Jake Kumerow enters his second year with the Bengals after spending all of the 2015 season on their practice squad. Can he make the jump from practice squad to not only a roster spot, but a place among the upper half of the wide receiver depth chart ? We take a look at why this bold prediction might prove true, and also, why it might be just too bold.
Why this Bold Prediction is absurd:
Kumerow faces an uphill battle for a roster spot
The general consensus is that A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, and Tyler Boyd are pretty much set as the top three wide receivers on the Bengals' depth chart. With the Bengals typical preference for veterans, one can logically assume that the experienced Brandon Tate and James Wright would have the inside track for the next couple of roster spots. Close behind in the pecking order to begin training camp are Mario Alford and Cody Core, who the team has invested draft picks in. All told, that's seven receiver spots consumed by those players listed. The result is undrafted free agents fighting for crumbs, including Jake Kumerow, Rashaun Simonise, Michael Bennett, Alex Erickson, Antwane Grant, and Alonzo Russell. So not only does Kumerow have to fight off these five other undrafted players for a chance at the roster, but he needs to surpass many others to reach the #4 spot on the depth chart.
Kumerow has never been highly regarded as a football prospect
Kumerow was lightly scouted out of high school and ultimately had to walk on to the Illinois Fighting Illini football team. He only played one game in two years before transferring to Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater. Even with the Warhawks, he saw limited work until his junior and senior seasons, his 4th and 5th in college.After a great pair of years to finish off his college career (143 receptions / 2,447 yards / 33 touchdowns) Kumerow was still an afterthought in the minds of NFL personnel, not being invited to the NFL scouting combine, and going undrafted.
Why this Bold Prediction is feasible:
The Bengals' roster is wide open at the receiver position after the top three
Everybody knows that A.J. Green will be the Bengals' top receiver on the depth chart. The elite receiver with five Pro Bowls in five seasons is the clear top option in Cincinnati. The next two spots are presumably slated to go to free agent acquisition Brandon LaFell, and rookie Tyler Boyd, selected in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. But even these second and third spots are not yet set in stone.There are reasons LaFell was not a hotly pursued receiver in free agency, and there is no guarantee that LaFell will automatically assume the second spot vacated by Marvin Jones. And Boyd is a rookie, and as such, is a complete unknown. He wasn't considered to be in that elite group of first round receivers like Josh Doctson and Corey Coleman, who could step in from day one and excel. He may have rookie growing pains, and is not guaranteed to begin the season near the top of the depth chart.
Behind these presumptive top three, Tate has always been a returner more than a receiver, only playing the position due to necessity, and Wright was drafted as a special teamer with upside as a wide receiver, and has injury issues to deal with. Alford also spent 2015 on the practice squad and is no guarantee to begin 2015 ahead of Kumerow, while Core was drafted as a very raw, under-used receiver for Ole Miss, stuck behind Laquon Treadwell.
Tyler Eifert's injuries
Eifert emerged as a great red zone target last season thanks to his combination of size, speed, and receiving skills. With Eifert's injury history, and potentially sidelined to begin the season, Kumerow's 6'5" frame provides the Bengals with a potential replacement for Eifert in this role, as a big target with reliable hands. This could help boost his chances of making the roster and solidifying a higher spot on the depth chart.
Kumerow comes from a football family with athletic bloodlines
There is no guarantee that the son will inherit the athletic ability of the family, but he does have this going for him. His father, Eric Kumerow 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 also a first round pick, also by the Miami Dolphins, in 1987. His cousin is the Buckeyes' former defensive end Joey Bosa, drafted third overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, and another cousin, Nick Bosa, was a top tier recruit for the Buckeyes this year.
Because of Rod Smith, Wes Welker, Wayne Chrebet, Victor Cruz, Miles Austin
All five of these NFL wide receivers were undrafted free agents. They represent a larger number of undrafted free agents who went on to be productive NFL wide receivers. Kumerow has all of the skills to possibly join the list of players who went from undrafted to productive. With no clear set #4 receiver on the roster, being undrafted is no detriment to Kumerow's quest to solidify that spot on the roster.
Kumerow has a head start over the other Bengals' undrafted free agents
Kumerow has to battle for repetitions, and a roster spot, with fellow undrafted college free agents Simonise, Bennett, Erickson, Grant, and Russell. But Kumerow has a head start over this group, with a full year of experience on the Bengals' practice squad. He also has the benefit of going through training camp last year, and playing in all four preseason games in 2015 with six receptions for 65 yards.