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.
- William Jackson, CB
- Joe Mixon, RB
The candidates for the #3 spot:
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. 1 rush for 12 yards. 1 fumble lost.
Why he should be rated this high: Ross was made the #9 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 leapt 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, but in college displayed his ability to run good routes and track deep passes. 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.
Ryan Glasgow, DT
2017 statistics: 23 tackles
Why he should be rated this high: From his walk-on days at the University of Michigan, Glasgow has been an overachiever. He is a tough competitor who played hard-nosed football. Something of a draft afterthought from the 2017 draft, the fourth round pick worked into the second most defensive snaps on the team among all defensive tackles, with 412 for 36 percent of defensive plays. He also contributed 170 special teams snaps, which topped all other defensive linemen on the team by a healthy margin.
Why he should not be rated this high: Glasgow is a high floor, low ceiling type. He didn’t offer any impressive traits in the 2017 combine, and likely projects as a rotational backup in the NFL. Pro Football Focus ranked him 91st among interior defensive linemen with his 71.2 grade.
Bengals 3rd best young talent
This poll is closed
Carl Lawson, DE/OLB
Ryan Glasgow, DT
Alex Erickson, WR/Ret
John Ross, WR
Nick Vigil, LB