The Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver picture is a bit unclear at the moment. We all liked the flashes of brilliance that we saw from last year's rookies Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, though their seasons had to have been given the grade of "Incomplete". Both youngsters suffered major injury setbacks and raised the question if a major addition to the position group was needed this offseason.
We know who A.J. Green is and will be, if healthy. The Bengals have a superstar at wide receiver, but he needs someone to help ease the double and triple-teams that he consistently has to beat. The hope was and is that Sanu and Jones would help alleviate some of that pressure, but inexperience and the unfortunate injuries didn't make that possible. Because of the need to re-sign a bunch of their in-house free agents, big-name acquisitions Mike Wallace and/or Greg Jennings weren't possible additions.
In truth, two moves were made to the group via the draft. First round pick Tyler Eifert is a tight end by trade, but his skills allow him to be used in multiple packages and we'll likely see him play a receiver-like role at times. The other acquisition was in the sixth round in the intriguing Cobi Hamilton.
During the 2011 season, the Arkansas Razorbacks were in the middle of a promising year in the tough SEC. Quarterback Tyler Wilson seemed poised for the first round whenever he'd declare for the draft and there were offensive weapons everywhere. Then, the 2012 offseason happened.
Without going into the sordid details, head coach Bobby Petrino was caught in a more-than-questionable situation with a female intern that cost him his job. It was a real shame for a program that was a perennial top-ten program under Petrino and were right up there with their SEC rival powerhouses in Florida, LSU and Alabama. John L. Smith took over the Razorback program and it led to an extremely disappointing season for the squad and ultimately hurt many players' draft stocks, including Wilson's.
Hamilton raised eyebrows with a solid showing at the Combine, but still slid to the sixth round despite a productive senior season (the deep class at the position didn't help him). He continued that momentum into the Bengals' recent rookie minicamp by making some nice plays in the first day of practice. We at Cincy Jungle are of the consensus opinion that Hamilton has a very realistic shot at making the final roster this year.
We already know a little about Hamilton and his college achievements, but we thought that we would ask Doc Harper at SB Nation's Arkansas Expats blog to get a little more information on the enigmatic Bengals rookie.
AC: "It appears that Cobi Hamilton really hit his stride in the Arkansas Razorback offense in his senior season of 2012, which is kind of ironic, given that the team struggled last year. What do you chalk that up to--just the fact that he was a senior and was finally given the role as the go-to guy?"
DH: "It's definitely because up until his senior year, he was the youngest member of a receiving corps that included Jarius Wright, Joe Adams, and Greg Childs - all receivers drafted in the 4th round in 2012. Cobi still managed his share of highlights during those first three years, but there's no question all of those receivers split catches pretty significantly his first few seasons.
I absolutely think if Cobi was part of a recruiting corps that didn't run as deep, his numbers his first three seasons would be much higher. And what's remarkable about his senior season is that he was basically the only player on the team who never got hurt and produced despite being the player everyone knew we'd throw to if at all possible. He set the SEC's all-time single-game receiving yardage record against a Rutgers secondary that produced three NFL Draft picks this year. That's crazy."
AC: "The Bengals coaches talked about Hamilton's ability to catch the ball well in traffic and that he excelled at crossing patterns at Arkansas. However, he averaged around at least 15 yards per reception all four seasons at Arkansas, had a touchdown of 60 yards or longer each year and ran a 4.56 40-yard dash at the Combine. Is he also a vertical guy that can beat the defense on a go-route? Or does he seem to more often beat a defense by stretching one of those crossing routes into a long run touchdown?"
DH: "Cobi was the Texas high school champion in the 200m. So once he gets going he has excellent speed, but he doesn't have the burst off the line of scrimmage that elite sprinters do (which is the reason his 40-yard dash time has never been all that memorable). I don't see him beating a lot of NFL secondaries deep, but Cobi is a big guy who excelled in producing yards after the catch.
He did pick up a few touchdowns from vertical go-routes, but he wasn't used as much for that during his career because a few of those 2012 draftees were faster and more successful doing that. Cobi definitely ran his share of crossing patterns, as every Petrino receiver will do. In short, he's a guy everyone at Arkansas was comfortable relying on. Anytime a ball was thrown to him anywhere on the field in any route, you felt good about the chances of him catching it."
AC: "How do you see his skill set translating to the NFL? It's kind of odd because one of his bigger strengths seems to be what a slot man does in working the middle of the field and making contested catches. But his size, speed and big play ability seem to suit him better to work the outside. What do you think?"
DH: "Thinking back over his career, most of his big catches probably came over the middle, or where he lined up outside but ended up over the middle. But he certainly made some great catches down the sideline as well. Cobi is a guy I'm really interested in seeing how he turns out in the NFL because after the 2012 season I thought he would've been a much higher draft pick. I know his combine numbers hurt his draft stock, but he was so good as a unanimous All-SEC selection his senior year that I really expected him to be much more coveted. I don't know that he'll be an All-Pro, but I think he could be a very serviceable receiver with a long career."
A big thanks to Doc Harper at Arkansas Expats for some great insight.