After watching the Bengals use their first three draft picks on defensive players, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan thought he might need to re-introduce himself around Paycor Stadium on Day 3 of the NFL Draft.
Callahan jokingly put on a name tag — in case he was forgotten — and got a chance to weigh in on the next three picks Saturday. The Bengals selected Purdue wide receiver Charlie Jones in the fourth round at No. 131 overall, then added Illinois running back Chase Brown in the fifth at No. 163, and they doubled up at receiver in the sixth round, taking Princeton standout athlete Andrei Iosivas at No. 206.
“I knew this was going to be a draft where a lot of the fun offensive talent was going to go earlier in the rounds,” Callahan said. “There’s going to be guys available that, if we wanted them, we (would) have to take them earlier than we were probably fully comfortable doing so. That’s a product of our own success. …There are a lot of places that we can use some depth, and some guys that can help us, but we have a really good roster across the board, and I think that helps too, to not get down on it when all the shiny objects go well before we get a chance to pick.”
Cincinnati still ended up with some flashy players.
In selecting Jones, the Bengals finally address the fourth wide receiver position that has been somewhat nonexistent the past couple of years, and he could be an option in the return game. With Tyler Boyd in the last year of his contract, Jones also could be his eventual successor, if need be.
Jones, at 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, ran a 4.43 at the Combine and he caught 110 passes for 1,361 yards and 12 touchdowns with three drops in 13 games last season.
“He can kick return, he can punt return, he’s got versatility to play all three positions for us on offense,s so, a ton of value in what he can bring to us, particularly early on,” Callahan said. “He’s got a path to see the field potentially in competition as a returner and both returner spots. He’s got flexibility as a receiver and he’s got a ton of production in a good conference. He was at the spot that we were at in the fourth round, felt like he was a no-brainer to add with a guy that’s got a lot of ability to help us down the road here.”
The 24-year-old began his career at Buffalo in 2017 but redshirted as a freshman and then ended up transferring to Iowa, initially as a walk-on, in 2019. Jones was the Big Ten Return Specialist of the Year as a junior at Iowa in 2021, leading the conference in kick return yards (635), but, he had a limited role in the offense and decided to move on again for a chance to prove himself as a receiver. At Purdue, he immediately became the top target in coach Jeff Brohm’s spread scheme.
His path to the NFL wasn’t easy, but Jones felt rewarded when he got the call from the Bengals.
“It’s amazing,” Jones said. “A lot of emotions going on. I took a lot of chances with transfers and just believed in myself the whole time. I really had to build myself up from the bottom and this has been a dream of mine forever, so to be able to have this moment with family and friends is incredible.”
Brown, a 5-foot-9, 209-pound running back from Ontario, Canada, hits a need in a running back room that lost Samaje Perine in free agency. Brown rushed for more than 1,000 yards each of the last two seasons, including 1,643 yards and three touchdowns on 328 carries in 2022. He also added 240 yards on 23 catches.
Callahan said Brown’s production stood out, but his explosiveness was what drew the Bengals to him initially. That popped out on tape and in how he tested at the Combine when he finished in the top five among running backs in the 40-yard dash, vertical and broad jump, including the best marks in both jumps among his position group.
“Really productive, great vision, great patience, good speed, good burst,” Callahan said. “Just a really good ball carrier, really high character, top-level style and personality, really, really intelligent, really enjoyed the meetings that we’ve had with him. He’s a great fit for us and for that running back room. He does a lot of things well, and I think he’s going to really be able to help us.”
It’s still unclear among the four running backs on the roster who will take over as the third-down guy in Perine’s place, but Brown is aware he needs to improve in pass protection. He’s confident he can make an impact on Sundays regardless.
“I just know going in that that’s something that I need to work on, and I’m not going to shy away from that,” Brown said.
Cincinnati’s decision to draft a second wide receiver came as somewhat of a surprise, but with the addition of Iosivas, the Bengals get a freakishly good athlete with raw skills they can develop for the future. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Hawaiian posted a 4.43-second 40-yard dash time, a 39-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-8 broad jump, and he was the Ivy League MVP in track while serving as a captain in football and catching 66 passes for 943 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2022.
Robbins’ arrival will create a punter competition in training camp after Drue Chrisman, who took over midseason for Kevin Huber, struggled with consistency last year. Robbins, who also was a holder for Michigan kicker and 49ers third-round pick Jake Moody, is known for his hang time and he averaged 42.3 yards per punt with 16 punts inside the 20-yard line, nine at 50-plus yards and a long of 64 yards.
The Bengals wrapped up their draft with another defensive back, taking Miami cornerback DJ Ivey in the seventh round. Ivey recorded 38 tackles, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and seven passes defended in 2022.