Cincinnati Bengals | Building around Burrow


Now that we’ve gotten through all of the madness of NFL free agency, we have a better understanding of teams’ needs across the league. That allows me to re-open the door on one of my favorite projects every year: Draft Options.

If this is your first time here, then get ready for me to talk about a few draft prospects for your favorite NFL franchise to consider during the 2020 NFL Draft. It’s only fair that we start with the team that picks first, the Cincinnati Bengals.

After a dreadful 2-14 season, the Bengals have an opportunity to draft a new face for their franchise by selecting LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. It’s almost like a broken record at this point — Burrow to the Bengals. The Bengals have already tipped their hand that they’re going into this draft to build around the talented player from Athens High School in The Plains, Ohio. If you don’t believe me, look at what they did in free agency.

Over the last week or so, the Bengals have added the following players:

  • Mackensie Alexander, cornerback (one-year, $4 million deal)
  • D.J. Reader, defensive tackle (four-year, $53 million deal)
  • Trae Waynes, cornerback (three-year, $42 million deal)
  • Vonn Bell, safety (three-year, $18 million deal)
  • A.J. Green, wide receiver (franchise tag)

In that process, they also lost key players such as Cordy Glenn (left tackle), Darqueze Dennard (cornerback), and Tyler Eifert (tight end). Even though they lost some key players on both sides of the football, it’s clear that their additions in free agency were focused heavily on defense. The Bengals should put as much of their draft capital as possible into their offense for the 2020 NFL Draft. Let’s take a look at some targets as the Bengals build around Burrow.

Second Round Targets (33rd overall) 

We all know that it’s tough to predict which players will be available in the second round. However, we’ll go off of my draft board for the 2020 NFL Draft. Starting at the top, the Bengals need to establish their offensive line, and they can certainly do that in this draft. Here are some names they should consider in the second round.

Cesar Ruiz, IOL, Michigan 

Currently ranked 38th on my big board for the 2020 NFL Draft, Cesar Ruiz has seen his draft stock soar over the last few weeks. Rightfully so, he’s just about everything he’s billed out to be. There are some who believe that he could go in the first round to teams such as the Green Bay Packers or Kansas City Chiefs, and that wouldn’t be all that surprising. So what is there to like about him?

I’m sure most Bengals fans are saying, “please, no, not another center,” but I still have high hopes for Billy Price. As for Cesar Ruiz, he’s a talented interior offensive lineman. His feet are what stand out to me with how quick he’s able to transition his weight from his post foot and set foot. He’s a natural knee bender and plays with good pad level. He’s got an aggressive side to him that Bengals fans will love. He’ll have to continue to sustain his blocks at the second level, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t be the first interior offensive lineman off the board.

Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State 

Much like Cesar Ruiz, we could see a similar position in the first round for Ezra Cleveland. He’s certainly got a chance to be one of the fifth or sixth offensive tackles selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. In fact, we could see five or six of them in the first round. Cleveland would be in the mix. If he ends up falling out of round one, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Bengals grab him to start the second day of the draft.

He’d bring experience with 40 career starts at Boise State. He’s got good size at 6’6″ and 311 pounds, but he’s also the most athletic offensive lineman in the draft. He had the fastest 3-cone drill at 7.26 seconds and a short-shuttle of 4.46 seconds. On the field, he plays with patience and solid technique. He’ll need to get stronger in his lower half and become a better finisher, but overall, he should translate to a starting left tackle at the next level. He’s certainly a top-50 pick and is in the conversation for the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson 

This one might make people scratch their heads but a few months ago we were discussing Tee Higgins as a potential first-round pick. That still remains the same. Unfortunately, Higgins didn’t test up to par at the Clemson pro day, and it’s making people second-guess his evaluation. He only posted a vertical jump of 31 inches and ran a sub-4.6 time in the 40-yard dash. Fortunately, he ran the 20-yard shuttle in 4.25 seconds, and that would have been good for sixth at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine.

Despite what the athletic numbers say, the tape checks out. Higgins isn’t an elite route runner, and we all know he isn’t an elite athlete. However, he’s got terrific body control and has been incredibly productive over the last two seasons, so much that he’s scored 25 touchdowns over that span. He’s got legit size at 6’4″ and 216 pounds, and if he’s available in the second round, it would make sense to pair Joe Burrow up with him.

Third Round Targets (65th overall) 

Much like the second round, it’s difficult to predict who could be where by this point. Fortunately, the Bengals pick early enough that they should get a crack at a fair amount of talent with their first few picks in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Isaiah Wilson, OT, Goergia 

Easily, this would be one of my favorite picks for the Bengals to help build around their new franchise quarterback. Wilson is massive at 6’5″ and 350 pounds. He hasn’t tested out as a great athlete with a 40-yard dash time of 5.35 seconds and a short-shuttle time of 5.07 seconds at the NFL Combine. However, he’s got a big wingspan (35 1/2-inch arms) and hands (10 1/4 inches).

On film, you’ll notice Wilson’s size right away. You’ll also notice his grip strength and how he’s able to win with it. His footwork is good for a player of his size, and he’ll have no issues mauling a defender. There are some consistency issues, one of them being his punch. Sometimes it’s too high or just too slow, but once he locks on, it’s pretty much game over. There’s some fine-tuning that’ll be needed, but he would serve as an upgrade to the Bengals’ right side of the line with 25 career starts at Georgia.

Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton 

This isn’t the strongest tight end class, but there’s going to be a name or two that works their way into a starting role. Odds are, that player or two will be selected from day two of the 2020 NFL Draft. The Bengals do have Drew Sample from Washington, who I was a fan of from the 2019 NFL Draft, but they could still look to add another body to the room. If they do, a player I’d consider for them is Adam Trautman from Dayton. I’m sure their area scouts took plenty of 55-minute trips to Dayton, Ohio to scout him.

His performance at the Scouting Combine was underwhelming with a 40-yard dash time of 4.8 seconds. However, he showed off his fluid hips at the Senior Bowl (North Roster, Detroit Lions), and it showed with a 3-cone drill time of 6.78 seconds. On tape, he was clearly the top target for the Flyers, and it showed in the stat sheet with 70 receptions for 916 yards and 14 touchdowns. The former quarterback has a solid understanding of where the soft spots are in coverages, and he’s actually a solid in-line blocker. Pairing him with Burrow could develop into a long-term solution for the position.

Some other Names to Consider for Day Three 

During the Senior Bowl, the Cincinnati Bengals got an opportunity to work with plenty of talented offensive players. Names like Lloyd Cushenberry and Damien Lewis are certainly in consideration on day two of the draft. That’s not the only LSU player the Bengals could consider after selecting Joe Burrow.

Thadd Moss from LSU would be another tight end that provides some intrigue at the position. He’s only 6’2″ and 250 pounds, but he comes from an elite NFL pedigree (father is Randy Moss). Also, every time you put on the tape, Moss is putting bodies in the dirt. He’s looking to outwork anyone and everyone in the trenches. If that’s exactly what the Bengals loved about Drew Sample, it wouldn’t be surprising if they held Moss in high regard. Here’s a list of other names to consider on day three:

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National Scout for Cover 1. Host of Cover 1 | The NFL Draft Podcast. NFL Draft Enthusiast. X's and O's. Heard on ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio and CBS Sports Radio.