Only once in the last 17 drafts have the Cincinnati Bengals drafted a wide receiver in the first round, taking A.J. Green fourth overall in 2011.
And 16 drafts have passed since the team used one its first two picks on a receiver in back-to-back years, taking Peter Warrick in the first round in 2000 and Chad Johnson in the second round in 2001.
But the Bengals could snap both of those streaks this year. Even after selecting Tyler Boyd in the second round last year, the Bengals are in the market for a speedy, field-stretching receiver they can line up opposite Green.
There’s a decent chance the Bengals will have their pick of receivers when they go on the clock at No. 9, as they year’s draft class doesn’t feature any consensus top-10 guys.
Then again, the Bengals also have needs on defense and receiver is a fairly deep class that should present good value in the third and fourth rounds.
If the team elects to target a receiver in the first or second round, the following five are among the best of the group:
Mike Williams, Clemson
Size, body control and great hands will make the 6-foot-4, 218-pound Williams an elite receiver in the NFL, particularly in the red zone.
He doesn’t have the high-end speed often associated with receivers expected to go as high as Williams is projected, but he makes up for that with a toughness that enables him to win most contested balls.
There are questions about ball security, both in terms of fumbles and drops, but it’s nothing that should cause him to drop out of the top half of the first round.
PREVIOUS POSITION PREVIEWS:
Corey Davis, Western Michigan
The biggest question with Davis, the ability of his skills transfer from the Mid-American Conference to the NFL, is what will make him attractive to a lot of teams. That question sits squarely on Davis’ shoulder in the form of a giant chip.
At 6-3, 209 pounds, Davis has an NFL body and scouts are impressed with his ability, and willingness, to block. And as a four-year starter who lined up all over the field he has great experience, albeit against less competition.
The biggest knock outside of playing in the MAC is the way he tends to fight, rather than receive, passes at times, resulting in a lot of juggled catches and drops. Still, he projects to be the second first-round pick in Western Michigan history (defensive end Jason Babin, 2004).
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Like our Cincinnati Bengals News Now Facebook page
John Ross, Washington
His eye-popping, record-setting 40-yard dash (4.22 seconds) at the Combine moved Ross into the conversation as a first-round pick. But at 5-11, 188 pounds he’s still undersized, and that could prevent some teams from pulling the trigger that early.
He was big-play threat early in his career at Washington, both as a receiver and returner, before tearing his ACL in the spring of 2015. He bounced back last year to be a second team All-American with 81 catches for 1,150 yards, and his 17 touchdowns were tied for the second-most in the country.
His blazing speed led to a lot of wide-open receptions, so winning contested balls will need to be an area of focus at the next level.
Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington
Like Davis, Kupp faces the scrutiny of not facing NFL-caliber defensive backs in college, where he set Football Championship Subdivision career records with 428 receptions, 6,464 yards and 73 receiving touchdowns.
He has NFL size (6-2, 204 pounds) and pedigree as the son of former Cardinals quarterback Craig Kupp and grandson of Saints Hall of Famer Jake Kupp, an offensive lineman from 1964-75.
Scouts love Kupp’s hands and ball-tracking skills, but there are questions whether he has the speed skills to play outside after living in the slot in the college.
Curtis Samuel, Ohio State
If the Bengals go in a different direction in the first round, Samuel could be an intriguing pick at 41, with most scouts projecting him in the second round.
The 5-11, 196-pound Samuel ran the third fastest 40 at the Combine (4.31), so that speed and his background as a running back will make him a weapon offensive coordinators will be able to line up all over the place to exploit weaknesses or serve as a decoy. He was the only Football Bowl Subdivision player to have at least 700 yards both rushing and receiving.
His size could work against him, and he needs to improve his route running and hands. But his big-play potential is enticing.
Thank you for reading the Dayton Daily News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Dayton Daily News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.