The Bengals have a considerable amount of young talent, whether it's the rookies just drafted or players being given a shot at starting for the first time in their young careers. Most of these guys have yet to really break out and make a name for themselves in the NFL for one reason or another, but they're talented enough to really get going soon. If you're one of those people who loves to be at the forefront of an emerging star's career, here's a list of players whose jerseys you should probably go ahead and put in your cart.
1) Shawn Williams
The Bengals lost 2015's NFL interception leader, Reggie Nelson, to the Oakland Raiders in free agency which was definitely a huge blow. But, part of the logic of letting him leave was likely related to the fact that Shawn Williams looks ready to take over at the free safety position.
Drafted in 2013, Williams never really had much of a chance to play on defense due to the presence of Nelson at free safety and the emergence of George Iloka at strong safety. He contributed on special teams, putting up 14 tackles and a fumble recovery in his first two seasons, but it wasn't until Nelson suffered an ankle injury in 2015 that Williams got his chance to start. In four starts, he put up 22 tackles, five passes defensed, and two interceptions. If he can continue with similar consistent production as a starter, he's going to be the next big thing in Cincinnati, much like he was when he made this incredible diving interception.
2) William Jackson III
Since he was the Bengals' first round pick, you've probably already missed your chance at being one of the first people to buy Jackson's jersey. But, he's still worth taking a chance on. Sure, the team's cornerback position is crowded. But, there's a good chance that he can be the their No. 1 cornerback in a couple of years with Adam Jones 32-years-old, Darqueze Dennard frequently injured, and Dre Kirkpatrick being pretty up and down as a starter.
In his final season at Houston, Jackson led all college football players in passes defended (five interceptions, 23 pass breakups). With his talent combined with that kind of production, he could be as promising as Leon Hall was before his series of injuries. If you're looking to get a jersey for a future long time starter, Jackson is probably your safest bet.
3) Tyler Boyd
With A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert having already proven their ability to make huge impacts in the Bengals' receiving game, the next logical up-and-comer is the team's highest offensive pick from the 2016 draft. It's a pretty safe bet to say that Boyd was drafted for his ability to play multiple roles as well as his expert route running ability and his sticky hands. Allow him to work with a talented offensive group like the Bengals have and you're in for a thrill. If they are able to utilize him correctly, his jersey could end up being as popular as T.J. Houshmandzadeh's in the mid-2000s.
4) Cedric Ogbuehi
Initially, it was seen as a questionable move for the Bengals to pick an offensive tackle in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, especially when the player they drafted was in the process of recovering from an ACL tear that he suffered in his final college game. But, luckily, he went to a team that was already set at both tackle positions while he took time to rehab his knee.
At 6'5, 306 pounds and with the kind of athleticism and quickness that you don't normally see from big men, Ogbuehi has a lot of promise. Going into the draft, the only concerns from scouts, other than his injury, were technique related ones which can be improved upon in the right situation and with the right coaching. He already has multiple members of the Bengals convinced he's ready to make an impact in 2016 and could very well be the anchor of a very good offensive line for many years to come.
5) James Wright
Wright might be a bit of a wild card on this list given the fact that he missed the entire 2015 season due to an injury and wasn't really used much before. But, going into a season in which spots at wide receiver are wide open for the taking, the talented yet ever underutilized player could have an opportunity to finally prove his worth to the Bengals. He's already proven that he can contribute in clutch situations. Remember when he made this catch that should have given the Bengals a win over the Panthers in 2014 had Mike Nugent actually hit the relatively easy field goal:
There's a good chance that he could fill the hole left by No. 3 receiver Mohamed Sanu, who filled the hole left by Andrew Hawkins. Hawkins, in turn, was filling a hole left by Jordan Shipley, whose jersey you can still find making more appearances than you would expect at any given Bengals home game. It's hard to say if Wright will actually get his chance to see more receiving targets, but you should definitely be keeping his jersey in the back of your mind as the 2016 roster begins to take shape.