The Bengals suffered some devastating injuries back in August when two of their most highly touted rookie draft picks picks experienced significant injuries. First was first round draft pick William Jackson III who tore his pectoral muscle in the opening days of training camp. Just days later, fourth round draft pick Andrew Billings, who many draft pundits saw as the steal of the draft, went down with a season-ending torn meniscus. Jackson III made the Bengals’ original roster, before being placed on Injured Reserve, making him eligible for the Bengals’ lone designation to return tag. But, the team opted to use it on special teams ace Cedric Peerman instead. Billings was placed on IR when the original 53-man roster was set, so he never had a chance to return in 2016. Those two injuries significantly hampered what could have been an impressive rookie class for the Bengals.
Pro Football Focus (via ESPN) has ranked the production of all 32 NFL rookie classes, and as you might expect, the Bengals fall toward the bottom of the ranking, coming in at No. 28.
The Cowboys come in at No. 1, also expectedly, as they sport the most productive two rookies this season in first round pick running back Ezekiel Elliott and fourth round pick quarterback Dak Prescott.
Here’s what was said about the Bengals by PFF:
28. Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati lost its top pick, CB William Jackson III, to injury before the season began. He was then joined on the sideline by DT Andrew Billings, who had a real chance to finally unseat Domata Peko in the middle of the Bengals' defensive front. Injuries have forced wide receivers Tyler Boyd and Cody Core into more prominent roles as the season has worn on. Boyd has caught 72.7 percent of his targets, and Core hauled in a 50-yard catch against the Eagles in Week 13 that nearly went for a touchdown.
Even without the injured duo, the Bengals still have plenty of talented rookies who have been healthy, most of whom have played admirably this year. But, the Bengals are ultra-conservative with their young players and only second round wide receiver Tyler Boyd has been a significant contributor starting from Week 1. Nick Vigil (third round pick), Cody Core (sixth round pick) and Clayton Fejedelem (seventh round pick) have been used increasingly in the second half of the season, and the only other draft pick from the class, Christian Westerman (fourth round pick) has yet to be active in any game this season.
Boyd is really the only drafted rookie of note for the Bengals so far this season, and he’s been a key contributor for the Bengals, especially since A.J. Green’s injury. His impact shouldn’t be minimized. The Bengals have also gotten production in punt/kick returning from undrafted rookie Alex Erickson, and he’s caught a few passes this season, too. But undrafted players weren’t taken into consideration in the ranking of draft classes.
As for the Bengals rookies’ statistics so far, Boyd has 48 receptions for 526 yards, and 1 touchdown. Core has three catches for 66 yards. And, Vigil and Fejedelem both have 7 tackles. With that said, a ranking of 28th in the league seems about right, without even considering what the other draft classes have done.
What do you think of the production of the Bengals’ rookies so far this season? Does this ranking seem accurate to you?