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Which positions are deepest in 2016 NFL Draft?

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Everybody seems to want the Cincinnati Bengals to draft a wide receiver, but is that a smart pick? How does the 2016 group of receivers rate compare with previous years? How do other positions rate? Where is the 2016 draft class the strongest, and weakest?

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While the United States Constitution may view all people as created equal with rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the same cannot be said of all draft classes. Some draft classes are clearly better than other draft classes, overall, and in specific positional groups. Some years, a draft may be deep with defensive tackles and lacking in receivers, or stocked with receivers, but hurting for quarterbacks.

Since positional groups vary in their quality from year to year, taking the second or third best wide receiver in one year may not mean as much as taking the second or third best wide receiver the next year.

With this in mind, we look at the last four years to see where the various positions were viewed as weak or strong, and compare that with the prospects for 2016. And from this we can see where the best value exists for the Bengals to target their picks.

I took the consensus projection for the top prospects for a given position, so for example, in which rounds were the top 10 wide receivers projected to be drafted in 2012, 2013, and so forth. Then I used this to find the average round grade for that position group. So, in 2012 the average round grade for the top 10 wide receivers was 1.7 (1.5 would be right between rounds one and two). And in 2013 that average grade fell to 1.9, meaning the overall top 10 group was considered to be a little weaker.

2016 1.5 1.7 1.9 2.0 1.7 2.0 3.2
2015 1.9 1.8 1.5 2.6 1.6 1.6 3.3
2014 1.9 2.1 1.5 2.2 1.8 1.8 2.6
2013 2.0 1.9 1.9 2.1 1.6 1.8 2.6
2012 1.8 1.7 1.7 2.3 1.8 1.8 2.8

I did not do this for every position, but chose positions that I thought would be of interest for Bengals fans for the 2016 NFL draft.

Since a lot of these numbers use decimal points and are close together, I changed the scale to a relative scale with 100 being the best, and everything else being a comparison to this.

2016 97 88 78 73 85 73 45
2015 76 83 100 57 94 91 44
2014 78 69 100 67 83 81 56
2013 73 78 76 69 94 81 56
2012 81 88 85 64 81 81 52

It is much easier to compare numbers based on 100, don’t you agree?

Now that we have our fun numbers, we can use this chart as an indicator to see how much quality exists in each of the selected positional groups based on the depth each group was considered to possess heading into each year’s draft.

One thing you’ll notice is that the top groups with a score of 100 are the wide receivers from 2014 and 2015. Many of the receivers in these groupings had very high marks, and include the likes of Amari Cooper, Kevin White, DeVante Parker, Dorial Green-Beckham, Nelson Agholor, Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks, Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson, Kelvin Benjamin and Jordan Matthews. Contrast that with the much lower rated 2013 draft class which did produce a pair of very good receivers in Keenan Allen and DeAndre Hopkins, but also a slew of duds, such as Tavon Austin, Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson, Robert Woods, Quinton Patton, Terrance Williams, Markus Wheaton, and Stedman Bailey.

Since we are on the topic of wide receivers, let’s stay there for a few moments. You’ll notice that the 2016 draft class of wide receivers scores quite closely to the aforementioned 2013 group. While it’s quite possible that Josh Doctson or Michael Thomas may emerge as a very good player, the likelihood is that much of the 2016 group will become as forgettable as their 2013 counterparts. In other words, 2016 may not be the best of years to be diving into the wide receiver pool early and often, even double dipping, as many fans speculate the Bengals could do.

Which positions rank well for 2016?

Defensive Tackle is especially loaded in 2016. Their relative score of 97 makes them the third highest overall position/year combination on the chart. If ever there was a year to get your hands on some of the top 10 defensive tackles, 2016 would be the year to do it. With the aging Domata Peko, taking one of these quality prospects could be a smart move for the Bengals.

Defensive End is also stocked well, as their 88 rating puts them in a tie for the highest rating. Prospects like Joey Bosa and DeForest Buckner highlight this class, but Shaq Lawson, Noah Spence, Kevin Dodd, Jonathan Bullard, Emmanuel Ogbah, Shilique Calhoun and Carl Nassib give this group a good score for being deep with quality. Perhaps a mid round replacement for Michael Johnson could be found as a great pickup in 2016.

Outside linebacker is the third group with a really high score. This also fits well with the Bengals' needs, who will be without Burfict for the first three games of the 2016 season, and can use upgrades behind him. Names like Myles Jack, Darron Lee, Leonard Floyd, and Su'a Cravens are the most recognizable at this position.

Which positions look to be weak for 2016?

We already mentioned wide receiver as one of the weaker ones in the 2016 NFL Draft. Besides them, the cornerback group rates as the worst one over the last five years. The quarterback group also rates really low because of the huge drop off after the first four prospects.

The offensive tackle group is another one that is well below 2015’s class. Interestingly, last year the offensive tackle group rated very high with quality and depth at this position, with a score of 94. As you recall, last year the Bengals selected two offensive tackles, both from this top 10 grouping.

What does it all mean?

I suppose that is up for debate, but the primary takeaway is that for a team who likes to make value selections, and generally draft based on a "Best Player Available" model, 2016 is not the year to be selecting wide receivers early in the NFL Draft.