The Bengals have built their defensive lines using mid-round picks, and Payton Turner is checking a lot of their boxes.
The Cincinnati Bengals will need to add to their defensive line depth in the 2021 NFL draft. It is no secret that the defense wasn’t exactly great last season, but one of the main issues was the lack of pressure being applied to opposing quarterbacks. Trey Hendrickson and Larry Ogunjobi were nice signings, but they need more.
Right now it seems doubtful that Cincinnati will use either of their first two picks to address this need, but if they choose to wait they may be able to swoop in for an edge player like Houston’s Payton Turner.
Weight: 268 pounds
Projected Round: Second/Early Third
Turner has all the makings of a possible starter on the edge in the NFL. His size would tell you his ideal fit would be in a 4-3, but the explosion he displayed at his pro day, which the Bengals defensive coaches were on hand for, showed he can even play on the outside of a 3-4. He displayed a 35.5’ vertical with a 6.98 second three-cone time.
The Houston product never had that huge season you’d like to see from a prospect being talked about being picked so high. He best season was in 2020 when he had five sacks and 10.5 tackles for a loss in just five games.
However, when you watch Turner go after the offensive line you can see why NFL defensive coaches are so excited about him. He just has the very rare combination of size and speed that can be the cornerstone of any defense. If he can develop the proper techniques that are required in the NFL where offensive lines aren’t going to just be beat on talent alone, then he could have a very long prosperous career.
Fit with the Bengals
The really tough part about taking Turner is knowing he is far from the finished product. He is a very high ceiling player, but at best he is a guy you can trot out during obvious passing situations. It doesn’t help that with the pandemic still not being over there is a good chance that most of this offseason will not be in-person or very restricted, which makes it hard for a player like Turner who really needs as much coaching as he can get early on.
Even with the swapping out of Carl Lawson for Hendrickson, edge is still very much a long-term need. Sam Hubbard has been solid, but one has to question if he has reached his ceiling as a very reliable starter or if he can become a disruptive force. Khalid Kareem showed a couple of flashes during his rookie season, but he shouldn’t be relied on as the answer to Cincinnati’s issues on the edge.
The Bengals need more firepower in their rotation at defensive end in 2021 and beyond. Turner may not provide too much in his rookie season, but he could quickly become their answer for years to come.