Heading into the 2012 NFL draft, the Cincinnati Bengals had one option as the eventual No. 2 wide receiver. Our belief that Armon Binns could fill that role had nothing to do with our overall perceptions of his college career or tracking his progress during team practices (they still don't like us). It was all Marvin Lewis, joking that his coaching staff had begged him to get Binns on the field.
Despite that, there hasn't been a logical candidate for Cincinnati's No. 2 wide receiver spot since the Bengals postseason loss to the Houston Texans. Hell the Bengals haven't had a true No. 2/possession receiver since T.J. Houshmandzadeh left for Seattle (we're not considering Batman and Robin in this context because we never were able to define what they were). Many would argue that Jerome Simpson wasn't an ideal No. 2 receiver; more of a homerun hitter that became unnecessary with the arrival of A.J. Green.
Slot receivers, vertical threats, the Bengals have had plenty of. True possession receivers, No. 2 candidates? Now the Bengals have options after the 2012 NFL draft.
With the No. 83 pick of the 2012 NFL draft, the Bengals selected Rutgers wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. Two rounds and (ironically) 83 picks later, Cincinnati selected California wide receiver Marvin Jones -- the second of three fifth-round selections and the pick Cincinnati obtained from the New England Patriots in exchange for Chad Ochocinco.
The question is, who becomes Cincinnati's number two receiver?
First we have to present what our ideal No. 2 receiver is. Typically defined in traditional offenses as a possession receiver, No. 2 receivers can transition into a variety of characteristics, all dictated by the offense and personnel that tends to characterize the team's No. 1 receiver. If the top receiver is an athletic vertical route-runner, traditionally you want your No. 2 as someone that can generate seperation as an outlet, preferably running intermediate routes, near the sidelines or crossing patterns that may force linebackers into coverage during zone situations.
Lack of intimidation, endless toughness and fearlessness over the middle favors Jones, who Scout Inc describes as having "no hesitation and willing to extend both arms above head when working the middle of the field." National Football Post scouts:
Adjusts to the throw well, extends his arms and knows how to go up and make a play even when in battle with a corner. Displays good concentration and has the ability to come down with some tough grabs while contorting his body.
Our own Joe Goodberry writes during his review of the 2012 draft class:
He's very quick, agile and has a huge catch radius. Jones works the sideline and makes incredible catches look routine
Joe Reedy with the Cincinnati Enquirer obtained a quote from Mel Kiper Jr., suggesting the Marvin Jones would be the more ideal No. 2 option opposite of A.J. Green:
"Marvin Jones can fill the role as a true wideout. He has great hands and is more of an outside guy. Mohamed Sanu you can move around anywhere. He caught the short passes and is a physical receiver."
Mocking the Draft agrees, saying that Jones "has size, athleticism and the route running to make an immediate transition to the NFL" with "the ability to be a solid No. 2 wide receiver at the next level."
So did the Bengals find their No. 2 receiver in Marvin Jones? Perhaps.
Mohamed Sanu, roughly the same body type, can play any wide receiver position on the field. Some reports hint that he's still more raw than NFL-ready. National Football Post writes: "Looks like a future NFL starter who might need some time, but the talent is most definitely there." NFL.com's draft page writes that Sanu is an ideal receiver within a variation of the West Coast offense, exceptional when running short to intermediate routes.
Though his weaknesses may need some development:
Sanu is virtually nonexistent in the deep passing game. He is slow off the line and doesn’t have the speed to get behind NFL corners. He can get lazy in and out of his breaks downfield, and he almost loses interest in competing once the route gets deeper than 7 to 10 yards. He is not an explosive athlete with the ball in his hands and simply gets what he can after the catch.
Yet it's his strengths that impress:
Sanu is excellent working drive routes and across the field to read coverages and sit down in the holes of zones. He is a natural at shielding himself from defenders and giving the quarterback a clear throwing lane. He is a reliable hands catcher who is very technical at the top of his routes and when competing with corners to give himself space to secure the catch. Sanu is a throwback receiver who sees the ball when going across the middle. He is fearless in all aspects.
Forget it. None of this is going to be settled until training camp, when Sanu and Jones battle for that coveted No. 2 spot on the roster. But after the 2012 NFL draft, the Bengals now have options.