After the losses of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, many fans were lost on how the Bengals would get production out of unproven players and a 2nd round rookie.
Although it didn’t look pretty at all times, the Bengals’ receivers actually held up quite well. After A.J. Green got injured, fans were quite confused about how the Bengals’ offense would continue without Green and Tyler Eifert. The offense wasn’t at its best but still got production out of its younger guys, e.g., Cody Core, Tyler Boyd, and C.J. Uzomah. One thing they did lack was speed and a red zone or deep threat target.
Since LaFell is a free agent and the Bengals will be looking to make an addition to the receiving core, here’s how the revamp works.
This year, there’s a good group of wide receivers in free agency to choose from. Although I don’t expect the Bengals to go for Alshon Jeffrey, there are some options that are good enough. One of the few players I would seriously look at, if the Bengals don’t re-sign Brandon LaFell, would be Kenny Stills. Stills would provide that speed on the outside and the ability to run intermediate and short routes as well and also the ability to go deep. He would be a great No. 2 for the Bengals offense. Another interesting thing about him is that he’s only 24-years-old and still has time to get better.
Another option I would honestly look at is Terrance Williams. He also has the ability to go deep and run great inside and intermediate routes. He was Dez Bryant‘s sidekick and could end up partners with another top receiver in Green.
The Bengals will most likely resort to finding a cheap veteran receiver like Brian Quick or Jeremy Kerley. Although neither of them would be sound options as a No. 2, they fit the Bengals’ mindset. Kerley was never really a top-tier receiver but he played decent enough as a No. 3 for teams like the Jets and 49ers. If we were to pick him up, I couldn’t see him being more than a No. 3 wideout. If he can show up in camp, maybe he gets the spot. Kerley doesn’t have the speed or height, but he has experience playing with Andy Dalton at TCU.
Quick has the height and average speed for his size but hasn’t been very successful in the league. Brian had his best season in 2016 with 564 yards and wouldn’t command much money. With James Urban coaching him up, I’m pretty sure he can get 700+ yards from him as a No. 2.
Projected move in FA: Try to resign LaFell and/or find a veteran receiver.
Another route the Bengals could go is the NFL draft. The top two receivers in this year’s draft could be great options. On one hand, Mike Williams is a player with great deep-threat ability and athleticism. On the other hand, there’s Corey Davis who can run every route. He has speed and also decent height at over six feet.
If we were to take a receiver in the 1st round, I would certainly look at Davis or Williams as an option. Williams and Green would be a deadly duo of twin towers and could give Andy another great option to go to. Imagine a trio of Green, Williams, and Boyd in the slot with Eifert. Toss in Jeremy Hill or Giovani Bernard, and it would be absolutely amazing. They could go with Davis as well. Davis runs crisp routes and could be a Marvin Jones style receiver for the Bengals
A path Cincinnati will most likely take is selecting a receiver later on in the draft. Someone like Zay Jones in the 2nd or 3rd round would be exciting. He’s been moving up the draft boards recently with his showing in the Senior Bowl and playing ability. He’s got great hands and decent speed from his game clips that I’ve watched so far. Another receiver in the later rounds would be Malachi Dupre. He’s got great speed and has the ability to go deep and has a height of 6’4″.
Projection in Draft: Bengals draft a receiver later on in the draft like Jones or Dupre.
Develop Younger Players
If the Bengals decide not to draft or sign a wide receiver to replace LaFell, they have some options on the team currently. If the Bengals were to give the younger guys more snaps, I would make Core the No. 2 to replace LaFell and keep Boyd in the slot. In the limited amount of time we’ve seen Core, he’s produced pretty well. Core showed that he has some speed and the ability to go deep in his limited snaps. He had his best game against the Ravens with 82 receiving yards in the season finale.
Boyd could be another option as the No. 2 receiver. He hasn’t mastered the ability to go deep but he has decent route running and hands to make plays. He tallied 600 yards receiving and one touchdown in his first year as the slot. I think he has the potential to eventually become the No. 2, but he should continue improving in the slot for now.
Projection from Younger Players: Boyd excels in the slot in his sophomore season while Core takes a small step as the No. 4.