The 2017 NFL Scouting Combine nearly overlapped with NFL free agency this year. The events were a week closer together than usual and that’s made it a bit difficult to keep up with all things NFL at this busy time of the offseason. We’ve discussed some of the running backs who made positive impressions and the defensive lineman. And now it’s time to talk about the wide receivers and tight ends.
The Bengals should be relatively set at wide receiver with A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, Cody Core, Alex Erickson, and James Wright on the roster. But, a player who can stretch the field is still in need.
At tight end, the Bengals don’t seem to have any room with Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, and C.J. Uzomah on the roster. But, all three suffered injuries in 2016, so the Bengals might consider picking up some insurance at the position.
The Bengals are a team that likes to select the best player available when they pick. Therefore, any of these prospects might have found their way onto the Bengals’ radar with their performances at the Combine.
1) John Ross, WR, Washington
When you break the all-time record for the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, scouts notice. Take Chris Johnson, for example, who broke the record in the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine with a mind-blowing time of 4.24 seconds. It was the fastest time ever recorded since the NFL began electronically recording in 2000, and his draft stock soared as a result. That was until last Saturday when Ross broke that record with an even more mind-blowing 4.22 second 40-yard dash.
It is said that Bo Jackson ran a 4.12 in 1986, but the results are questionable as non-electronic stopwatches were used in those days. However, even if Ross’ time is not a record, it is an incredible feat that complements his 133.0 inch broad jump, also one of the top scores among wide receivers. He is almost certain to go in the first round now, but the Bengals might not want to reach for him at No. 9 overall. Still, there is no question that the Bengals, among all other teams, took notice of Ross at the Combine.
2) George Kittle, TE, Iowa
If the Bengals do pick up a rookie tight end, it is likely will be with one of their many Day 3 picks, or in post-draft free agency. Kittle’s chances of being taken in the draft was about 50-50 before running a 4.52 40-yard dash and recording a 132.0 inch broad jump. His issues creating separation highlight the criticism against him, but his broad jump forecasts his impressive body control. His 40-yard dash should help scouts believe in his separation ability. From a purely athletic standpoint, the Bengals have to be intrigued. If they are interested, they will probably need to select him in the sixth round, based on his combine performance.
3) Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina
We already know the Bengals were intrigued enough with Jones to meet with him at the Senior Bowl. For that reason, they may have been paying more attention to his Combine performance than they would other prospects of similar nature. Jeff Blake’s nephew certainly impressed as a top performer in the broad jump (133.0”), the 20 yard shuttle (4.01 sec), and the 60 yard shuttle (11.17 sec). However, he also performed respectably in the 40-yard dash with a 12th best 4.45 seconds, the bench press with a 12th best 15 reps, the vertical jump with a ninth best 36.5 inches, and the 3-cone drill with a 13th best 6.79 seconds. He was projected to be a third round pick, but could float to the second round now. If he is still available with the Bengals’ third round pick, expect them to pounce.
Neither tight end or wide receiver should be a huge priority for the Bengals heading into the 2017 NFL season. Under most circumstances, the Bengals wouldn’t have much reason to invest a high pick at the position with other positions in need of attention. Then again, the ‘best player available’ strategy can be somewhat unpredictable at times. All of these players likely moved up the Bengals’ draft board after the Combine, so don’t be surprised to see the Bengals use a luxury selection on one of them.