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Mel Kiper mock draft sends Michigan WR to the Bengals

For the first time in the mock draft season, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. gave the Bengals a wide receiver. During his previous three versions, it was a pass rusher and/or defensive end.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. released his latest mock draft on Tuesday, sending Michigan wide receiver Devin Funchess to the Bengals at No. 21 overall. This is the first mock draft in which Kiper didn't give Cincinnati a defensive end -- he sent defensive end Bud Dupree to Cincinnati in January and followed that up with Vic Beasley (v. 2) and Eli Harold (v. 3).

Kiper views Funchess, who began his collegiate career at tight end, as a short-yardage option. "I don't have Funchess classified as a tight end, because whoever drafts him isn't going to line him up with the expectation that he'll be helping as a blocker," writes Kiper. "What he will bring is a matchup threat in the short passing game, which is where Andy Dalton needs to be able to thrive. Jermaine Gresham never turned into the player the Bengals hoped he would become, but you can have Funchess and Tyler Eifert on the field at the same time and really make it difficult for linebackers and safeties to match up with both, and Funchess has the size to overwhelm cornerbacks."

Funchess, who towers at 6'4" and 232 pounds, was universally panned for a disappointing 4.7 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. During his pro day at Michigan, he reportedly improved his 40-time to 4.47 and 4.53. "When asked why he ran so much better, he explained that he had been up late to do interviews at the combine and was just plain tired when he ran," wrote Gil Brandt last month. Charles Davis views him as a "big slot, Jordan Matthews type." Football Outsiders doesn't view him as much of a playmaker:

Funchess drops lower on this list because of his low touchdown rate; he has never scored more than six touchdowns in a single season. Since 2000, only three junior wide receivers have been drafted in the top 100 picks despite never topping 750 yards or six touchdowns in a college season: Hartline, Little, and Yamon Figurs.

Drafting someone like Funchess might counter the team's expressed opinion on wide receivers this year. Size alone isn't philosophically compatible with Hue Jackson's preference... it's that speed rules 'em all.

"The biggest threat is vertical speed, not size," Jackson said in January at the Senior Bowl. "If I’m faster than you, but you’re taller than me, I’m eventually going to find a way to get away from you. There are guys that make contested catches, but the common thread for success is speed. You’re not going to get open all the time, so you have to make contested catches. But you also have to be able to create separation so the quarterback can feel comfortable throwing it in there."