Since the Cincinnati Bengals have a top 10 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the focus of many fans and media has been what the team can do with that pick to instantly improve the roster. That’s to be expected since the Bengals will likely draft a very good and capable player with that pick. However, the Bengals have holes they need to address on both sides of the ball, so what the Bengals do after the first round may have a bigger impact on the team’s future than the first player selected has. Here are five players expected to be drafted after the first round who could help the Bengals offense.
Curtis Samuel, wide receiver/running back, Ohio State
Samuel could very well be on the board when the Bengals pick in the second round. His lack of a true position may cause teams to look elsewhere, but he is a true playmaker. Samuel follows the modern mold of players like Percy Harvin, Ty Montgomery and Tyreek Hill who are guys to whom you feed the ball and don’t worry about their true position. Samuel ran a 4.31 second 40-yard dash time at the combine which leaves his athleticism unquestioned.
The Bengals struggled creating big plays last season. Samuel isn’t a great route runner, but he can work on that while catching bubble screens and beating corners, while also focusing in on his ball-tracking ability.
No one has a consensus position for him, and a lot of that is because he recorded more than 700 yards receiving and rushing for the Buckeyes last season. The Bengals could easily play him on the field with Jeremy Hill or Giovani Bernard. If they put one on each side of Andy Dalton and motion Samuel out into the slot to get an instant mismatch. Samuel isn’t going to be good in between the tackles, but he could add a serious threat if he gets out on the edge or out of the backfield in the passing game.
Chris Godwin, wide receiver, Penn State
Godwin is another second round prospect. Piggybacking off of the Samuel evaluation, the Bengals need a receiver on the perimeter who can beat one-on-one coverage consistently. Godwin is a highly polished receiver who has shown the ability to beat defenders deep and ran a 4.41 second 40 time.
Godwin has proven he has a knack for catching contested passes. That is something former Bengal receiver, Marvin Jones Jr., did quite well also. His catching radius is pretty good, and he uses his bigger receiver frame to box out defenders quite a bit. He also really gives an effort after catching the pass. I wouldn’t say that he is a threat to make any catch a touchdown, but he does enough that odds are, the first guy isn’t taking him down without him at least carrying him for a few yards.
While many fans would like to see more speed at the position, Godwin shows a clear upgrade over the likes of Brandon LaFell on the perimeter.
K.D. Cannon, wide receiver, Baylor
Here’s a value pick for you. Cannon is projected to be a late third or early fourth round pick. He is a speedster in every sense of the word. He consistently ran by defenders at the college level making it look effortless with his long strides. Fans looking for a later pick who can help the receiving corp have found their man. If Cannon manages to fall to the fourth round, the Bengals shouldn’t hesitate to pick him up.
What concerns teams about Cannon is he doesn’t do much else well beside being a receiver who can take the top off of defenses. His intermediate routes leave quite a bit to be desired. He doesn’t have the quickness to create space on those routes. He also is a body catcher. He never really tries to go for the ball at it’s highest point, instead allowing it to come into his body or over his shoulder. He also has a very slim frame at 5’11” and 182 pounds.
Still, Cannon is great for teams that are really looking to improve their speed at the receiver position. Plus, with a receiver coach like James Urban, Cannon could learn to run his routes better and work on that area of weakness with NFL coaching and experience.
James Conner, running back, Pitt
Conner represents a running back who could come in and help the Bengals immediately. Projected to be a fourth or fifth round pick, Conner is a BIG back. He is a true throwback to the position and personifies the cliche of a running back who always falls forward.
Conner doesn’t have the home run speed of some of the other backs that will be drafted ahead of him, but his ability to run through arm tackles and avoid getting stopped by a single defender is highly impressive.
Conner doesn’t have the best vision as a runner, and i know that scares plenty of Bengals fans who have watched Hill over the past few years. Still, Conner has a better ability to break tackles than Hill, and he would be a serious threat in the red zone against teams who don’t put eight in the box or stack the line of scrimmage.
He isn’t nearly the best back in the draft, but he could come at a very good value on Day 3 of the draft.
Chad Hansen, wide receiver, California
Hansen looks so much like Jones from the way he plays. He is great at going up for the ball at its highest point, getting his feet down on the sideline and making contested catches away from his body. Hansen seems to be rising on draft boards, but he currently is projected to be selected during the second day of the draft. In 2016, Hansen caught 92 passes for 1,249 yards and 11 touchdowns, making himself known among the NCAA ranks.
Some draft experts have pointed out he starts out a little high during his routes, leading to an easy target for strong press corners. Some even question his ability to create separation, but he is so good at making contested grabs he may not need to create significant separation.
He isn’t a receiver who will blow the top off the defense, but he is the perfect medicine for Dalton, who is suffering from a lack of a player like Jones.