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Bengals have lofty expectations for incoming wide receivers

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The Bengals are likely to draft a wide receiver in the NFL Draft and they might even grab two.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals have drafted the wide position well in their history, regardless of at which point in the NFL Draft. They may have found the best one of them all in 2011 with A.J. Green, who has become a perennial Pro Bowl player and one of the best in the league. Apparently, he's also the benchmark that Bengals wide receivers coach James Urban uses when looking at rookie receivers to be added to the roster.

"Every time I turn on the film l’m looking for somebody better than A.J. Green. It’s a blank slate," Urban said via Bengals.com. And while acknowledging that he hasn't found one on film or during in-person workouts yet, he still stuck to his guns, saying "But, that's where I start."

The conversation was struck up after a number of local prospects attended a workout held by the Bengals, including receivers from the University of Cincinnati. This 2016 class of receivers doesn't have the headliners at the position like 2011's Green and Julio Jones, but it is still one of the deeper positions of the year. Most believe the team might be looking in the first couple rounds, as well as another mid or late-round prospect in an effort to make up for the free agent losses of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu.

And, while Urban uses Green as the benchmark for new receivers the team brings in, the truth is the staff will be looking for his complements this year.

"This draft is going to be very interesting, because at least at the wide receiver position, there is no 'this is the guy,'" Urban said. "Whoever that guy has been the last few years -- and you know all the names just as well as I do -- there just is not that guy. So the eye of the beholder will come into place.

"Somebody may take a guy that we may not have as much esteem for but is a perfect fit for them, in their eyes. And we may take a guy that somebody else doesn't quite have the same esteem for, but is a perfect fit for us and our position and where we are. So you have to know what you're asking that guy to do as much as anything."

There is a list of usual suspects linked to the Bengals in the early rounds of mock drafts. TCU's Josh Doctson seems to be atop many fans' wish lists with the team's No. 24 selection, while others like Baylor's Corey Coleman, Notre Dame's Will Fuller, Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell and Ohio State's Michael Thomas are all viable outside options in the first couple of rounds. Meanwhile, Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard, Pittsburgh's Tyler Boyd, Ohio State's Braxton Miller and South Carolina's Pharoh Cooper should be available in rounds 2-4 and are all versatile guys who can play the slot and a bit on the outside. And, it sounds like both Urban and offensive coordinator Ken Zampese want that versatility gene in new wide receivers they will be adding in just over a week.

In a bit of what seems like a historically contradictory statement, Urban told the media that "the best players will play," though it doesn't always happen with Marvin Lewis and his often conservative approach with rookies. Regardless, Lewis and his staff's hands might be tied because of the losses in free agency of two of their top three receivers from 2015.