Many anticipated the Bengals addressing the wide receiver position in some capacity during the NFL Draft. A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd are both entering contract years and former-first round pick John Ross has had trouble being available his first two seasons. Yet the team ultimately decided to address other positions — a decision that may end up working out for the Bengals in the long run.
Former Nebraska wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. somehow made it through the entire draft without hearing his name called. But you won’t hear Cincinnati’s wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell complaining about it.
“Who knows [why Morgan went undrafted]?” Bicknell told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “It’s just the reality of the way the league is. Certain guys fall through and all of a sudden you just want to get them as a free agent. …I liked Stanley coming out …He’s a physical, productive kid …I think we had a draftable grade on him. I think everybody in the league had a draftable grade on him. For whatever reason he didn’t get drafted and we were lucky to get him. He was an important one for us to get.
“A lot of my really good friends are on that (Nebraska) staff and they speak very highly of him as a worker and that’s how he came into these three days. He attacked it.”
Morgan wracked up 1,004 yards receiving in his final season on 70 catches for seven touchdowns. It was the first time any receiver eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark in Nebraska history. Many experts gave Morgan a Day 3 grade, but the league chose 28 receivers over him.
But why? On film, the only thing you could ask more of is straight-line speed. That was confirmed with his 4.53 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine. He did balance that out though with the third fastest three-cone drill among receivers (6.78 seconds) and incredible explosion testing to complement that (38.5” vertical and 125” broad jumps).
Bicknell noting Morgan’s work ethic is notable given one of his childhood idols, former-Bengals’ wide receiver Chad Johnson. He left a lasting impact on Morgan from a young age. He had first met Johnson at a youth football camp before No. 85 dropped 190 yards and three scores on the Saints. From then on, he followed the receiver for something you don’t as often as you should, his craft.
“[Johnson’s] attitude towards the game. His readiness,” Morgan said. “Just his consistency, his balance, his releases.”
One thing that got lost in all of Johnson’s off-the-field pizazz was his dedication to be great on the field. His commitment to his craft wasn’t something that caught headlines as much, but there was a reason his was one of the best receivers in the league for a stretch. Johnson has been out of the league for sometime now, but he has still kept in touch with Morgan. Johnson also reached out to Morgan after the draft.
“He talks to me on Twitter all the time,” Morgan said. “He told me it’s not about getting drafted. It’s about how you come in and perform. He told me it’s about taking advantage of your opportunity.”
That seems to be advice that Morgan is running with this offseason as Bicknell said. Despite the Bengals perceived depth at the position, plenty of the guys lower on the depth chart like Cody Core, Auden Tate and Josh Malone are hold overs from the previous coaching staff who haven’t produced much at all, yet. It will be a true competition for those last few spots. Realistically it will probably come down to special teams, so who knows who will come out of that battle on top.
One thing is for sure, and that is Morgan has a huge chip on his shoulder, and he is going to put all the work he can into proving he should’ve been drafted.