CLEVELAND, OH — DECEMBER 6: Andy Dalton #14 and A.J. Green #18 of the Cincinnati Bengals smile on the sideline late in the fourth quarter while playing the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. Bengals won the game 37-3. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Photo: Gregory Shamus
Photo: Gregory Shamus

Will Bengals add wide receiver with second-round pick?

The Cincinnati Bengals rebuilt their offense around A.J. Green and Andy Dalton in 2011 when they selected the wide receiver and quarterback tandem in the first two round rounds of the draft.

With expectations the Bengals will be taking former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow at No. 1 overall on Thursday to kick off the NFL Draft, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a wide receiver come off their board soon after that.

Cincinnati second-year coach Zac Taylor has indicated he is ready to move on from Dalton, and the Bengals need to give their next quarterback more weapons at wide receiver.

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“We’re going to be looking for the best player,” Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin said when asked if the team could benefit from taking a wide receiver on Day 2. “If he can change the game for us in the second round, then that’s the guy we’ll go with. If you can tell me who the first 32 (picks) are, I can probably give you a little bit more of a heads up of what we’ll do at 33. We think it’s a good board. We can’t predict exactly how it’s going to fall. We won’t overlook a rare talent for a need. But we’ll see how it goes.”

The Bengals could be looking for Green’s eventual successor as the franchise-tagged veteran has been unable to secure a long-term deal and uncertainty for the season complicates his future further. Tobin said contract negotiations aren’t helped by the current COVID-19 situation shutting things down. If the NFL doesn’t play in 2020, the Bengals won’t get a chance to see if Green is healthy enough for a new deal and he likely would become an unrestricted free agent next year.

Tobin said the Bengals are planning for the draft as though there will be a 2020 season. But that doesn’t mean they are any less likely to need a wide receiver even if it works out for Green to stay. John Ross, the team’s first-round pick in 2017, also is on the hot seat as he enters the final guaranteed season of his contract. He has a fifth-year option in 2021 but has yet to get through a season healthy and hasn’t proven reliable.

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“At the wide receiver position, we do have talented guys and we do believe in the guys we have,” Tobin said. “If there’s an opportunity to add somebody to the mix that we feel is at the right point in the draft and worthy of the pick and the best pick available, then that will be something that we consider doing and probably do. But I see a lot of areas of our team that could use a young player that’s got a bright future. And that would be one of the positions, for sure.”

The pool of wide receivers in this draft is considered deep and could play to those needs well.

One mock draft on last month had 13 wide receivers taken in the first three rounds, including the Bengals taking TCU’s Jalen Reagor in the third round at No. 65. Most mock drafts project the Bengals taking combinations of a wide receiver, linebacker or offensive tackle in the second and third rounds.

“I think it’s a solid draft, for sure, and there are wide receivers,” Tobin said. “It all depends on what you want. There’s a lot of different types of wide receiver and each team maybe is looking for a little bit different thing, whether it’s a guy that plays inside or whether it’s a guy that can play outside, whether it’s a guy that’s good with the ball in his hands for jet sweep-type things, whether it’s a guy that can provide something in the return game or in the coverage units. So, there’s a lot of different styles (of) guys. … It is a good group of guys, an impressive group of guys top to bottom. And there are other positions that we think will have some good talent. But we can’t predict what these other teams are going to see and whether all that talent will disappear before we go into the later rounds or not.”

If the Bengals do take a quarterback and wide receiver early, the rookie duo will be developing together in similar fashion to Dalton and Green. They came in during the 2011 lockout, which prevented them from getting time together in an offseason workout program.

Tobin reflected on that year and said it does seem similar to current COVID-19 shutdowns. NFL teams were set to begin offseason workouts as early as April 6, for those with new head coaches, and instead the offseason workout program kicked off Monday with league-permitted virtual meetings.

The 2011 lockout was imposed by the league owners and lasted from March 12 to July 25 that year.

“Those two guys (Dalton and Green) came in and they embraced the challenge that offseason gave us and took leadership and ownership of our team and drove us to a lot of success,” Tobin said. “This offseason is similar in that it’s a little bit unchartered territory and we’re going to try and communicate with our players the best way we can, teach our players the best way we can and hopefully welcome them back as soon as we can.”

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