Dream Bengals Running Back Options In the NFL Draft

By: Noah Nichols

In the 2021 NFL Draft, the running back class is not so deep. In fact, there are really only three running backs that can be considered an every-down running back. After that…well, your best guess is as good as mine.

This is not to say that there are not any good running back options available beyond the first round. There are. But most of the options either won’t be there or have questions surrounding them. However, the Cincinnati Bengals pick at 38 and that means they will have a good shot at some of the best running backs in this draft class. So, who can the Bengals hope to see sitting at 38? And how realistic is it for those running backs to be there?

First, it’s important to remember that the Bengals already have a starter in the backfield in Joe Mixon. However, last year brought some real concerns to the table because Mixon could not stay on the field and only played six games. The Bengals will want someone more reliable than that to help Joe Burrow. But, there is still a chance that the Bengals do not take a running back, instead of hoping that Mixon will remain healthy for (most of) the season.

The Top Three

Najee Harris

Most draft analysts regard Harris as the best running back in this class. At 23 years old he is a mature running back but probably won’t play beyond his first contract. Quick, explosive, and a deadly weapon in the passing game, the Bengals would love to add him to their rushing attack. However, there is little chance that he is still sitting there at pick 38. The reports are that the rival Pittsburgh Steelers are big on Harris and will probably pick him at 24 if he is there. The Miami Dolphins and New York Jets also present threats and both could take a running back, whether in the first round at 18 and 23. respectively, or at 33 and 34. I don’t think there is any chance that Harris escapes round one, but there is a chance that he does. The two ways that happen is if other players fall that teams can’t pass up, or teams don’t draft him because they believe running backs should not be taken in the first round. Either way, Bengals fans hopes for Harris are slim.

Javonte Williams

Williams probably has the best chance to be available for the Bengals at 38. If you are a Bengals fan and have not seen his highlights, go watch them. He is my favorite running back in this class. Essentially a smaller, faster, version of Harris, Williams is only 21 years old so he has lots of tread loft on his tires. He also shared the backfield at UNC with Michael Carter, and had 366 career carries. For reference, Harris had 560 in the past two years. Williams is also a fantastic pass-blocking running back, which is something the Bengals want to ensure Joe Burrow stays healthy. Williams has the best shot out of the top three running backs to land with the Bengals at 38, but there is no chance he falls out of the second round.

Travis Etienne

The fastest and the most productive out of the top three running backs, Etienne is not for some people. He doesn’t have the build of a between-the-tackles runner, weighing in at 210 pounds. But after he ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at this pro day, he proved that what he lacks in build, he makes up for in speed. He can take it to the house from anywhere on the field. There are concerns about his ability to be an every-down back, but if the Bengals are looking for the next Alvin Kamara, Etienne is their best shot. There are rumor’s that the Buffalo Bills are looking to trade up for Etienne. If this is true, then Etienne has no chance of falling to the Bengals pick at 38. I would put his chances of being available when the Bengals pick at about 50%.

Other Round Two Options

Kenneth Gainwell

A small, but adept, receiving back out of Memphis, Gainwell offers a lot as a complementary back. A converted wide receiver, Gainwell is a natural receiver and runs routes like a wide receiver. His only problem is that he is too small to be a lead back, at 5″11, 194 pounds. He also is not great at pass protection. But the Bengals did just cut Giovanni Bernard and could be looking to add a younger, more explosive, receiving back. Gainwell will be there at pick 38 and has a good chance of being available when the Bengals pick in the third round. If the Bengals were to add a running back, Gainwell and the next running back on this list would be my best bet.

Michael Carter

Carter is very much like Gainwell. Small, (5″9, 200 pounds), and explosive. Carter is not that much different from Gainwell, except for the height and the weight difference. Carter has shown a good ability to bounce off tackles and has the vision to pair with it. He is also an excellent receiver. Honestly, if the Bengals are looking to add a receiving back, they should just select Carter or Gainwell in the third round. If only one is available, take him. If both are, whoever’s tape they prefer. I think that Gainwell has shown a little more potential as a receiver, but Carter offers more as a between-the-tackles runner because of his build and weight.

Dream Option at 38: Najee Harris.

Most Realistic option at 38: Javonte Williams

Best option at 69: Kenneth Gainwell or Michael Carter. Notice that I didn’t say dream option? Because there is no way that any of the top three fall that far, and these two have a very realistic chance of being available.

My prediction:

And with the 69th pick in the 2021 NFL draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select…Michael Carter, Running Back, North Carolina. Carter has a great chance of being available in the third round for the Bengals. He takes Bernard’s place as the receiving back, offers a little something running downhill, and if necessary, can take on 3-down duties if Joe Mixon is hurt. If the Bengals want complete insurance from a Mixon injury then they should take Williams at 38. However, I think they will be better off taking an Offensive Tackle to help Burrow, then adding a back, rather than the other way around.

Why Joe Burrow Will be the next Great QB and nobody is talking about it

Burrow is healthy and seeking vengeance

By: Chris Thomas

What a difference a year makes for Joe Burrow. At this time last year, Joe Burrow was not only one of the most popular names in NFL headlines but in all of sports. Coming off of winning the Heisman and leading one of the greatest college football teams in NFL history to a National Championship, Burrow was projected to go first overall to the Cincinnati Bengals. Now a year later the former first overall pick isn’t even be speculated upon. It seems like Burrow fell off the face of the sports world once he tore his ACL in Week 11.

In previous years, players who have gone first overall and had great seasons have been speculated upon by the media on how they could take strides forward the following season. It is discussed whether they could reach their potential that they showed during their rookie season and that the team that drafted them saw on tape before they selected them. Burrow has not received that type of attention and may blow people away during his sophomore season.

Here is why Joe Burrow could become one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL as soon as next season.

Recap of Joe Burrow’s rookie season

Before the injury Burrow was neck-and-neck with 2020 sixth-overall pick Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert for offensive rookie of the year. At the time Burrow had the edge as well. Not only because he had started every single game for the Bengals up to that point, but because he was doing more with less around him.

Burrow was only limited to ten games last season. But during those ten games, Burrow threw for 2,688 yards, 13 touchdowns, and only five interceptions. He also completed 65.3% of his passes and had an 89.9 QBR. Pro Football Focus gave Burrow a 75.1 grade for the 2020-21 season.

If Burrow’s stats are stretched out over the course of a 16 game season he would have thrown for 4,301 yards, 21 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. Those numbers likely would not have been enough to dethrone Justin Herbert for rookie of the year. But that is still an outstanding season for a rookie quarterback. And not to mention that Burrow was getting HOT before his injury.

To put it into perspective Burrow would have finished 7th in passing yards, 19th in passing touchdowns, and have had 20 other quarterbacks throw more interceptions than him. He would have thrown more passing yards than MVP Aaron Rodgers, more passing touchdowns than Jared Goff, and fewer interceptions than Russell Wilson and Tom Brady.

It is also important to remember that Burrow did this without the best pieces around him. For a good amount of his rookie season, Burrow was without his starting running back Joe Mixon who was limited to only six games last year.

He also had one of the worst offensive lines in football last season. PFF graded the Bengals offensive line as the third-worst offensive line in football last year. They gave up 32 sacks when Burrow was under center making him the second-most sacked quarterback in the league last season. He was also hit 42 times which was tied for the fifth-most in the league.

Reasons why Joe Burrow will make a massive leap in 2021-22

  1. The Cincinnati Bengals will give Joe Burrow a better supporting cast

Already this offseason the Bengals have made some improvements to their overall roster that should benefit Joe Burrow. They have added multiple new starters along their defense to improve that unit. A better defense could help Burrow and the offense control the pace of the game. Offensively the Bengals have added right tackle Riley Reiff to their offensive line. Last season Reiff was one of the best offensive lineman on Minnesota’s roster. Now he transitions to right tackle to give Cincinnati to very solid starting tackles to help protect Joe Burrow.

The Bengals are also projected to add to their offensive early and often during the NFL Draft. The three players Cincinnati is projected to take with their fifth overall pick are Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell, Flordia tight end Kyle Pitts, or Burrow’s former teammate at LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. All three are considered elite prospects at their position not just in draft class, but overall. Any of those three would help Burrow and the Bengals passing offense miles better next year than is was in 2020-21.

2. Joe Burrow’s traits coming out of LSU should improve over time

There was a lot that made Joe Burrow such an attractive prospect coming out of last year’s draft class. Burrow was undoubtedly the first overall pick in a draft class that was very top heavy with two other premier quarterback prospects in Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert. During his final season in LSU Burrow not only showed that he is not only capable of commanding an explosive NFL style offense, but that he is an extremely athletic quarterback that does not have to depend on his athleticism on every single play because he is more than capable of making plays from inside the pocket. But his athleticism makes him extremely dangerous because he can move the pocket and scramble on any given play.

On top of that as a person Burrow is an outstanding player to have in a locker room. When Burrow was leading LSU to the peak of their run to the College Football National Championship he showed an outstanding confidence and swagger on and off the field that coaches and executives want in a quarterback. But at the same time he managed to maintain that energy and not look arrogant.

He also showed outstanding leadership ability in college that translated to the NFL. Burrow was the leader of that LSU football team despite only being their two years after transferring from Ohio State. He was not only a leader of his football team, but was the face of college football (despite Trevor Lawerence still being at Clemson). Unlike many who have been in that position prior to Burrow, he handled the role with class and was shined when the spotlight was bright on him on and off the field. That translated to the NFL when Burrow was named a captain during his rookie season with the Bengals.

As long as he is healthy after the ACL injury, Burrow will have every opportunity to display his athleticism and the skillset that got him drafted first overall. He may be hesitant to tuck the ball and run as often, but is not the type of person to eliminate it from his game after a major injury. Now that he has had a taste of what the NFL game is like, he will be more comfortable overall and likely have more control of the offense. Once he starts having more success in the NFL his confidence will grow and so will his swagger. If he reaches the form he was at when he was at his best at LSU there is not much that could be done to stop him. Soon after that we could see Joe Burrow smoking a cigar with AFC North Championship gear,

3. He was able to keep him turnovers down his rookie year and his overall production should improve

One of the most impressive things from Joe Burrow’s rookie year that people should take away was the lack of turnovers despite it being his first season in the league. Almost all rookie quarterbacks struggle with accuracy and turnovers at the next level. Some of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the league struggled with turnovers during their first seasons in the league. For example, Andrew Luck had 18 interceptions during his rookie season, Josh Allen had 12 interceptions during his rookie season, and Kyler Murray also had 12 interceptions during his rookie season. Burrow would have projected to have only eight interceptions during his rookie season. If that number stays down, he will be able to put the Bengals in better positions to win.

Once the Bengals surround Burrow with more pieces, give him control over the offense, and get him more comfortable overall his touchdown production should improve. The Bengals have a couple of young weapons on offense for Burrow to take advantage of as well. Tyler Boyd is capable of being a number one receiver for the offense, but 2020 second-round pick Tee Higgins could take over A.J. Green’s role in the offense and emerge as Joe Burrows top target. Plus if Joe Mixon could stay healthy he could be an outstanding asset for Burrow in the passing game.

Top Fits For Guard Joe Thuney

Where Will Thuney Land?

The New England Patriots opted not to franchise tag Joe Thuney. That means that the guard will test the free agency market. The former Pro-Bowl guard is arguably the finest guard on the market. Thuney owns a ton of experience, and he’s not old; he brings Super Bowl-winning cache to any team he will join.

As the Super Bowl demonstrated, offensive-line play is still vital if a team is to win games. Several teams will think that their offensive-line situation is healthy. However, a player such as Thuney improves most offensive-lines. He should get considered by plenty of teams. Its time to examine who are the best fits for Joe Thuney.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings’ offensive-line play struggled during an inconsistent 2020 season. The unit ranked 18th in pass-block success. That is not good enough when the quarterback is the statue-Esque Kirk Cousins. Thuney is a considerable upgrade on incumbent guards Ezra Cleveland and Dakota Dozier.

One of the advantages of signing Thuney is he understands run-heavy offenses. After spending 2020 in New England, Thuney owns a little bit of prior knowledge in a single-back inside-zone offense. If the Vikings let Riley Reiff go, Thuney is the right man to assume the unit’s leadership. Thuney is a premium player.

Therefore there is a premium price tag; his market value per Spotrac $15.3 million. Some cap juggling would need to get done by Minnesota if they are to make this move.

New York Giants

It seems as if the Giants are letting Kevin Zeitler leave the franchise. That move could save New York around $14.5 million on the cap this year. The additional cap space could allow them to make a move for Thuney. Daniel Jones is still skittish under pressure, and New York must protect him if they feel he is their franchise quarterback. The Giants staff boast plenty of ex-Patriots, both in the front office and coaching staff. The staff know Thuney better than perhaps any other team in the country.

With Saquon Barkley coming back, strong offensive line play is critical to the Giants’ success in the NFC East. Barkley is an uncomplicated runner with all of the skills. Thuney is a solid trap-blocker and lead-blocker. Those skills can open up holes for the running back. If the back is the explosive Barkley, the Giants could be onto a winner if they sign Thuney.

New York Jets

The New York Jets possess a ton of cap space for 2021. They can pay Thuney his market worth and still stay in a healthy position cap-wise. The other reason to sign Thuney is the quarterback position. Either Sam Darnold or a rookie will line up for GangGreen in 2021. All young quarterbacks require a heavy dose of protection from their offensive line. Thuney can also become a locker-room leader on a rebuilding squad that is bereft of experienced winners.

Mike LaFleur is the new offensive coordinator in the Meadowlands. He is of the Shanahan/McVay tree; those offenses thrive on the strong offensive-line play. They want to pass out of the run; they want to use play-action and run on opponents. New York needs some superglue in its line.

Thuney can play a pivotal role as the team look to fortify the trenches. Every rebuilding team requires a cornerstone piece in each position room, Thuney is that guy. And, the Jets would make plenty of Patriots fans unhappy if they bring the guard to New Jersey.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Like the Jets, the Jags are in a healthy situation regarding the salary cap. Urban Meyer’s team will attack the market to build a talented team around Trevor Lawrence. The Clemson man will desire a veteran presence on the offensive line to protect him. Who better than Thuney? It is a no-brainer move for the Jags.

As for Thuney, he’d swap cold, miserable Massachusetts for sunny Florida and a chance to work for one of the most famous coaches on the planet. Teams always talk about creating a winning culture; Thuney would arrive from a winning locker room, ready to add that invaluable knowledge and cache to a team that needs it.

Thuney never misses games and can walk straight into the locker-room and command respect. He can also play a big part in helping exciting runner James Madsion develop in the running game.

Cincinnati Bengals

Young quarterbacks need protecting. That’s why the Bengals should chase Thuney. Joe Burrow possesses all the skills to develop into a special quarterback. However, the Bengals must protect their Ohio-born saviour. Sadly, 2020 saw big problems arise.

Burrow’s offensive line was terrible. He had no protection and spent most of his time trying to evade pressure. No-one can forget the day the Ravens rag-dolled him into the ground. In a division with TJ Watt, Myles Garrett and the ferocious Ravens, Burrow needs help.

The Bengals are another team in an adequate space regarding the cap. The big caveat to this move is this; will Thuney want to go to the Bengals. He is in the prime of his career; does he want to waste it on a rebuilding team. Forgetting that, the Bengals must pick up the phone and call him. If you never swing, you’ll never score.

Three Potential Landing Spots for Zach Ertz via Trade this Off-Season

Where Could the Eagles TE Land?

By: Chris Boughman (Twitter: @Bo_Rock20)

The era of Zach Ertz has been a fun ride for Eagles fans and the organization. One of the most beloved Eagles players in recent memory enters the final year of his contract, and his future in Philadelphia is very much in doubt. He’s enjoyed a phenomenal career that’s left his name cemented in the Eagles history books being among the leaders in the organization in many categories (According to Pro Football Reference):

  • Second All-Time in Receptions (561)
  • Fifth All Time in Receiving Yards (6,078)
  • Tied for Seventh All-Time in Touchdowns (36)

However, all stories feature an ending, and that very well could become reality for Zach Ertz in an Eagles uniform. 2020 was an awful year for much of us, and an especially bad year for Ertz. The three time Pro Bowler saw a drastic fall in production with career lows in all categories including a 6.9% drop rate. In comparison, Zach Ertz hasn’t seen a drop rate above 4% since 2018. As his numbers started to plummet, the Stanford alum watched his protégé Dallas Goedert emerge as a feature target in the passing game.

The drama even leaked off the field for Zach Ertz. In training camp, he was seeking a contract extension to spend the rest of his career in Philadelphia. However, Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman and Ertz couldn’t come to terms on a deal. This created a notable dissension between Ertz and Roseman, and became public after a heated discussion on the practice field. After this encounter, one could say that Zach Ertz checked out on the Eagles, showing a very different player than we’re accustomed to seeing on the field.

Zach Ertz will go down as one of the best players to ever wear an Eagles uniform. He embodied the Philadelphia culture, and fans relished in his emotion to the city of Philadelphia both on and off the field. Eagles fans related with Zach Ertz, and he connected with the city very well. As the season winded down, Ertz knew his career in Philly was coming to an end and left a heartfelt message to fans:

The Philadelphia Eagles are in a tough situation heading into 2021. They have the second-worst cap situation in the league is almost 52 million dollars over the cap, according to Over The Cap. They need to shed salary somewhere, and Zach Ertz could be a prime trade candidate. Let’s take a look at three teams that could potentially pull the trigger in a trade for the talented Zach Ertz.

Indianapolis Colts

Let’s start the bidding with the most logical candidate, the Indianapolis Colts!

Now, the first thing on Frank Reich’s off-season To Do List is to find a Quarterback (Plenty are available), but the Colts will be popular in trade rumors surrounding Zach Ertz.

This might be the most logical destination for Zach Ertz. He’ll be reunited with his former Offensive Coordinator, and current Indianapolis Head Coach, Frank Reich. The Colts played this season with three tight ends having a prominent role in their offense, both in blocking and the passing game. Let’s compare Tight End production with the 2020 Colts and the 2017 Eagles:

2020 Indianapolis Colts (Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, and Trey Burton)

  • Receptions: 82
  • Receiving Yards: 895
  • Touchdowns: 8

2017 Philadelphia Eagles (Zach Ertz, Trey Burton, and Brent Celek)

  • Receptions: 110
  • Receiving Yards: 1,202
  • Touchdowns: 14

While the stats don’t match up identically, there’s one thing you can take away from the above statistics: Frank Reich loves his Tight Ends! The Tight End position will be used prominently in the Colts offense, and Reich will run a ton of 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE).

Is there space in the Tight End room for Zach Ertz? Well, with Trey Burton and Mo Alie-Cox set to become free agents, there’s a prime opportunity for the Colts to swoop in and make a trade for Zach Ertz. They have plenty of Cap space (68+ million), so this seems to be a match made in heaven.

New England Patriots

The New England Patriots are in unfamiliar territory as we enter the off-season. They missed the playoffs for the first time since I was 20 years old…In 2002! Bill Belichick has plenty of decisions to make as he prepares for the 2021 season. Do they tear it down and rebuild the empire? Does Belichick dive into the QB market and look for an immediate solution to get back into contention? These are important questions that need answers for the direction of the Patriots franchise.

The Patriots are in a prime position to turn things around quickly in Foxborough. They rolled over 19 million to the 2021 salary Cap. Also, the Patriots are released from 32 million dollars in dead money. The above-mentioned moves set New England up with a great salary cap situation in a year where some teams may struggle with maintaining the cap number. The Patriots rank fourth in the league with over 58 million in cap space, according to Spotrac. According to reports out of New England, Belichick expects to be aggressive in free agency.

Does Zach Ertz make sense for the Patriots? Sure! The stars could align and allow Ertz to shine in Foxborough. New England has the cap space to occupy such a move. The contracted Tight ends on the roster include Devin Asiasi (3rd rd. pick 2020), Matt LaCosse, Dalton Keene, and Ryan Izzo. Needless to say, the Tight End room could sure use an upgrade. Enter Zach Ertz! He could provide an instant upgrade to the Tight End position, and to the overall offensive production. Could the Eagles squeeze a 2nd round pick (#46) out of Belichick? Only time will tell.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are in the midst of a rebuild after a 4-11-1 finish in 2020. “Who Dey” nation could be in store for some major improvements in 2021. Cincinnati has a top 5 pick in the draft. The Salary cap situation is looking pretty good with an estimated 35 million dollars to spend, according to Spotrac. Oh yeah, they have a franchise Quarterback in Joe Burrow hoping a return to full strength after a nasty knee injury in 2020.

The Bengals offense has plenty of weapons, but could use an upgrade at Tight End. Cincinnati currently has C.J. Uzomah slated to play the position, but not much depth behind him. Drew Sample and Mason Schreck fill out the depth chart. Zach Ertz would present a significant upgrade to the Tight End position in Cincinnati. The Bengals hold picks #38 and #69 in this years draft. Could the Eagles move Ertz for one of those picks?

Will a Trade Happen?

According to Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network, The Eagles and Zach Ertz are nearly a divorce and could be finalized in the 2021 off-season. As you proceed down the Twitter feed in the coming days, I’m sure you’ll see rumors swirling about Ertz’s eventual departure from the team.

What can the Eagles receive in return for the talented Zach Ertz? This is very tough to determine. The Eagles Tight End is 30 years old, and entering the final season of a five year contract. The cap hit for his 2021 salary is 12 million. Also, Zach is coming off the worst statistical season of his career. This could greatly affect the Eagles compensation in a trade. However, Zach Ertz is a generational talent, and could offer a boost to any offense in the league.

If the Zach Ertz chapter is being closed in Philadelphia, the organization and fans owe a big Thank you for his contributions on and off the field. Zach Ertz will be a great addition to any team that acquires him this off-season.

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren.

Up ↑