The Cincinnati Bengals had an excellent season in 2012. They were able to make the playoffs as a wildcard and while they did not advance in the playoffs, they certainly showed that they belong among the top teams in the AFC. But a deeper look at the roster makes me wonder if the Bengals staff shouldn’t target a wide receiver early, say, in the first or second round of the 2013 NFL draft. If this team wants to take the next step, there could be a problem with the makeup of the offense.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had a very good season passing this year, and the biggest reason for that was the fact that he throws to one the best wide receivers in the game, AJ Green.
And throw to him he did. During 2012 Dalton targeted Green 164 times. This was double the next highest targets to a wide receiver. What we have seen is when a quarterback gets tunnel vision and targets a single wide out that often, defenses get wise to it, and it’s then up to the quarterback to adjust.
In 2012 the closest thing Dalton did to adjust was to target tight end Jermaine Gresham 94 times, which was still 70 times less than Green. The importance of a true number-two wide receiver cannot be denied.
To clarify the point, the 2nd best wide receiver was Andrew Hawkins who finished the season with 51 catches but an average of only around 10 yards per catches. Pretty mediocre numbers for a number-two wide receiver. Hawkins also is an Exclusive Rights-Restricted Free Agent, meaning they Bengals should not have any problem keeping him for at least 1 more year. And while I cannot speak for all Bengals fans, the ones I have spoken to don’t consider Hawkins a long term answer at the number-two wide receiver position.
So, looking over the Bengals roster and predicting their losses via free agency, can they risk a second or even first round pick on a wide receiver? The answer for me is yes, in the second round. In the first the Bengals should be able to fill a significant need at linebacker on the defensive side. But that’s not to say the cupboards will be bare in the 2nd. Quite the contrary.
The bulk of the top wide receivers in this draft have second round grades, so finding a player who can fill that complimentary role in the passing offense could be addressed rather painlessly. A player like DeAndre Hopkins from Clemson or Quinton Patton from La. Tech both come to mind as mid 2nd round prospects as players who could come in and pull some of those targets from Green to themselves, and take the heat off Green and Dalton.Those 2 are too talented not to have complimentary piece in place to make their offense more efficient.
What do you say Bengals fans? Can the Bengals win in 2013 with this current group of pass catchers or do they have to bring in someone new? Come find me on Twitter @nflraftboard and let me know.