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What if... a top wide receiver fell to Bengals in Round 1?

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Carl Nassib in stripes? Vonn Bell a Bengal? We speculate what may have transpired had the Bengals drafted a wide receiver in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Hoard of the Bengals’ broadcast team recently said, "if wide receivers Josh Doctson, Corey Coleman, or Will Fuller had been there in the first round when the Bengals selected 24th, that would have been the pick." Fellow broadcaster Dave Lapham pretty much agreed with the assertion.

But, as we all know, Doctson, Coleman, and Fuller were not available when the Bengals made their first round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft. And as a result, the Bengals drafted cornerback William Jackson. But this revelation raises the speculation, what if one of these wide receivers had fallen to the Bengals? Would the Bengals still have taken Tyler Boyd 55th overall and started the draft with back to back wide receivers?

The answer to this question is more than likely, no. This is not because Boyd isn't good - he is good, and the Bengals had a good grade on him -- but they have A.J. Green locked up until the 2020 season, and if they had been able to draft Doctson or Coleman in the first round, that would have given them a pair of wide receivers under team control for at least four years.

Add in a great tight end with Tyler Eifert, and there just wouldn’t be any purpose for a high pick on a player whose upside would be the team’s fourth pass catching option for the foreseeable future.

So, if Tyler Boyd wouldn’t have been selected in round two, who would they have drafted?

We know they had high grades on Nick Vigil, and Andrew Billings, who they selected in the third and fourth rounds. So we can assume those players still would have been the picks in those rounds. So we can look at the players drafted between picks 55 and 87 to see which one would have likely been the Bengals’ selection if they had grabbed a wide receiver in the first round.

Offensive Line?

I think we can eliminate Max Tuerk by virtue of the Bengals’ lack of emphasis on the center position. They just don’t draft them this early. We can also eliminate tackles Shon Coleman and Le’Raven Clark since they just drafted a pair of offensive tackles in the 2015 draft.

Guard could have been a possibility as a potential Kevin Zeitler replacement, which some speculate Christian Westerman could be. Of the three guards taken between the Bengals' 2nd and 3rd round picks, Cody Whitehair is generally seen as the top prospect. Had they drafted a guard, they possibly may have missed out on Westerman later in the draft, since their line would get pretty crowded thanks to a pair of draft picks last year.

Pass Rusher?

Wallace Gilberry is gone, and Michael Johnson is more of a run defender than a pass rusher, so this could have been a real possibility.

The Bengals prefer their defensive ends to fit a certain mold of height and weight, which Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Will Clarke and Margus Hunt all meet. Shilique Calhoun is about 20 pounds too light, Jonathan Bullard is a few inches too short, and Yannick Ngakoue is too short and too light. This would leave Bronson Kaufusi, an older prospect from BYU, and Carl Nassib, the All-American one-year wonder from Penn State, as likely candidates.

Defensive Back?

There were 10 defensive backs selected between picks 55 and 87. If the Bengals wanted to replace the loss of Reggie Nelson on the depth chart, Vonn Bell, T.J. Green, or Darian Thompson could have been targets. If they were looking for yet another cornerback, since they ultimately did select one in the first round, perhaps Will Redmond or Sean Davis would have been the choice?

Other?

There is no way the Bengals would have drafted Roberto Aguayo, who was selected four spots after they picked at 55. So we can eliminate that possibility. They prefer their kickers to be bargain priced veterans a la Shayne Graham and Mike Nugent, who was an early Draft pick, but not their Draft pick.

With Eifert on the roster, and a pair of tight end picks from last year’s draft, Austin Hooper can be crossed off the list, too.

If we eliminated Boyd off the list, we can also remove Braxton Miller and Leonte Carroo. Also, the Bengals had quite a chasm between their top six receivers and the rest of the herd, meaning Miller and Carroo would not have been reasonable selections based on their board.

The Bengals picked a linebacker in round three, so they may have looked for a linebacker in round two if there was one they loved. Jordan Jenkins is a Georgia product, which seems to be Marvin Lewis’ preferred school to draft from.

The Bengals were said to have a second round grade on Andrew Billings, yet let him fall until round four. So it’s unlikely they would have pulled the trigger on one of the other defensive tackles, such as Adolphus Washington or Adam Gotsis.

I think ultimately, based on that list of candidates, it would have been Cody Whitehair, Carl Nassib, Bronson Kaufusi, Vonn Bell, Will Redmond, or Jordan Jenkins.

Would a draft of Will Fuller, Bronson Kaufusi, or Vonn Bell, Will Redmond or Carl Nassib have been better than one featuring William Jackson and Tyler Boyd? Probably not.

What if it was Doctson, not Fuller, would that make a difference?

Let's assume the Bengals drafted a wide receiver and then a cornerback, instead of the reverse. That would probably mean Will Fuller and Will Redmond instead of William Jackson and Tyler Boyd. That's a whole lot of Will's!

Ultimately it would come down to whether the perceived drop from a player like Fuller or Doctson to Boyd is bigger or smaller than the drop from Jackson to whoever the Bengals may have selected in the second round.

I think the draft worked out well for the Bengals. They got a wide receiver who they had a good grade on, who arguably isn't much of a drop from Will Fuller, and managed to get a great player in round one.

And let’s not forget the added bonus of taking that player in round one from the clutches of the Steelers who came a few minutes away from adding the player they were known to highly covet.