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2018 Bengals position review: Wide receivers

The Bengals have one of the best receivers in the NFL and two talented young players who are just starting to reach their potential.

Cincinnati Bengals v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In the Marvin Lewis era, talent at the wide receiver position has rarely been an issue. Having had a smooth transition from one star wideout to another, there has almost always been a reliable No. 1 option in the offense. The complimentary pieces have been harder to find, but the ones who pan out really do pan out.

The 2018 receivers group for Cincinnati possessed as much potential as any other position group, and at the very least, one of their young stars broke out in the best way possible. Unfortunately, his teammates behind him struggled to follow his lead while a nagging injury shelved their superstar before season’s end.

Entering 2019, the core of this group remains intact for at least one more season. Beyond that, it’s largely an unknown. Here’s our review for the Bengals’ wide receivers:

Key players:

  • A.J. Green
  • Tyler Boyd
  • John Ross

2019 potential free agents:


2018 Summary

A.J. Green has been one of the best wide receivers in the league throughout his career. He was on his way to another Pro Bowl-caliber season before a toe injury shortened his season. Tyler Boyd had a breakout year, establishing himself as a solid second receiver and stepping into the primary role after Green’s injury. Boyd had over 1,000 years receiving on the season and had clearly gained the trust of quarterback Andy Dalton.

2017 first-round pick John Ross started to contribute this season. He tied Boyd for the team lead in receiving touchdowns with 7 on a mere 21 receptions. Surprisingly, these touchdowns did not come on long bombs, but were mostly red zone targets. Alex Erickson and Cody Core saw more time later in the season, but were not major contributors on offense.

2019 Outlook and Need

When they’re healthy, the Bengals have three very talented wide receivers in Green, Boyd, and Ross. The Los Angeles Rams ran primarily 11 personnel with three receivers on the field for much of the 2018 season. If Zac Taylor hopes to take a similar approach in Cincinnati, this trio could do an excellent job. In fact, it could be superior as Green is objectively more talented than every receiver on the Rams’ roster.

The biggest factor is Ross taking a big step forward in his development. The Bengals must use his speed — whether it’s getting him the ball in space, on deep routes, or on jet sweeps and reverses. There’s ample opportunity to get production out of him, it’s simply a matter of being more creative.

Beyond the top 3, the Bengals don’t have much. The Rams’ offense took a big step back when they lost Cooper Kupp, and the Bengals need to take that as a cautionary tale. The next best receiver they have is Erickson, but he is the type of player an offense can get by with using in small doses and should not be relied on regularly. Core is still with the team for now due to his apparent special teams abilities. Because special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons is returning, Core may be as well, but he should not see the field on offense.

Josh Malone has done next to nothing and unless he finds a niche quickly in the new offense, he will be gone. Of course rookie Auden Tate has many Bengals fans smitten. He has some good things going for him, but has limitations as well.

The Bengals should be in the market for another receiver to challenge for the No. 3 role who can at least give them an upgrade in their depth. This could come via free agency or a mid-round pick. This is a deep draft for wide receivers, so they may be able to find a very good player for a really good value.