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Hobson's Choice: Bengals Walked Both Lines In Draft

Georgia center Trey Hill at his pro day.
Georgia center Trey Hill at his pro day.

Geoff, While I was team Sewell all the way, but I now back Chase all the way. Is the plan to start Carmen at right guard this year, then move him out to right tackle next? I think the Georgia center was a total steal. Nicholas Sylvester, Engelwood, OH

NICHOLAS: I'm right in there with you. Getting a big, athletic guy in the Sewell mold like Jackson Carman in the second round will do that. And there are those in the building that believe the drafting of a downfield threat like LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase makes the running game better by forcing people out of the box. So I like that, too.

I'd imagine the move is putting Carman at right guard so it would be easier to kick him out to right tackle. And that makes good sense in my opinion because Carman is young – just turned 21 back in January – so why not put him between some crafty veterans likes Riley Reiff, Trey Hopkins and Billy Price and let him learn for a year?

As for Hill, "yeah", I think both guys in the sixth round, Georgia center Trey Hill and Michigan running back Chris Evans, are here for a while. Hill had third-roundish tape, but appeared to overpay for a sub-par pro day. Still, good tape and good 320-pound size is attractive. The added extra is he has good football intelligence and can play all three inside spots.

Hobs My Man, The Offseason just never seems to take a day off. With another very solid Draft in the books and the majority of Needs met, what do you make of Zach mentioning the 2nd round of Free Agency during that Presser? Any Ideas? M Bloomfield, Wilmington, NC

M: I'm looking for the next big moves to be the signings of their own guys, but I am sure that they will keep monitoring the remaining crop of veteran free agents. Maybe study some wideouts, cornerbacks or a linebacker but the major efforts are on re-signing their own.

How do all the free agents and defensive draft picks fit into Lou's scheme. There's been heavy investments to this defense, anything less than top 15 would be pretty damning, should we expect much improvement? What style of D will they play. Adrián Magaña, Minneapolis, MN

ADRIAN: These guys were signed and drafted to play in defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo's hybrid 4-3/3-4. They're not changing style, just adding personnel. What's encouraging about third and fourth round edge guys Joseph Ossai and Cam Sample (and you can say the same thing about seventh-rounder Wyatt Hubert) is that they not only have pass rush ability, but they can set the edge in the run game.

That's been a real problem the last three years or so in the AFC North and it seems as if they're going for a style of player like free-agent edge Trey Hendrickson. He's not only bringing 13.5 sacks from New Orleans, but also an ability and mind set to play the run. The position versatile draft picks have also fared well against the run as relentless three-down players.

Are they better? You won't recognize them with three new cornerbacks and two new defensive linemen in the starting lineup. They committed $80 million in four new defensive starters and drafted four new defensive linemen. Yes, they should be better.

Give Anarumo a bit of a break here. When they lost Geno Atkins, Renell Wren, and D.J. Reader off the defensive line and Trae Waynes off one corner because of injury before last season got going, it was going to take a little magic to play great. This year, it looks like they stocked up enough so magic won't be needed.

Okay Geoff, I was a Sewell guy, but I won't cry over what we'll learn over the next year or two what was or wasn't spilled milk. My questions revolve around two undrafted areas: TE and DB. Are the Bengals happy with both areas? Phil Tackett, Summerville, SC

PHIL: It's a good point. It seems the Bengals absolutely expected to draft a cornerback. The fact they didn't shows that they stuck to their draft board instead of reaching for a need and any time they do that they should be applauded.

Look no further than drafting a third rush end in round seven as proof that they stuck to their grades. No way they expected to draft Joseph Ossai, Cam Sample AND Wyatt Hubert. But taking the best graded player is how you end up with T.J. Houshmandzadeh in round seven after taking another wide receiver in the second round. Chad Johnson. And that was a year after taking two receivers (Peter Warrick and Ron Dugans) in the first three rounds.

I suspect they'll add some tight ends and defensive backs in college free agency. And even though they signed four DBs in free agency, they may still monitor veteran cornerbacks. But the biggest add is getting back a starting first-round cornerback (Trae Waynes) who never stepped on the field last season. Tight end is probably less of a focus because C.J. Uzomah is healthy and Drew Sample is coming off a solid second season. Plus, head coach Zac Taylor focuses on wideouts more than tight ends. Exhibit A is Ja'Marr Chase at No. 5.

Butch: I was surprised to read that Mike Brown talked to Paul Alexander about the Jackson selection. Is Mr. Brown involved in player scouting and is it a good idea to rely on Alexander's opinion after the Obeughi/Fisher draft? Bill Huffman, Hamilton, OH

BILL: While director of player personnel Duke Tobin runs the draft and executive vice president Katie Blackburn runs the day-to-day operations of the club, Mike Brown oversees it all. Along with Tobin and head coach Zac Taylor, Mike is looking to reach a consensus in a draft room where Tobin and Taylor hold the sway.

He listens to people he trusts and knows in the evaluation game, starting with his own coaches and scouts but reaching out to other sources. Just like Tobin reached out to Bengals all-time tackle Willie Anderson on Clemson left tackle Jackson Carman. Alexander worked for Brown for 24 seasons, so that's a guy he trusts. And Alexander had a hand helping the Bengals select a lot more first- and second-round offensive linemen than Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher. He was the offensive line coach when the Bengals drafted Levi Jones, Andre Smith, Andrew Whitworth and Anderson himself. So if you mention those guys, you also have to mention guys that became solid starters and Pro Bowlers.

So, no, not surprising at all that Mike would reach out to a guy that got it more right than wrong. And not only that, Alexander had been helping Carman with his workouts and draft preparation. That phone call made more than sense.

We got 4 defensive linemen ( 2 tackles and 2 ends) in the draft. After losing William Jackson and others in the secondary why wasn't that more of a position of need? Alain Blackley, Hilliard, OH

ALAIN: Actually, two ends, a tackle and a guy that can play both but mainly plays the edge.

They've addressed the secondary in the last two free agencies with four cornerbacks on this year's roster. And they addressed the Jackson departure this year alone by signing three of them (Mike Hilton, Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple) and they added a third safety in Ricardo Allen.

Conversely, they were devastated up front. They needed backups for Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard on the edge, they let go Geno Atkins' $14 million and signed a starting three technique in Larry Ogunjobi to replace him and they needed backups for him and nose tackle D.J. Reader.

There was more need up front than in the back, but, was I a little surprised they didn't draft a corner? Yes. (That was me leering at Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo.) But adding three veterans in free agency tempers that some. If Waynes returns to form, the issue fades.

1 Even with the addition of Chase, I think we are thin at WR? Do you feel the we should of taken another WR in the draft? If one of the big 3 get hurt we may be in trouble. 2 Lots of bodies on the DL, thoughts on favorites to make the team? James Hart, Lexington, KY

JAMES: *It's fun to have a Big Three, isn't it? And behind Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase, they have trusted veterans in Auden Tate and Mike Thomas, plus special teams ace and contributor Stanley Morgan.

I think you are right that the Bengals kept their eyes open on wide receivers during the back half of the draft, where they have done well over the years,. But the better values, on their board, were at defensive/offensive lines. So they stuck to their grades. Plus that last wideout may not even dress on Sundays.

So I think even though they drafted a receiver No. 1, they were still open to drafting another (Chad and Houshmandzadeh as well Mohamad Sanu and Marvin Jones were in same draft class), but there just wasn't the same slide at wideout.

A quick guestimate at the D-Line, where they usually keep nine. You've got your starters in Hubbard, Reader, Ogunjobi and Hendrickson. You've got the rookie backup tackle Tyler Shelvin. You've got the rookie backup edge guys in Joseph Ossai and Cam Sample. That's seven. A lot of grinding for two spots and don't sell seventh-round edge Wyatt Hubert short. There are people here that think he can make the club.

Plus, steel-belted vet tackle Mike Daniels factors in and it's time for young nose tackles Renell Wren and Josh Tupou to emerge. And, who knows? Maybe they keep 10 defensive linemen like they did in 2019.

Dear Mr Hobson, My Bengals in the eighties had a "great" offensive line. Sewell is destined to be a great player - can you really build a great line by passing on such players? Many thanks for the insights, stay safe. Stewart Padget. Brough, United Kingdom

STEWART: Thank you and the same to you. It's a legit question. But can you also pass up a wide receiver that has such a great history and rapport with your quarterback?

I agree with you on the offensive line. But it's not like they keep passing on linemen in the draft. In the last four, they've spent two No. 1s and a No. 2. As much as we all have high regard for Sewell, we honestly don't know if a 20-year-old guy with 20 college games who didn't play last year is going to be "great." The fact the Bengals took Carman in the second round, a similarly built guy with excellent athleticism, shows they know what you know. It all starts with your offensive line.

No doubt you recall on that 1988 Super Bowl offensive line, Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Anthony Munoz was the only player taken before the 168th pick in the seventh round. In the last five drafts they've taken nine offensive linemen, four of them after 168. Like anything in the NFL it's always a mix of scheme, coaching, and play calling as well as talent.

Long time loyal follower. After a very effective draft do you believe we'll add any free agent talent still? Doug Pritchard, Dayton, OH

DOUG: The club thanks you for your support. If they do, it won't be a big move. Unless it involves extending one of their own. See above.

What is your early grade for the draft? I loved their strategy (WR1 then trade back + multiples at OL/DL), I thought the board fell perfectly, but it's hard to trust their evaluation on Carman vs the "experts" after all of the OL misses Kris Ewing, Cincinnati, OH

KRIS: Old School Me gives it an A- minus with seven linemen. I was hoping for nine after the trade. Then it would have been a solid "A".

But, yes, I'm with you. The trade made it, didn't it? It was a challenging draft. Fewer players. Less film. More opt-outs due to COVID. And a lot of question marks. That made it a must to be very focused on the guys they wanted and, for the most part, they got them. You know they did because they let Darrin Simmons get to the board as early as the fifth to get a kicker. If there was ever a year to trade down to the fourth, this was it.

I hear you on the O-line "misses," but I think one of the things that has been missed in this offseason is the re-hiring of offensive line coach Frank Pollack. Pollack drove the work on the prospects with guidance from the scouts, so you're getting a different set of evaluations in a different scheme. Pollack was here when center Billy Price was taken No. 1 and while that pick gets panned, I think Billy has proven he's a good NFL center if he stays in that spot.

We're you surprised we didn't pick a LB at some point in this draft as many good ones were falling. Also is it good idea to pick a kicker who has never Kicked in cold weather on the 5th as the cold effects how a ball travels. Thanks! Joe Pate, Bangkok, Thailand

JOE: After they took three linebackers at the top of three rounds in the 2020 draft, it didn't surprise me they didn't take one last weekend. The fact they didn't take one shows you may be why there were falling. Plus, most NFL defenses play a hybrid nickel with two linebackers on the field at the same time. With Germaine Pratt, and last year's rookie law firm of (Logan) Wilson, (Akeem) Davis-Gaither & (Markus) Bailey, they stuck to their board and drafted the highest graded players.

As for the kicker, well, the greatest Bengals kicker of all- time, Jim Breech, kicked his entire life in California before he showed up in Cincinnati in 1980. If Evan McPherson's big leg is solid, the pick is worth its weight in gold because they drafted a guy who has the chance to win games.

Why on earth do we draft a kicker? And in round 5 when so many potential contributors are still available. Like Trey Smith and Deonte Brown. Do the bengals understand how bad their current IOL is? Marc Fillmer, Richmond, VA

MARC: All I can say is your board is not their board. They apparently didn't have Smith and Brown as highly rated as you.

I also think after the fourth round they didn't believe there was a guy there as good as last year's sixth round pick, guard-tackle Hakeem Adeniji. I would say the fact they used a No. 2 pick on a guy they're going to start at guard this year, used a No. 4 pick on a tackle that showed good guard versatility at the Senior Bowl and used a No. 6 pick on a guy that can played all three interior spots indicated they're aware of their situation inside.

There weren't half the prospects this year as there has been in past years as they went deep into the draft. That said, if they don't pick up two extra fourths, they don't draft a kicker.

Love Chase & his abilities. Do not like the 1 pick. Why trade back with Jenk/Eich on the board? Help me, why do we put our QB at risk again? Draft/league have quality at WR, little quality at OT. I DONT UNDERSTAND??? RIP JOE BURROW Dean Sutton, Surrey, BC

DEAN: Same answer. Your board is not their board. And you can throw in Walker Little in this thing, too.

If they wanted him or Liam Eichenberg or Teven Jenkins badly enough, they would have sat at No. 38. So, apparently their grades were lower on those guys, and they focused on drafting three other offensive linemen on their board in Carman, D'Ante Smith and Hill. I struggle with how drafting three linemen plus signing veteran Riley Reiff is seen as not addressing the O-Iine.

Carman was the guy they wanted and if he wasn't there, they had another guy in mind and he was there briefly after Carman. The fact they got the offensive linemen they wanted and were able to pick up another tackle with high-end traits in D'Ante Smith shows they are trying to protect this guy. You just had different grades. And that's OK.

Let's look at the bigger picture up front. They re-hire a respected NFL offensive line coach and give him the title of run game coordinator, knowing a better run game helps the quarterback. They sign a well-regarded veteran right tackle in agency. Left tackle Jonah Williams is back and healthy. They spend two high picks on offensive linemen, plus, for the second straight free agency they commit more than $100 million to the defense, which helps the quarterback too.

So there's no need to send condolence cards to the quarterback. The effort has produced tools.