With their heartbreaking loss to Pittsburgh Saturday night at home the Bengals will pick 24th in the 2016 NFL Draft. Before last weekend’s playoff games the only teams that had been announced were the ones picking 1-21. Cincinnati has the best record of the four teams that were eliminated so they will pick last among the four that were just added to the new draft order.
The Bengals don’t have a lot of holes on the team. Immaturity in the secondary, not talent is what cost the the team a victory over the Steelers in their wild card game last week.
Su’a Cravens is an intriguing prospect if the Bengals decide to look for help in the secondary. Cravens has drawn comparisons to fellow Trojan alum Troy Polamalu who terrorized Cincinnati for years and can play safety or linebacker. The USC playmaker had huge games against Stanford and Notre Dame last year and can defend the run as well as defend the pass. Cravens is projected to be a mid to late round pick in the first round.
But if the Bengals want to upgrade their receiving corps an obvious pick late in the first round would be Michael Thomas from Ohio State. Bengals fans wouldn’t mind having a big Buckeye burner going deep and he would stretch the defense. Thomas may not make it to pick #24 with several other teams looking for receiver but if he’s there Thomas is a no-brainer late in the first round.
Josh Doctson from TCU is a guy who could be there in the second or third round if Cincinnati doesn’t want to go for a receiver in the first round. Doctson was thought to be a first round pick but after a wrist injury sidelined him late in the season his draft stock slipped a little. He’s still an excellent receiver that can help out Andy Dalton or AJ McCarron in 2016.
Another option in later rounds is Aaron Burbridge from Michigan State. In the Spartans’ first nine games Burbridge had seven games with over 100 yards receiving. He didn’t just beat up on lesser competition either the 6’1 receiver had big games against Michigan and Oregon in 2015. Alabama completely shut him down in the College Football Playoffs Semi-Final game but he still has talent and could be a steal in later rounds.
Cincinnati is close to being an AFC powerhouse. If they play their cards right in the draft they could contend for the division next year.