The Bengals needed wide receiver help in the worst way entering the 2016 NFL Draft.
After losing Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in free agency, it was imperative that Cincinnati get at least one receiver capable of making an impact in his rookie season. They got not one, but two in last year’s draft, the second of which being Cody Core out of Ole Miss in Round 6.
Core, who was selected with the 199th-overall pick, came to the Queen City after an interesting career with the Ole Miss Rebels. The 6'3", 205-pounder grabbed 78 passes for 1,202 yards and 10 touchdowns in his final two collegiate seasons.
In 2015, Core ranked fifth among SEC players and 33rd nationally with 17.4 yards per catch while finishing second on the team with 644 receiving yards. The guy who finished ahead of him, while getting most of the attention at Ole Miss, was Laquon Treadwell, who was a first-round pick and viewed by some as the best receiver in last year’s Draft.
Throughout his four-year playing career at Ole Miss, Core played in 51 games, had 83 receptions for 1,297 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 25.4 yards per game. He played a lot of special teams during his first two years in college and Treadwell's presence on the team held him back a bit.
A big reason why, was Core was a converted defensive back who only began playing receiver full-time in 2014. He finished with 21 tackles in his college career, 16 of which came over his first two collegiate seasons.
That defensive background made it easy to project Core onto a coverage unit in the NFL, which is part of what he did with the Bengals on special teams. However, it was his receiving skills that earned him a big role on the offense as the season wore on.
After A.J. Green’s injury against the Bills in Week 12, Core went on to earn increasing amounts of playing time and even started four games. He finished with 17 catches for 200 yards, all of which came in the final five games of the season. The highlights of his rookie season were a 50-yard catch against the Eagles, an eight-reception game against the Texans, and a big 31-yard catch in the finale against the Ravens.
All of Core’s production came with Green out of the lineup due to his hamstring injury, so it wasn’t like defenses were ignoring Core. For the most part, Core shared the field with receivers Brandon LaFell and fellow-rookie Tyler Boyd. Core went out and performed well while being the team’s No. 2 and 3 receiver those final five games, which is the kind of role he should have next year.
Core showed enough promise to think he’ll be a solid No. 2 receiver down the road, though it may not come in 2017 if the team resigns Brandon LaFell. He’ll be best served opposite Green on the boundary, with Tyler Boyd in the slot.
Look for Core to have a much bigger role from the get-go in 2017 after proving his worth down the stretch in 2016.