The Cincinnati Bengals rebuilt the majority of their wide receiver corps in 2016, but the team is not done injecting young talent into the position. With A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, Cody Core, and Alex Erickson all on the roster, the only question mark on the depth chart is at the spot previously held by James Wright, who saw injuries and lack of playing time keep him relegated to the fringes of the roster before being released earlier this month.
It is no surprise the Bengals are looking to the NFL Draft to potentially shore up their depth and add a speedy threat to the unit. The team currently has planned a private visit with Purdue’s DeAngelo Yancey, according to Walter Football, who isn’t expected to be drafted at all. CBS Sports ranks Yancey as the 48th best receiver in this year’s draft class.
Could the Bengals be considering him as a free agent pickup after the draft, or even a surprise late-round selection?
In four years at Purdue, Yancey put up impressive numbers (141 catches, 2,344 yards, 20 touchdowns). For that reason alone, he is bound to get a chance with an NFL team, be it in the later rounds of the draft or as a free agent. We already know multiple teams are interested, at the very least, so at this point it’s more of a question of how he will impress the Bengals during his visit to Cincinnati.
The 6’2”, 201 pound Yancey is seen by most scouts as a well-proportioned receiver with the ability to produce home-run catches. He is known as a solid blocker, which could intrigue the Bengals, who could stand to see better run blocking out wide. Furthermore, his ability to block could help him contribute on special teams, which is typically a big selling point for the Bengals when evaluating fringe roster players.
Unfortunately, scouts bemoan Yancey’s inability to shake coverage on underneath routes. He lacks a quickness to his routes and his feet that make it easy for defenders to keep up with him. He can certainly blow by them on the outside, possessing the size to go up-and-over speedy cornerbacks, but he struggles to create separation in virtually every other way. He averaged 19.4 yards per touch in his senior season, but part of that has to do with the fact that he struggles to get open in short-yardage situations.
It is hard to gauge where Yancey’s NFL career is headed. His home-run hitting potential could make him invaluable to any team’s offensive strategy, but only if he continues to develop that particular set of skills against NFL-level talent. He isn’t developed enough in other areas of his game to justify taking up a valuable roster spot if not. But, for the right team and in the right offensive scheme, he could thrive as a receiver, generally brought in as a blocker who can catch an opposing secondary off-guard on a deep bomb.
With such a well-balanced receiving corps already, the Bengals could take a chance on a home-run hitter like Yancey. If he doesn’t develop as expected, the Bengals wouldn’t have had to make much of an investment anyway. But, if he can break out for a few long-bombs a year, he will occupy an intriguing niche for a Bengals team that lacks a true deep threat to complement A.J. Green.
With 11 draft picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, including four between the sixth and seventh rounds, it wouldn’t be a shock if the Bengals selected Yancey with one of their late picks. There is a good chance the Bengals could wait to sign him until after the draft, but if they are interested enough, they will want to lock him up before he even has a chance to hit free agency. The Seahawks and Packers, who are both meeting with him privately as well, could also have a chance to snatch him up with one of their final picks, or, look to lure him their way in undrafted free agency.