The Cincinnati Bengals entered the 2016 offseason knowing that they might well have to address a developing need at the wide receiver position with both Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu hitting free agency, and as it transpired, both veteran wide receivers left for greener pastures in free agency—greener, that is, in terms of dollar bills.
While the Bengals’ receiving core is situated around former All-Pro A.J. Green—and tight end Tyler Eifert is no small part of the equation as well—these free agency defections took their toll on the depth chart.
Incredibly, they had just two other wide receivers rostered who had been on the team for at least a year, those being 2015 seventh-round draft pick Mario Alford, who spent most of the season on the practice squad, and 2014 seventh-round draft pick James Wright, who caught five passes in 2014 but spent last year on injured reserve.
They addressed the depth in free agency by re-signing Brandon Tate and adding Brandon LaFell, but the Bengals understood that they needed to do more, and they were no doubt banking on having the opportunity to address the wide receiver position in a significant way during the 2016 NFL Draft.
It seemed as though things were lining up nicely for them to be able to land one of the top wide receivers in the draft in the first round, as well, before things began to take a different path. No receiver had gone off the board before the 15th overall pick, and then things subsided into the 20s, but then each of the three teams right ahead of Cincinnati all took a receiver, leaving the first-round cupboard at the position arguably bare.
Rather than reach, they chose to stick with their draft board, adding a top-ranked cornerback in spite of the fact that they have already stockpiled a host of former first-round picks at the position, including two of their own from the four prior drafts.
Instead, they were able to wait until the second round and still acquire Pitt wide receiver Tyler Boyd, a 6’2”, 200-pound receiver who is a strong route runner who makes the contested catches that have been a part of the Bengals’ aerial offensive success in recent years.
Coming out of college early, Boyd is one of those players who will be spending his senior season with his professional team, and he can no doubt learn quite a bit from watching Green in practice. He certainly has the potential to develop into a player better than those whom he is replacing on the roster.
He may not start immediately, but he should contribute early in three-receiver sets, with Green and LaFell serving as the starters. All of them bring size—Boyd at 6’2” is the shortest—so that will certainly be a matchup issue for secondaries around the league, including the one in Pittbsurgh, around which Cincinnati’s rookie receiver grew up, and where he will still get to play once a year, only in the visiting team’s locker room.