It’s safe to say no one involved with the Bengals’ organization is satisfied with last season’s results. After five straight playoff seasons, the Bengals finished with a disappointing 6-9-1 record in 2016.
But, with a number of stars and top NFL talent remaining on the roster, as well as an impressive core of young players on the rise, there’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to the future of Bengals football. Director of player personnel Duke Tobin certainly feels that way and voiced his opinion on the team during the NFL Scouting Combine this week.
“I’m bullish on the future. We’ve got a lot of young, well actually, our core is right in the prime of their career,” Tobin said. “We’ve got a good core. We’ve got a talented core and a confident core and they belong and they know they belong. So we fully anticipate a rebound and to be back in the mix next year.”
Further helping the Bengals to get back into playoff contention in 2017 are 11 draft picks, including a top 10 pick. The Bengals haven’t had a top 10 pick since A.J. Green was selected with the No. 4 overall pick in 2011 and the team hasn’t had 11 draft picks since 2009. That 11 member draft class included Andre Smith, Rey Maualuga, Michael Johnson and Kevin Huber. With that many picks this year, the Bengals are sure to land a number of future Cincinnati stars who will be with the team for a long time.
“We’ve got 11 draft choices. We’re going to make use of those,” Tobin said. “We’re going to increase the young talent on our team. We’re excited to get those extra pics. We earned them by losing players and we’re going to use them well. (The combine) is obviously one of the most important events we come to. The draft is what we use as the lifeblood of our organization so we’re putting a lot of focus in this as we do for the whole scouting season.”
In addition to any draft pick the Bengals use to add to this year’s team, there’s also 2016 first round pick William Jackson III and fourth round pick Andrew Billings who were highly praised prior to the season and then went down with injuries in training camp that caused them to never see the field in 2016. Having them back and healthy should also be a big boost to the roster. And, there’s 2015 fourth round pick Marcus Hardison who has suffered consecutive preseason injuries since joining the Bengals and has also yet to play a down during the regular season. The future looks bright for all three players, assuming they can get and stay healthy in 2017.
The Bengals actually saw more production from this year’s rookie class than we’ve seen from many past classes in their first year during the Marvin Lewis era. It took some time for guys like Tyler Boyd, Cody Core and Nick Vigil to take the field, but when they did, the results were often promising. Boyd figures to be a big part of the Bengals’ plans going forward and supplies reason for optimism.
“We lost two receivers and we were able to replace them with two guys who came in with comparable production. Tyler filled that slot role for us. We think there’s a lot of upside to him as he continues to mature physically, get better as he gets more comfortable with our offense,” Tobin said. “Get a better feel for how we run routes. We don’t put a ceiling on him. We think he can be very valuable piece. Just like he was with Pittsburgh. I don’t know where he ended up with rookie receivers but I know he was one of the more productive rookie receivers and that’s what we needed. We were thankful to have him.”
If the Bengals have a successful draft and re-sign at least two of their three big free agents, there’s a lot of reason to believe a bounce-back season is possible for the Bengals in 2017.