Average. By the time the Bengals open the season, it’s likely A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd will both be locked up for the foreseeable future with lucrative contract extensions. That leaves only a need for depth and development. The overabundance of receivers fitting that description coming out of college right now keeps it down the priority list in the early rounds.
Not top-heavy. Every major prospect has some type of asterisk. D.K. Metcalf, thought by many to be the top receiver in this draft and a first-rounder, didn’t produce well in games considering his ability and has questions about his lateral quickness despite a freakish athletic skill set. Finding the receiver that works for the Bengals will be a matter of the specific skill set they desire and being willing to deal with deficiencies in those areas they deem not as much of what they are looking for.
Finding productive receivers deeper in drafts is an important skill to master. The 2017 draft is the prime example where Corey Davis, Mike Williams and John Ross each went in the top 10, yet, the show-stoppers from that draft were JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second round and Cooper Kupp in the third.
If looking back at the 2015-18 draft classes and where the productive early results came from, you can find a window of opportunity.
There were 28 players to average 35 yards per game (560 yards over a full season) and had at least 40 receptions in one of their first two seasons. These benchmarks are very close to Tyler Boyd’s rookie year, for local reference.
Here’s the round they came from compared with the total WRs taken in that round.
There’s obviously been an expected high success rate in the first round, but when looking for a sweet spot later in the draft the third round offers a decent payoff for a low-risk pick.
One of the most interesting developments comes in an area where the Bengals might be most likely to make a receiver pick in this draft. Waiting until the sixth or seventh round has yielded zero success in recent years, yet, sifting through the avalanche of undrafted free agents has churned out a few success stories.