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Bengals rising player rankings: Who is Cincinnati’s No. 2 young talent?

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The CincyJungle community voted William Jackson #1, so who is ranked #2?

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Despite the 7-9 losing record, there are some reasons to be positive for the upcoming season and beyond. One of those reasons is the collection of good, young talent that the Bengals have on their roster. Players like Carl Lawson and Joe Mixon all gave fans good reasons to be optimistic for the future.

But how do the Bengals best young players stack up? Each week we’ll list five of the top prospects (players who have been in the league for two years or less) for you to vote on, and the Cincy Jungle community will determine the Bengals top prospects.

  1. William Jackson, CB
  2. TBD
Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The candidates for the #2 spot:

Joe Mixon, RB

2017 statistics: 178 rushes for 626 yards (3.5 average) and four touchdowns. 30 receptions for 287 yards totaling 913 total yards from scrimmage.

Why he should be rated this high: Mixon is a special talent. His elusiveness and ability to find a lane with non-existent blocking turned what should have been stuffed negative plays into modest, positive yardage all season long. When he finally got blocking in front of him during his final four games of the season (he was out for the games against the Viking and Bears), he showed off what he could do. He averaged five yards per carry over that span. He also showed good hands as a receiver as he hauled in 30 receptions for 287 yards.

Why he should not be rated this high: Despite being a dynamic playmaker, he only averaged 3.5 yards per carry. Mixon also had almost as many fumbles lost (two) as he had touchdowns (four). He only had a single 100 yard rushing game all season, and it was against the Browns.

Alex Erickson, PR/KR/WR

2017 statistics: 39 punt returns with a 7.1 average and no touchdowns. 32 kick returns for 20.7 average and no touchdowns. 12 receptions for 180 yards and a touchdown.

Why he should be rated this high: Unheralded and undrafted, Erickson has proven the doubters wrong since he earned a spot on the Bengals roster as a rookie. He did something quite difficult in the Marvin Lewis era, and won a starting role as a rookie. He secured the punt return and kick return roles by beating out Brandon Tate. Despite many drafted wide receivers on the roster, Erickson doubled his receptions and yardage from his rookie season, and he caught 75 percent of the passes which he was the targeted receiver.

Why he should not be rated this high: Erickson finished 44th among all NFL players who returned a punt, with his 7.1 average, and 57th among all NFL players with his 20.7 kick return average. Erickson was responsible for six fumbles this season (one lost). He is a very replaceable returner and receiver who lacks a next gear and doesn’t wow you with any special traits.

Carl Lawson, OLB

2017 statistics: 15 total tackles and 8.5 sacks.

Why he should be rated this high: 8.5 sacks should pretty much say it all. Not only was he able to get to the quarterback and rack up plenty of hurries, but he did it despite barely playing, only seeing the field in 41 percent of the Bengals defensive plays. He was one of the most efficient pass rushers in the entire NFL and displayed a variety of effective pass rush moves which allow him to continually get to opposing quarterbacks.

Why he should not be rated this high: Lawson is a good pass rusher, but he is something of a one dimensional player, leaving a little to be desired as a run stopper. His 15 total tackles ranked 21st on the Bengals, behind many backups such as Josh Shaw, Jordan Willis, Ryan Glasgow and Jordan Evans.

Nick Vigil, LB

2017 statistics: 77 tackles and one sack. Five passes defensed and one interception.

Why he should be rated this high: Vigil started 11 games during his second season before a lingering ankle injury ultimately sent him to Injured Reserve. His 7.0 tackles per game still led the Bengals despite playing through that injury. Early in the season Vigil showed that his game had taken a step forward from his rookie campaign, as he looked like a solid NFL linebacker worthy of the 3rd round selection the Bengals surprisingly used on him in 2016.

Why he should not be rated this high: After some flashes early in the season, Vigil struggled for much of the season. He finished as the 84th ranked linebacker in the NFL per PFF with a 35.1 score, which puts a number to the struggles that Vigil had on the field. Despite the struggles that the linebackers had as a whole in 2017, Vigil is not a lock to be a starter next season.

John Ross, WR

2017 statistics: 0 receptions. One rush for 12 yards. One fumble lost.

Why he should be rated this high: Ross was made the ninth overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft because he is a fast, explosive receiver. His record 4.22 time in the 40-yard dash stole the headlines, but he also had an impressive 133 inches in the broad jump. Ross isn’t just a great straight-line athlete who one can hope to teach to play wide receiver. He displayed his ability to run good routes and track deep passes in college. In his last season at the University of Washington he showed he is more than just a deep route runner, as he secured 81 receptions for over 1,000 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Why he should not be rated this high: Ross had more lost fumbles in his rookie season (one) than he had receptions (zero). That’s not a very exciting ratio. Ross was a weekly “healthy scratch”, regularly benched in favor of low drafted, or undrafted, guys like Cody Core, Alex Erickson, and Josh Malone. Football is not a tea party. Instead, it’s a physical, full-contact sport which doesn’t bode well for a smaller, fragile player like Ross. Ross suffered a torn ACL in 2015, not to mention knee and shoulder injuries, and apparently, he injured the other shoulder with the Bengals. Speed is great, but at some point it doesn’t matter how fast a guy can run if he’s only running to the trainer’s table.

Poll

Bengals #3 prospect

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    Ryan Glasgow, DT
    (2290 votes)
  • 1%
    Alex Erickson, PR/KR/WR
    (49 votes)
  • 39%
    Carl Lawson, OLB
    (1618 votes)
  • 1%
    Nick Vigil, LB
    (59 votes)
  • 2%
    John Ross, WR
    (117 votes)
4133 votes total Vote Now