Just as some expected, the Bengals went on the clock in Round 1 with no wide receiver worthy of the 24th overall pick.
Sure, a good case could have been made for Ohio State's Michael Thomas or Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard to be the selection. As big of a need as wide receiver is for the Bengals, no one could really blame them for taking whoever the best one on their board was at that spot.
But instead, they did what they've done to make this a winning franchise that's been to five straight playoffs: They took the best player on the board, and that turned out to be Houston's William Jackson.
Now, the question isn't if the Bengals will take a receiver in Rounds 2-3, but who it will be. Who it will be is far too difficult to project with Cincinnati not picking until No. 55. Anywhere between five to 10 receivers are worthy of a Round 2-3 draft pick.
Over at the Backyard Banter, they did a fascinating piece on the receiver prospects in this draft called Reception Perception. It's a popular and very useful study that's gotten more recognition in recent years for its ability to better project how receiver prospects may translate into the NFL, not to mention what the strengths and weaknesses of actual NFL receivers are.
If you read the full study, you'll see one of the guys frequently ranking at or near the top is Sterling Shepard. In terms of getting open vs man coverage, Shepard is the best in this draft by a wide margin.
Sterling Shepard simply broke the system with an 82.8 percent success rate against man coverage, and 91.1 percent against press. Question his size, or a future as "just" a slot receiver, but that is a rare ability to get open. Over a full Reception Perception sample, Shepard posted SRVC numbers akin to that of some of the best wide receivers in the NFL. His advanced and nuanced route-running combined with tangible athletic gifts should make him a lock for a top-three ranking at his position.
This study overall tended to show that Shepard may very well be the best receiver on the board right now.
Another receiver who could be there for the Bengals to grab on Day 2 is Pitt's Tyler Boyd. Though he was a stud in college who broke a lot of records with the Panthers, Boyd isn't someone who did well in this study.
While he carried a ton of buzz throughout his college career, and was highly productive on a poor offense, the weaknesses in Tyler Boyd’s game are deafening. The Pitt star finished with the second lowest SRVC against man and press, and the worst mark against zone. To his credit, Boyd showed some "old man game" in the way he uses savvy to fool inferior cornerbacks at the college level. However, please remember those came in mere flashes. On a consistent route-to-route basis, Boyd didn't have the athleticism or consistent technique to separate in 2015. These numbers should cast major doubt on his ability to be a top-two option in a passing game, and his chances to function outside of a super specific role.
Another receiver to watch out for on Day 3 comes from the Georgia pipeline as Bulldogs star Malcolm Mitchell, who did well in this study.
Older, and oft-injured Georgia receiver, Malcolm Mitchell opened up some eyes with a strong performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. The truth is, Mitchell put up some great tape during the 2015 season. There was some inconsistency in his game, but his good Reception Perception performances were simply dominant in terms of disciplined route-running and earning separation. It all leveled out for a top-five SRVC score against man in this class, with above average marks against zone and press. Mitchell needs to be right at the top of the potential late round sleepers list, especially for teams that value a quick passing game. He’s another prospect that forces us to be honest with his strong Reception Perception numbers when placing him in prospect rankings.
Be sure to read the full study to get a better feel of this class of receivers.
Personally, reading it made me feel a lot better about the Bengals' situation if they're able to land someone like Shepard, Mitchell or one of the other receivers who fared well in the RP study.