ANDRE MAZUR, Special to The Denisonian—The Cincinnati Bengals have the 5th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. After posting a disappointing 4-11-1 record, the Bengals look to the draft to fill holes to improve their new team.  Below is how the Bengals should use their eight draft picks.

Round 1, Pick 5- Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon 

Penei Sewell is arguably the greatest offensive line prospect of the 21st century. The 6’6, 330-pound lineman started for the Ducks his freshman and sophomore seasons before opting out of the 2020 CFB season. He won various individual awards in 2019, such as the Outland and Morris Trophies given to the best lineman in the country. Sewell was only 17 years old when he dominated in the PAC-12 as a true freshman. The Samoan native offers Joe Burrow the protection he desperately needs, especially after his brutal knee injury in 2020. 

Round 2, Pick 6 (#38 overall) Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU

Though some Bengals fans will be potentially upset about not drafting Burrow’s LSU partner Ja’Marr Chase, fear not. Terrace Marshall Jr. and Joe Burrow had great chemistry in 2019, as Marshall recorded 46 catches for 671 yards and 13 touchdowns. The following season, after the entire stellar LSU offense left for the NFL and Ja’Marr Chase opted out of the season, Marshall arguably carried the Tigers’ offense. He recorded 48 catches for 731 yards and 10 touchdowns before opting out later on in the season. At 6’3 and 200 pounds, the LSU receiver is the piece that the Bengals receiving core is missing, and if available in the 2nd round, the Bengals should take him without a doubt. He even recently ran a 4.38 40-yard dash in his pro day.

Round 3, Pick 5 (#69 overall) Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State

After losing veteran defensive tackle Geno Atkins, the Bengals are looking for someone to partner up on the line with DJ Reader. Marvin Wilson fills that role. At 6’5 and 311 pounds, Marvin Wilson poses a threat to any team’s interior offensive line and quarterback. 

Round 4, Pick 6 (#111 overall) Quinn Meinerz, IOL, University of Wisconsin- Whitewater.

Although only 6’3, this Division 3 offensive lineman has taken football fans by surprise with excellent displays in the 2021 Senior Bowl. As the Bengals have dealt with various offensive-line troubles, including the time Joe Burrow nearly lost his leg, adding Meinerz to the offensive line room is great competition for the team.

Round 5, Pick 5 (#149 overall) Shaka Toney, Edge, Penn State

Following the departures of Carl Lawson and Carlos Dunlap, the Bengals look to add depth to their defensive ends. The Bengals had the least amount of sacks in the NFL last season, after Sam Hubbard suffered injuries. Having good depth and competition certainly helps their defense. Toney finished his career at Penn State with 20.5 sacks and received first-team Big Ten honors. He should bring much needed depth to the Bengals shallow defense.

Round 6, Pick 6 (#190 overall) Deommodore Lenoir, DB, Oregon

The Bengals’ secondary has struggled in recent years, and last year was no exception. After signing Chidobe Awuzie, Mike Hilton, and Eli Apple in free agency, drafting Lenoir adds more depth and competition to the secondary.

Round 6, Pick 18 (#202 overall) Evan McPherson, K, Florida

Evan McPherson is arguably the best kicker prospect in this draft, and arguably one of the best college kicker prospects since Sebastian Janikowski. After a shaky final season from Randy Bullock and a not so promising start to Austin Seibert’s career as a Bengal, it makes sense to draft a potential franchise kicker. At the least, bringing in McPherson adds elite competition for Seibert.

Round 7, Pick 7 (#235 overall) Justin Hilliard, LB, Ohio State

A special teamer and linebacker for the Buckeyes, Hilliard would be a solid addition to the linebacker room. He would likely be a backup but make consistent appearances on special teams. A few injuries during his 6-year long college career will likely cause him to fall to the 7th round. Justin Hilliard is also a Cincinnati native. The Bengals would fix their most pressing need in the first round by taking Penei Sewell over Ja’Marr Chase. Many people may disagree with this, including QB Joe Burrow (allegedly), as Ja’Marr Chase could very well be a generational receiving talent. However, adding an elite young offensive lineman to the team is more of a need than adding a star young receiver to the receiving core. 

In simple terms, the Bengals NEED Penei Sewell whereas drafting Ja’Marr Chase or Kyle Pitts would be a big help, but not integral to the team’s success. Also, the disparity between Penei Sewell and any second-round offensive lineman is far greater than that between Ja’Marr Chase and the second-round wide receivers. This gap even includes Terrace Marshall Jr., who the Bengals should take in the following round to fill in their outside spot. 

After signing Thaddeus Moss in free agency on April 12, the Bengals do not need to draft depth for the tight end position.

This year’s draft is a great opportunity to fill major holes with exceptional young talent.