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What to expect from the Bengals’ wide receivers in 2018

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The Bengals’ receiving group is loaded with a ton of high-end talent, but also with gigantic question marks.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Even in the worst seasons in the history of the Cincinnati Bengals, they’ve had some of their highest roster talent at the wide receiver position. Whether it was Isaac Curtis, Carl Pickens, Chad Johnson or A.J. Green, the team has traditionally valued the position greatly.

The team’s current group is comprised of two former top-10 picks (A.J. Green and John Ross), a former second round pick (Tyler Boyd), as well other promising recent third day selections and undrafted talents.

This is always one of the most crowded groups in training camp, and unfortunately, we see some talented players shown the door because of a lack of roster spots. The same could be the case again as Labor Day looms.

Comings and goings:

Departures: Brandon LaFell

Additions: Auden Tate (round 7), Ka’Raun White (UDFA), Devonte Boyd (UDFA)

The cast:

Starters: A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd

Rotational players: John Ross, Josh Malone, Alex Erickson

Grinding for a roster spot: Cody Core, Ka’Raun White, Auden Tate, Devonte Boyd, Kermit Whitfield

Barring injuries, we think we know who the first five names will be on the team’s final roster when the season begins. The rest of how the group is comprised will depend on other position groups and if the Bengals want to keep six or seven wideouts.

In modern incarnations of offenses under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals have kept anywhere from 5-7 receivers, depending on their needs. Regardless, of their preference, whoever sticks beyond the likes of Green, Boyd, Ross and Malone will need to show some form of special teams ability.

2018 outlook:

What has also been a staple of Lewis and his receiver groups over the years is designating a receiver spot for a player whose team duties is almost solely that of kick returns. It was the case with guys like Glenn Holt, Tab Perry and Brandon Tate, while also being evident with Erickson.

Yes, the former Wisconsin Badger had a touchdown reception last year, but has just 18 total catches in two seasons. And, after a bit of a dip in return production in 2017, coupled with the offense’s inability to create big plays, one has to wonder what the team’s plan is at the position this year.

Every team wants and needs an able return man, but with rules becoming more stringent on kickoffs of late, it should become less of a priority. Because of this the door has been cracked open for a couple of intriguing youngsters.

Auden Tate has been the talk of OTAs and training camp with his immense size and great catches, but we’ve seen that story before in Jake Kumerow to no avail. Even so, the preseason opener showcased some nice plays from both Tate and Malone, while Erickson continued to move the sticks.

White is also another guy to keep an eye on this summer, given his lineage (his brother, Kevin, was a top-10 pick by the Bears in 2016) and college production last year at West Virginia.