Until free agency begins in a few weeks, it is difficult to know just how the Bengals are crafting their approach to the draft. And the group that we could debate about most over what the right approach would be is the wide receivers.
The need for a receiver not named A.J. Green to be a legitimate threat on the field was the most discussed topic of last year’s offseason. It was doubtfully a coincidence, either, that the Bengals’ best offensive came when Mohamed Sanu had his 4 game outburst at midseason. The need is real, the remedy is clear, but the solution is nearly as muddled as it was a year ago.
This has led to some fans wanting to draft another big time, pro-ready receiver to pair with A.J. Green. Someone like Cordarrelle Patterson, should the football gods smile and make him available for the taking at #21. That would be quite a potent tandem, indeed, much like Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. Perhaps a little too much. It is highly doubtful that the team would eventually be able to pay both receivers the big time contracts. Could you let a talented receiver walk in four years, much like Pittsburgh will bid farewell to Wallace in a few weeks? Or would you prefer to reap the riches of two potent WRs (as the falcons are) for four years and worry about replacing someone when that time comes?
Others want a proven talent now, and a free agent like Greg Jennings fits the bill nicely. Again, the potency is difficult to argue. A guy like Jennings should certainly raise Dalton’s level just by being on the field. But we know the Bengals’ history of (not) pursuing high dollar, high demand free agents. And unlike Patterson, the contract that a top free agent will command will hamper efforts to re-sign all of the other talent (MJ, Smith, Atkins, Dunlap) that we want the front office to get done.
Still others hold to the rule of thumb that most receivers take a year to develop. If that is true, Mohamed Sanu and/or Marvin Lewis ought to be ready to step into that role. And with Andrew Hawkins likely to return as a RFA, shouldn’t that be enough to get the job done? If so, the team could lower the priority of a WR in the draft and grab another quality receiver in round 3 or 4 who just needs a little time to bring his game up to the pro level.
Yet another approach would be to draft an affordable free agent receiver, perhaps Ted Ginn or Josh Cribbs. The departure of Brandon Tate creates a need for a receiver/return man, and either would be an upgrade from Tate and make the position at least a little deeper (more so with Ginn than Cribbs). Then the war room could sift for a value pick later, much like they got with Marvin Jones, or simply bypass the position in the draft.
So give me your draft strategy for the receiver position. How much need do you see, and where does that need fit in the free agency and draft process?