Progress report: Cincinnati Bengals rookie grades after five games

The Cincinnati Bengals had a draft class that was going to be one of the most exciting, even before any picks were submitted.

Holding the fifth pick and trying decide between an offensive or skill position in front of Joe Burrow is that.

Five games in and we have a better idea if the Bengals made a right call (hint, they did), and a better view of how the class has performed. Let’s now give some grades.

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase (1) catches a pass before the NFL football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

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A+. The end.

But seriously the Bengals wouldn’t be 3-2 without Chase. His name keeps popping up alongside Randy Moss for a reason. He’s got 456 yards and five touchdowns already with seven plays of 20-plus yards. He’s averaging 19.8 yards per catch. He’s technically on pace to score 17 touchdowns, just like Moss’ rookie season. It’s clear that he was the right choice, with his line improving thanks to draft picks as well as free-agent signings.

Grade: A+

Cincinnati Bengals offensive guard Jackson Carman (79) plays in an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

A difficult start for Carman. He couldn’t even get the second place on the depth chart during training camp. Carman was more of an afterthought than he expected. He only made it onto the field this season due to injuries. PFF has criticized Carman’s play thus far. While he has been a rough player, he has also shown some signs of potential and is likely to be an upgrade over anyone else at this point.

Grade: C

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Joseph Ossai (58) rushes against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a pre-season NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021 in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Menendez)

Ossai looked like the breakout star of Bengals camp before suffering a season-ending injury during the preseason. Trey Hendrickson is the only one who has been able to pass-rush consistently, and he’s greatly missed.

Grade: Incomplete

Cincinnati Bengals Cam Sample runs a drill during an NFL football rookie minicamp in Cincinnati, Friday, May 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Sample isn’t making a lot of noise but he has been very effective in getting into games. He’s played just 31 percent of the snaps so far, but he’s been versatile and applied some pressures, returning good value for the draft cost already.

Grade: B

Cincinnati Bengals’ Tyler Shelvin participates in a drill during an NFL football practice in Cincinnati, Saturday, July 31, 2021. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Shelvin has not been asked to make a contribution yet. Although he has a lot of talent, Shelvin still has a strong long-term outlook.

Grade: Incomplete

Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle D’Ante Smith (70) looks on against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a pre-season NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021 in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Menendez)

Smith spent draft time putting weight back onto his frame, but fell to the fourth round. He was quickly promoted to the second-string position on the depth charts, despite having to learn guard on the fly. Now he is up against Carman. The possibility exists that the fourth-rounder will be offered a job and is given a start soon.

Grade: B

Aug 20, 2021; Landover, Maryland, USA; Cincinnati Bengals place kicker Evan McPherson (2) kicks a 38 yard field goal against the Washington Football Team during the first quarter at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

McPherson swept through this summer’s “competition” and already scored two game-winning kicks. Although Recency bias will highlight the missed kicks against Green Bay but McPherson has been exactly what the team wanted in the fifth round.

Grade: B+

Cincinnati Bengals center Trey Hill runs a drill during an NFL football rookie minicamp in Cincinnati, Friday, May 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Hill is yet to be on the field. His college experience and his ability to be tough helped the team decide to put him on the roster over veteran players. He may get the chance to do so soon.

Grade: Incomplete

Sep 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Chris Evans is tackled by Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Tre Norwood during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Evans isn’t asked to do much but he has looked great when coaches have gone with him, whether preseason or regular season. Once coaches choose to use him more, he’ll be the steal of the draft class. It’s actually a bit perplexing that he doesn’t get more attention. This could change as the season progresses.

Grade: B

Sep 12, 2020; Manhattan, Kansas, USA; Kansas State Wildcats defensive end Wyatt Hubert (56) celebrates a sack of Arkansas State Red Wolves quarterback Logan Bonner (12) during a game at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Hubert was injured in the season-ending accident that ended his rookie campaign before it even began. However, it looked like he might be able to make the final roster.

Grade: Incomplete

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