Evaluating the Bengals’ options at #21

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Moving down from #12 to #21 was one of the best offseason decisions the Bengals have made in recent years. Not only did they acquire a starting left tackle in Cordy Glenn, but they’ve placed themselves in a nice sweet spot to acquire a player at a position of need where the value matches up pretty well. Here are some players that I think the Bengals will legitimately consider taking at #21, and while I have my preferences, I’d be relatively happy with any of these selections. In no particular order:

Frank Ragnow, C Arkansas

Ragnow has been getting a lot of buzz around Bengals Twitter recently as a potential candidate at pick no. 21. Plenty of people who know a lot more about offensive line play than I do have Ragnow ranked as the number one center in this year’s class, and for good reason. The Arkansas product is an excellent athlete who would be a perfect fit in Frank Pollack’s zone-blocking scheme, showing the ability to climb to the second level with exceptional quickness. He keeps his feet firing through contact, locks his elbows in tight and drives defenders backwards. The only potential knock on Ragnow is his height (6′ 5″), which causes him to lose the leverage battle at times, but his length is generally an asset for him.

James Daniels, C Iowa

Daniels is another athletic center who, at just 20 years old, has a ton of upside. Daniels’ best trait is his athleticism, enabling him to execute reach blocks and get to the second level with ease. He has a very thick lower half which gives him the power to move defenders in the run game, and he regularly looks to finish blocks with violence. While he’s still somewhat raw, his age and athletic profile give you a lot to be excited about. He may be a slight reach at #21 but center is such a huge need on the team that I would have a hard time criticising the pick.

Isaiah Wynn, OG/OT Georgia

The Bengals LOVE Georgia players, so this could be a match made in heaven. Wynn can be a plug-and-play starter at right guard for Cincinnati. He’s strong, powerful and has quick feet for an interior lineman. In pass pro, he has the ability to anchor and shows good awareness to pick up stunts. He also offers a lot of versatility given his experience playing at left tackle at Georgia, meaning that he could kick out to right tackle for the Bengals in a pinch. The bottom line is that Wynn is a first round talent at guard who would provide an instant impact on the interior of the line.

Justin Reid, S Stanford

Justin Reid at #21 might be a little high for some people, but I think he’s worth this selection if there’s a run on offensive lineman in the late teens. Reid would offer a lot of versatility to the Bengals defense. He regularly lined up over receivers in man coverage at Stanford, showing no issues running stride for stride with them and quickly changing directions. He consistently gets his hands on receivers as they’re about to enter their break. Reid’s athletic profile fits that of a deep safety, and I feel that he could be quite rangey in this role. If the Bengals opt to let Darqueze Dennard go after this season, Reid would be also a perfect fit in the slot in addition to his role as a free safety.

Mike McGlinchey, OT Notre Dame

McGlinchey is widely considered to be the top tackle prospect in this year’s class. At 6′ 8″ and 309 pounds his size and length are ideal for the position, and he’s proven to be quite athletic for his size. He can bend at the knees and anchor in pass pro, performing particularly well against bigger, physical rushers because of his ability to match their power. In the run game, he smothers defenders on down blocks and can move guys off the ball, albeit his lateral mobility isn’t the best. The biggest concern with McGlinchey heading to the pros is that he struggles against speed rushers (as most players of his stature do) which is only going to be exacerbated at the next level. I’m hesitant to say that the upgrade McGlinchey would provide over Jake Fisher at right tackle is significant enough to warrant passing on an interior lineman at #21, but I wouldn’t hate the pick.

Connor Williams, OT/OG Texas

I have no idea why Connor Williams isn’t getting more buzz as a potentially great fit in Cincinnati. His 33-inch arms lead some to believe that his best fit would be inside at guard, but I saw enough from Williams to believe that he could be a starter at right tackle or right guard for the Bengals. On tape, I saw a player that consistently lands his punches and latches on with a really strong grip. He’s got a great anchor, and you rarely see him lose against power. As a run blocker Williams excels, playing with excellent toughness and consistently moving defenders. Like McGlinchey, speed rushers will bother him at tackle. A knee injury that caused him to miss most of his final season, in which his tape was significantly worse than his 2016 season, is the biggest reason why he may fall out of the first round. His lack of length raises legitimate question marks about his ability to play at tackle in the NFL, but he’s so technically sound that I think he might be able to do it. Either way, he can be a high-end starter for the Bengals.

Harold Landry, EDGE Boston College

Edge rusher isn’t among the most pressing needs on the team but if Landry were to fall to the Bengals, he would be the best player available at that point. His speed off the edge is phenomenal and his ability to bend and dip around the edge is rare. While the Bengals typically look for longer defensive ends, they bucked this trend last year with the selection of Carl Lawson who comes in at the same height as Landry (6′ 2″) and weighs just eight pounds more. Landry consistently penetrates into the backfield and makes plays behind the line of scrimmage. His hand usage needs some refinement in order to become a more complete pass rusher, but his speed and bend off the edge are a combination that no other prospect in this class possesses.

Leighton Vander Esch, LB Boise State

Vander Esch has just one year of starting experience behind him at Boise State, but possesses a lot of upside as an athletic coverage linebacker. He’s a natural in coverage, showcasing agility, smooth feet and quick diagnosis skills.  In addition to his coverage skills, he’s a very solid wrap-up tackler and can sift through traffic pretty well. He can be guilty of playing too timidly at times and I’d love to see him play with more aggression. However, given his impressive testing at the Combine and the athleticism that he showed in coverage I think Vander Esch has a ton of upside and would be a great fit in Cincinnati. The Bengals have been sorely lacking an athletic coverage linebacker for years, and Vander Esch may be the answer.

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