the best offensive lineman in the draft, a tackle that you plug and place the day he walks into your building and you passed on him.”
It’s hard to argue. A great wide receiver is valuable, but a cornerstone offensive tackle, as Sewell is expected to be, is one of the most valuable things you can pick up in a draft, behind franchise quarterback. Throw in the Bengals’ offensive line issues, and it is a major concern.
Clark is very high on Chase as a player, but thinks going wide receiver was the wrong move, especially with the success the team has had identifying talent at the position later in the NFL Draft.
“Don’t get me wrong. I think Ja’Marr Chase is a star,” Clark said. “I think Ja’Marr Chase is going to be a guy who is highly productive. But if all you can do is run short routes, if all you can do is try to play pitch and catch, and get yards after catch, you’re in trouble. I wish they would’ve protected Joe Burrow instead of looking to get him another weapon, when you were able to get Tee Higgins in the second round and obviously Tyler Boyd, who is now your No. 1 and was also a second-round draft pick.”
Cincinnati addressed the position later on, taking Clemson guard Jackson Carman in the second round, ECU’s D’Ante Smith in the fourth, and Georgia center Trey Hill in the sixth. If Sewell turns into a force for the Detroit Lions and the Bengals can’t keep Burrow upright, it will be a tough choice to look back on for the franchise.