The Cincinnati Bengals could be facing some real need at the wide receiver position this year, with their number two and three receivers both set to hit free agency this offseason. Even if they bring one or both of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu back, they still will need to draft a receiver this year.
Brandon Tate cannot be considered a roster lock, James Wright cannot yet be relied on, and Mario Alford is super fast but that's all we know at this point. One way you can solve all three of those questions with one draft pick is Mike Thomas. When you see Mike Thomas the first thing that comes to mind is that he looks that part. Although he is not crazy tall, he has good size in his upper body which is a sign he will be strong enough to get separation in the NFL.
The Bengals pulled a lot of players from the NFLPA Bowl last year, and Thomas could be right in their crosshairs. He is currently training at Stack in Madison Mississippi and is represented by the legendary Bus Cook sports agency, that alone should tell you of his long term potential.
Thomas transferred to Southern Mississippi for his junior year and he had quite a good senior year there, especially considering they didn't have a great quarterback to throw him the ball. It understandably took him a few games to settle in this season, but after that, he shined in a big way. After the third game, he averaged 5.9 receptions, 121 yards, and 1.3 touchdowns per game. When the lights were at their brightest he stepped up on the big stage. In Southern Mississippi's bowl game against Washington, he had nine catches for 190 yards and two touchdowns. The biggest reason he is able to score at such a high rate and average nearly 20 yards per catch is his acceleration. This also makes him a great kick returner as well, where he averaged 23 yards per return with one 100 yard return for a touchdown. He had a really good return that he almost broke for a touchdown at the bowl game as well, but still got to the 35 yard line.
I think we can all agree an area the Bengals can upgrade in 2016 is with a Brandon Tate replacement.
After the game I spoke with Thomas to discuss his game, his technique for kick returns, what he learned from his week at the NFLPA Bowl and much more. Here is what he had to say: