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Why the Bengals did not need to draft a wide receiver

It was surprising to see the Bengals avoid the wide receiver position in the draft, but there’s logic behind their decision.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

There are some people out there who are pretty upset that the Bengals did not draft a wide receiver.

Even before we knew that studs like D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown would slip out of the first round, some were pushing for the club to select a receiver as early as the second round. Most fans at least wanted to see the Bengals target one at some point on Day 3, but the team really didn’t need to make a move at the position immediately.

Here’s why.

Let’s take an inventory of the Bengals receivers, or better yet, let’s take an inventory of their pass-catchers.

First, you have A.J. Green. Green is the star of the group and one of the top in his position in the NFL. Yes, he’s entering a contract year. No, we have no reason to believe the team and Green won’t be able to come together for a third contract.

Second is Tyler Boyd. Boyd had a breakout season in 2018. He caught 76 passes for 1028 yards and seven touchdowns but more importantly, he seems to have truly earned the trust of quarterback Andy Dalton and was someone Dalton went to in clutch situations.

So who is the third receiver? Well, three and four in my estimation are (in whatever order) John Ross and Tyler Eifert.

“But Eifert is a tight end,” you say? Is he really?

The team already has C.J. Uzomah at tight end and invested a high draft pick in Drew Sample. Odds are we don’t see much of Eifert in a 3-point stance in 2019 which is fine by me. Split him out and left him be a mismatch in the passing game. This is where he excels.

As for Ross, well that is obviously a big debate. Ross enters his third season on 2019 after struggling with injuries in 2017 and just plain struggling in 2018. Still, it is too early to give up in Ross completely.

Sure, he dropped too many balls in 2018, but Brandin Cooks, Brandon Marshall and plenty of other players not named “Brandon” have had similar issues and still gone on to prolific careers. Ross had a slow start, but now we will see what he can do with a new offensive-minded staff.

That is four pretty good ones right there. Even if Ross struggles, he still has a reputation as the NFL combine’s fastest man, and that has an impact on opposing defense.

There is also Josh Malone, who never really caught on with the club. Alex Erickson plays mostly on special teams, but does some good things as receiver. They also have fan favorite and amateur Groot impersonator Auden Tate.

Finally, the Bengals added Stanley Morgan Jr. as a UDFA. Morgan had an impressive career at Nebraska and it was a surprise to see him go undrafted. He has a real shot to make the team and work his way up the depth chart. While they did not select a wide receiver in the draft, they got a draft-worthy receiver with Morgan.

But these are not the only players who can line up at receiver. In addition to Eifert, Uzomah and Mason Schreck could be used in this way.

Perhaps more exciting though is this group of running backs.

It is well established that Giovani Bernard can make plays in the passing game, but instead of just setting up predictable screens, the new Bengals offense should use him split out receiver with Joe Mixon lined up in the backfield. Mixon is a skilled pass catcher as well, so these roles could be flipped if Bernard’s expertise as a pass protector is needed.

The Bengals drafted not one, but two running backs, both of whom as skilled pass catchers. Adding Trayveon Williams and Rodney Anderson gives them even more flexibility and depth.

With four strong starting receivers (including Eifert) and the flexibility provided by a corral of running backs who can play receiver the Bengals rightfully did not feel that wide receiver was a priority heading into the draft

It will be interesting to see what the new coaching staff does with all of this talent.