With 11 draft picks selected by the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend, some current players on the roster may be a bit scared.
The Bengals haven’t cut a rookie draft pick in three years, and if that holds true in 2017, some veterans will be getting surprisingly cut in September.
“It is a lot of competition, and hopefully it opens some eyes,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said, via Bengals.com. “It’s good, because no place should be guaranteed. It gives us an opportunity to push to get better. We will get better with speed, playmaking, athleticism and so forth, so those are good things.”
Speed, playmaking ability and athleticism are clearly three things the Bengals were looking for in this year’s draft. Just consider wide receiver John Ross, the Combine’s fastest ever runner was selected in Round 1. Defensive end Jordan Willis, the Bengals' third round pick had the fastest 40-yard dash of any defensive lineman at the combine (4.53 seconds) and Jordan Evans, one of the two sixth round picks ran a 4.51 second 40-time at his pro day and was a high school track star, helping his high school win the 2013 State Champions 4x100 Relay.
The Bengals’ other Round 6 draft pick, Brandon Wilson is a triple threat who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds at his pro day, which would have been tops among defensive backs had he been at the combine. Wilson scored eight touchdowns, six different ways in college at Houston, a missed field goal returned for a touchdown, two rushing touchdowns, two kick returns touchdowns, a fumble return touchdown, an interception return for a touchdown and a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown. He played primarily at cornerback, but also played running back in his junior year, and was a kick returner throughout his college career. In 2015, he was the NCAA’s only player to score two touchdowns in all three aspects of the game: offense, defense and special teams.
“I’m a fast guy. On defense I’m physical, not scared to hit anybody,” Wilson told Cincy Jungle before the draft. “As a returner I’m a one of a kind go guy. I can run the ball, I can do it all.”
That he can, which is why the Bengals traded up to get him in the sixth round, giving up a seventh round pick in the process. The Bengals now have a number of options to utilize in the return game, including Ross, second round pick Joe Mixon and Wilson. Even Evans can apparently return kicks, according to his college teammate, Oklahoma quarterback, Baker Mayfield.
Another Sooner to the Bengals!! Congrats brother!!! @jordanevans_26!!! Ball out, but don't forget to tell them you can do kick returns too— Baker Mayfield (@baker_mayfield6) April 29, 2017
“John (Ross) had four touchdowns, so obviously he’s got something there,” Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons said, of who could be used in the return game. “Joe (Mixon) had one earlier this year against Ohio State and he’s the more prototypical old school, bigger guy that can break tackles. But he can run. And (Brandon) Wilson, we had him on our board for returners. I’m not throwing in the towel on Alex Erickson for God’s sake. He led the AFC in kick returns.”
The Bengals have a lot of options, and not just at the kicking position. The team is experiencing an influx of talent, competition, speed and athleticism. And that’s a great thing for Cincinnati.