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Should the Bengals invest in this year’s Supplemental Draft?

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Rangy safety Jalen Thompson and speedy receiver Marcus Simms headline this year’s class, but do they provide enough value for Cincinnati?

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 28 Alamo Bowl - Iowa State v Washington State Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Of the 45 players ever selected in the NFL Supplemental Draft since 1977, only one was picked by the Bengals.

Ahmad Brooks only played two seasons in Cincinnati, but he eventually became the seventh pro bowler taken in the Supplemental Draft once he established himself with the San Francisco 49ers.

The Bengals have steered clear of the NFL’s “second” draft since 2006 when they drafted Brooks with their third-round pick, and for good reason. Aside from the occasional flashes of Josh Gordon and for a brief period, Terrelle Pryor, investing actual draft capital (picks that matter before the fifth round) in the Supplemental Draft hasn’t been exactly a wise strategy.

Nevertheless, today will likely be the first time the a player will be drafted in consecutive years since Gordon was the lone pick in 2012. For a refresher, the process for teams to draft a player goes like this:

  • The league is divvied up into three groups: teams with six or less wins (the Bengals’ group), non-playoff teams with more than six wins, and the 12 playoff teams. These make up groups 1, 2 and 3, respectively. By the way, teams bid next year’s draft picks by the round for the players, and teams in the first group go first.
  • A lottery decides the order of the teams in each group. This order determines which team gets priority if multiple team offers the same bid for a player; the team higher in the order is awarded the player if that bid remains the highest offered.
  • If a player receives no bid, he becomes a free agent.

The players who enter the Supplemental Draft are players who were eligible to enter the NFL Draft but did not. Usually the players had their eligibility forfeited after the deadline to declare for the regular draft has passed. There are five players that will be eligible for teams to draft:

  • Jalen Thompson, safety, Washington State
  • Marcus Simms, wide receiver, West Virginia
  • Shyheim Cullen, linebacker, Syracuse
  • Devonaire Clarington, tight end, Northland
  • Bryant Perry, cornerback, St. Francis

The trio of Cullen, Clarington and Perry aren’t likely to be drafted. Thompson and Simms are a different story.

Thompson was a three-year starter for Mike Leach’s squad and lost eligibility to play his fourth year due to him purchasing an over-the-counter supplement. He lost his eligibility just a week-and-a-half ago, two months away from potentially taking the PAC-12 by storm.

A bit undersized at 5’10” and around 190 pounds, Thompson was an All-PAC-12 honorable mention last season, sharing a team-lead with eight passes defended to go along with two interceptions. Thompson’s athleticism to match up in man coverage and make rangy tackles is the rare quality he has to attract NFL teams.

His 2017 season as a true sophomore was even more impressive from a box score perspective, and resulted in him being named to the All-PAC-12 Second Team.

As for Simms, the true junior was originally going to enter the NCAA transfer portal after being involved in a violation of West Virginia’s code of conduct but decided to join Thompson in the Supplemental Draft.

Like most receivers wearing the blue and old gold colors, Simms is a speedy deep threat that can take the top off of a defense. Averaging nearly 17 yards per catch in his three years with the Mountaineers, Simms tracks deep throws well and and has high-end acceleration.

Dane Brugler of The Athletic projects Thompson as a third or fourth-round prospect while Simms netted a grade in the later rounds. The Bengals can afford to bid on either player, but should they?

Safety and wide receiver aren’t exactly weaknesses for Cincinnati at the moment. Starters Jessie Bates and Shawn Williams aren’t going anywhere and Clayton Fejedelem is a special teams staple. Maybe Thompson can make a push for a spot, but is that worth a top-100 pick? Probably not.

On the other side of the ball, the quartet of A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross and Alex Erickson is far from perfect but the offense is investing quite a bit of faith in the latter two this year. Green and Boyd is about as good as they come for a 1-2 duo anyways. Simms is talented enough to push guys like Josh Malone and Cody Core, but there’s nothing too different about him to warrant out-bidding another team for him.

Thompson and Simms should quickly find rosters that are in need of their talents. For what the Bengals currently still need, there doesn’t seem to be an ideal match for either of them.