Some NFL players are born for football, emerging as future stars at an early age and beginning to rack up scholarship offers by the time they are in junior high. And then there's everyone else.. Bengals wide receiver Jake Kumerow seems to fall into that second category of players who weren't elite from day one. Though, Kumerow does come from a football family. Kumerow's dad, Eric, was a linebacker at Ohio State and a first-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in 1988. His uncle, John Bosa, was a defensive end from Boston College and was picked one year prior to Kumerow's dad by the Dolphins in the first-round of the 1987 Draft. Kumerow's cousin, Joey Bosa was drafted third overall this year by the San Diego Chargers after a highly successful college career at Ohio State. And, his other cousin, Nick Bosa will be a freshman at OSU next year. So, it's safe to say football runs in the Kumerow-Bosa family.
Kumerow was lightly scouted out of high school and ultimately walked on to the Illinois football team. After a redshirt year, he played one game in his second season with the Fighting Illini, catching three balls for 15 yards. Kumerow then transferred to Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he played out his final three seasons of eligibility. Even for the Division III Warhawks, he saw limited work as a sophomore, catching 15 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
But in his junior year he emerged as a big receiving threat with 77 receptions and set the school record with 1,331 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns. He followed that up with a successful senior season, compiling 66 catches for 1,116 yards and 14 touchdowns. In those final two seasons, his team won back to back Division III national titles.
Despite the immense success at the Division III level, Kumerow was not invited to the NFL Combine, and went undrafted. Following the Draft, he was signed by the Bengals as an undrafted free agent, and has become perhaps one of the more talked about members of the Bengals’ roster who has yet to play in an NFL game. Last season, Kumerow appeared in all four preseason games, securing only six catches for 65 yards. Following the preseason, he was added to the practice squad, where he spent the entirety of the 2015 season. Still, there's high hopes for Kumerow from Bengals fans and coaches alike and with the lack of certainty and depth of the Bengals receiver group, Kumerow will definitely have a chance to prove himself this summer.
Experience: Entering his second year (though, considered a first year player)
Combine: 4.52 40-yard dash at Wisconsin pro-day, 31" vertical, 15 reps, 9’5" broad jump
Why he might improve in 2016
Kumerow’s history is one of slowly emerging as a lightly recruited walk-on, to a backup at Wisconsin-Whitewater, to ultimately an elite Division III receiver. His young NFL career has started along a similar path from undrafted free agent, to practice squad member, to... member of the 53-man roster? That last part remains to be seen.
He has enough height and size to play, and has shown off his ability to produce at the lower levels of college football. His transcendence to the next step will depend on how well he adjusts to the NFL game after a year of grooming and practices with the Bengals. Training camp should give us an indication if he’s taken that next step to being an NFL receiver.
Why he might regress in 2016
It’s really hard for a player to regress if they didn’t play in the previous season. But there is an old adage, "if you aren’t going forward, you are going backward". Kumerow is no guarantee to make the roster just because the Bengals lost Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. If he doesn’t take that next step, he could find himself as a practice squad member for a second season. His lack of production until he became an older college player at a low level of competition could indicate a lack of natural ability to compete successfully against NFL level competition.
Odds of making the roster
With the losses of Jones and Sanu, many fans have been expecting Kumerow to secure a spot on the 53-man roster, but his status on the roster is far from guaranteed. The Bengals drafted Tyler Boyd and signed Brandon LaFell, which take up the two spots opened by the loss of Jones and Sanu. A.J. Green is obviously going to take up a roster spot as the team’s top receiver, and the Bengals’ love of Brandon Tate has likely secured his status for another season. After those first four, Kumerow will have to compete with James Wright who's returning from injury, recently drafted Cody Core, and 2015 seventh round pick, Mario Alford.
Green, Boyd, LaFell, Tate, Wright, Alford, Core and Kumerow likely represent the Bengals’ top eight receivers heading into the 2016 season. If the Bengals keep eight receivers, Kumerow should have an inside track to be one of those eight, barring a surprise from one of the recently added undrafted free agents. If the Bengals keep seven wide receivers, he will likely need to fend off Wright or Core for the last spot, since Alford plays a different type of receiving role than Kumerow. If the Bengals keep six receivers, which is most likely, the competition gets even more fierce. So you could guess there's about a 50-70 percent chance that Kumerow makes the roster, and 100 percent that at the least, he would be added to the practice squad if he fails to make the roster. From there, he could get scooped up by another team, or hang around to see if the Bengals eventually add him to the roster.