The Bengals replaced a veteran head coach with a 35-year-old rookie this offseason to help the Bengals become contenders for a long time to come.
But how are the young players Zac Taylor inherited? If Taylor is going to have a long run as a head coach, those are the kinds of players he needs to develop.
While the Bengals have some young stars, like Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd, and Jessie Bates, some of the best players on the team are over 30 years old. Players like A.J. Green, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap are in their 30s, while other key contributors like Cordy Glenn and Dre Kirkpatrick are only a year away from that milestone.
ESPN’s Scott Spratt decided to rank all 32 teams by their under-25 talent.
Spratt ranked the Bengals 16th, while designating Billy Price as a “blue-chip player,” which Spratt defines as “cornerstone assets from whom teams will likely derive their biggest future value.”
He also lists Bobby Hart as a graduated player, who is currently 24 but will turn 25 before the season starts, so that probably helped in the rankings.
“The Bengals may have waited too long to move on from coach Marvin Lewis for many fans,” said Spratt. “Lewis won just six, seven, and six games in his final three seasons after never winning a playoff game in his best years. But three straight seasons of astute Day 2 trade-downs in the draft have helped the team add extra picks to rebuild on the fly and jumped them 11 spots from the No. 27 under-25 ranking from last year.”
One notable position grouping is the wide receiver unit, with youngsters John Ross and Tyler Boyd headlining the group, along with running back Joe Mixon.
“Our rankings haven’t totally given up on Ross,” continued Spratt. “He is an elite athlete who has been limited by shoulder and groin injuries his first two seasons. Teammates Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd are examples of late bloomers that Ross can point to. Mixon ran for 154 DYAR in 2018, and Boyd added 305 DYAR as a receiver, nearly double the total of star veteran A.J. Green (155).”
However, this is not enough to put the Bengals over the hump. The Bengals aren’t near the top of the list, but they have great depth out of their young stars to move them up nine spots from last year.
“Unless Ross breaks out, the Bengals don’t have any sexy young talent,” Spratt said, “but they have depth with productive second-year center Price and safety Jessie Bates as well as six picks from the first four rounds of the 2019 draft. Fourth-rounder Ryan Finley may not be the long-term solution at quarterback, but new head coach Zac Taylor has inherited and quickly compiled some intriguing young talent to help any future quarterback hit the ground running.”
It’s great to see the Bengals improve in this area so much from last year. Hopefully players like Price and Ross can take that next step and prove why they were drafted in the first round. If players like Jonah Williams and Germaine Pratt do well in the next couple of years, then it will be great to see this ranking continuing to improve.