Who will the Bengals target with their first two picks in this year's NFL draft?
Just about every mock draft has Cincinnati going wide receiver with the 24th-overall pick. That may be a good thing based on how Pro Football Focus sees this year's receiver class. They just put out their list of the top 100 draft prospects, and the list is very intriguing, to say the least.
Just about every mock draft has either Corey Coleman of the Baylor Bears or Josh Doctson of the TCU Horned Frogs available at 24. However, PFF rated them as top-11 prospects, which in theory means they shouldn't be there for the Bengals late in the first round.
10. Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
Whether creating separation before the catch or yards after it, Coleman's athleticism stands out on the field. He has the ability to make plays at all levels of the field.
11. Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
Our top-graded WR before going down to injury last season, Doctson routinely makes incredible catches, turning off-target throws into big plays. That downfield ability makes him one of the most exciting playmakers in the draft.
After them, there's a bit of a drop off until the next group of receivers, which includes Sterling Shepard of the Oklahoma Sooners topping Laquon Treadwell of the Ole Miss Rebels, someone projected as a top 10-15 pick in just about every mock draft.
24. Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma
Our top-graded wide receiver in 2015, Shepard combines nifty route running with underrated downfield ball skills. Even though most of his work is done from the slot, he has the quickness to produce and validate his standing at the top of the draft.
25. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
While he doesn’t create the same kind of separation you’d like to see from a top wide receiver prospect, Treadwell is strong, though inconsistent, at the catch point and good with the ball in his hands after the catch.
29. Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers
A good combination of speed and separation skills, Carroo was incredibly productive on only 363 snaps last season averaging 4.11 yards per route to lead all FBS receivers.
31. Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
Production took a hit due to inconsistent quarterback play, but Thomas knows how to get open and he was a big-play threat when targeted.
Amazingly, another popular first-round target for the Bengals is Will Fuller of Notre Dame, who doesn't come in until 54th overall in PFF's rankings.
54. Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
He might be a one-trick pony, but it’s a fairly important trick in today’s NFL. He ran a 4.32 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, and was third in the nation with 708 yards on passes traveling 20 yards or more in the air. He did drop 10 of the 72 catchable passes thrown his way though — something he’ll have to improve upon.
I do believe the Bengals' first-round selection will come from someone in the aforementioned group. But if these PFF ratings are any indicator, perhaps we and other mock drafters have overvalued certain prospects while undervaluing others.
As for Round 2, it's possible one of the above-mentioned guys ends up being the pick with the Bengals' 55th-overall selection, if Cincy doesn't like who's on the board in Round 1. However, I think receiver gets addressed first and the Bengals go with another position with their second pick.
But., what that will be is anyone's guess. Defensive tackle is arguably the biggest need after receiver, so here's a look at some guys possibly available in the second round at that position.
38. Austin Johnson, Defensive Interior, Penn State
Boasting the No. 3 run-stopping grade in the nation in 2015, Johnson beats blockers with quick hands to disrupt the backfield and that bodes well for his upside as a pass rusher. His skills were on display with a strong week at the Senior Bowl.
39. Vernon Butler, Defensive Interior, Louisiana Tech
Butler has put together two straight years of strong work against the run while improving his pass rush grade to 15th in the class on the strength of a bull rush that made up 40 percent of his pressures.
43. Adolphus Washington, Defensive Interior, Ohio State
Another strong all-around player, Washington is stout at the point of attack, but strong and quick enough to blow up plays as well. His +32.0 pass rush grade ranked third in the nation and he was strong in the run game.
45. A’Shawn Robinson, Defensive Interior, Alabama
Rarely moved in the run game, Robinson played well within Alabama’s scheme and he projects as a similar, run-stopping 3-4 defensive end at the next level. The question is whether or not he can provide enough pass rush to warrant a high pick after two pedestrian seasons in that department.
50. Kenny Clark, Defensive Interior, UCLA
Another strong interior defensive lineman, Clark is excellent at feeling and defeating all types of blocks — a big reason he was the No. 2 interior defensive lineman against the run in 2014. He took a slight step back in that area in 2015, but added more pass rush to his game.
53. Hassan Ridgeway, Defensive Interior, Texas
Often lost in the deep class of interior defensive linemen, Ridgeway has put together two strong years of grading with a +48.6 overall mark on only 1044 snaps. He’s scheme-versatile and he can get after the quarterback better than most interior rushers in the class.
Again, PFF has some vastly different rankings compared to what other outlets are projecting and how they're ranking prospects. Guys like Kenny Clark, A’Shawn Robinson and Vernon Butler have been touted as first-round prospects and possible targets for the Bengals at 24, yet these rankings suggest they could be on the board at 55.
One other target to mention is Braxton Miller of the Ohio state Buckeyes. The former Heisman-contending quarterback turned wide receiver is someone who's been touted as a target for the Bengals, but based on how PFF views him, he shouldn't be considered until Round 3.
95. Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State
There’s a lot of projection with Miller, who has seen just 30 catchable passes thrown his way in his short time at wide receiver. He excels in space though, forcing eight missed tackles on 28 receptions in 2015.
Given how thin the Bengals are at receiver, they might draft a guy like Coleman or Doctson in Round 1 and then grab Miller in Round 3. Just last year, the Bengals took two offensive tackles with their first two picks, so who's to say they won't take two receivers within their first three picks?
Who really stands out to you among PFF's rankings?