TCU receiver Josh Doctson, Baylor receiver Corey Coleman and Mississippi pass-catcher Laquon Treadwell are considered no-brainer first-round prospects while Notre Dame's Will Fuller and Ohio State's Michael Thomas are hovering around conversations among Bengals fans. Cincinnati tends to project loyalty toward their board; prospects ranked from best to worst, based on scouting reports, the NFL Combine, college Pro Days and film. If Doctson, Coleman and/or Treadwell are available at No. 24, you can safely conclude that Cincinnati will use that pick to select a wide receiver; widely believed as the team's greatest need.
But, is a first-round receiver that much of a certainty? Sure, it's a safe bet but then you're also ignoring Cincinnati's draft board (what if a defensive tackle or pass rusher they rated highly falls?), forgoing possible smokescreens (teams have "leaked" their board in the past to manipulate another team's draft) and mounting evidence that quality (and serviceable) receivers are usually available in later rounds. Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones were third and fifth round selections respectively, and many of the franchise's best receivers weren't first-round selections.
Maybe Cincinnati looks at their board and finds that their value fails to correspond with possible scenarios? Rather than reaching, the Bengals could simply trade back, acquiring an addition third or fourth round selection.
"Obviously during the draft we could gain some picks by moving around a little bit, and maybe that's something we do," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said, noting that Cincinnati failed to acquire compensatory picks this year. "We'd like to continue to gain some depth on the football team, and those guys you pick the third day of the Draft have an opportunity to really make an impact, and in our opinion, have future upside, so if we're able to slide around a little bit [and] maybe gain some more [picks], that would be [a] positive."
These things are extraordinary fluid. Perhaps a wide receiver they covet is available at No. 24. Maybe a defensive tackle or pass rusher slips, with Cincinnati acknowledging eventual contract concerns next year (and disappointing production) at both positions. Even linebacker and safety could be in play.
Could Cincinnati trade back, acquiring an addition third or fourth round pick and still snag a wide receiver? Even if Doctson, Treadwell or Coleman are still available in the first round, the Bengals could acquire additional picks and hope that one of those players are still available. Or maybe Cincinnati goes with Ohio State wide receiver Michael Thomas in the second round, who head coach Urban Meyer called "the most competitive player I've ever had", and select someone else in the first.
Regardless, the safe bet is receiver. However, I wouldn't necessarily bet the house just yet.