- A.J. Green – This will come as a surprise to no one, as A.J. Green has been the Bengal’s number one guy since being drafted 4th overall by the Bengals in 2011. Green struggled a bit in 2017, as much as the Bengal’s offense did, but still posted over 1,000 yards receiving. Green has been on record stating he was frustrated with his play last year and felt it was one of his worst seasons as a pro. Now with a new offensive coordinator, an improved offensive line, and a chip on his shoulder to get back into the conversation of the league’s best wide receiver, A.J. Green could explode and rebound in a big way for Bengal’s fans.
- Tyler Boyd – The third year man out of Pitt has seen an up and down start to his career. As a rookie, Boyd eclipsed 600 yards receiving and looked like the true WR2 on this team behind Green. Boyd would struggle last year, in large due to injuries, playing just 10 games. He ended the year on a high note when he caught the game winning touchdown to knock the Ravens out of the playoffs. I’m listing Boyd as the number two because I think he benefits most from the departure of Brandon LaFell. Boyd excels from the slot, he caught 21 of 27 passes from the slot in 2017 for two touchdowns. The reason his success in the slot is important is because of how Bill Lazor has used the slot in the past. Lazor was the offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins in 2014 and 2015. Lazor utilized Jarvis Landry, one of the league’s best slot receivers, from the slot where Landry posted 1,915 yards and 9 touchdowns during this two year span. While it isn’t a guarantee, there is a chance we see Boyd used similar to how Landry was used under Lazor. If he is in fact utilized in a similar way, he could instantly become the second most important receiver behind Green.
- John Ross – A lot of people are still scratching their heads from when the Bengals elected to take John Ross ninth overall in the 2017 draft. Ross didn’t do much to change the minds of these people, as he had zero receptions and one carry resulting in a fumble in 2017. His season was a waste and he was labeled a “bust” by most. Ross later admitted to a shoulder injury he was not disclosing which may have played a factor in his poor performance last year. But that is behind him now, Ross is back with a vengeance and he is showing it everyday at camp. Ross has been one of the most talked about players in camp, with highlight reel catches almost everyday. Ross has impressed to the point where the Bengals released veteran wideout Brandon LaFell. Ross had a good showing in his first preseason action against the Bears, showing his elite speed on a play he turned into a 20 yard gain when it appeared it would have only been five. Speed and athleticism is not the issue with Ross, it is his durability. If he can stay healthy he should see favorable matchups this year with teams focusing more on A.J. Green and Joe Mixon.
- Josh Malone – Malone is a guy I’m really starting to like this year and I think could see a decent amount of playing time. Malone has been putting together a very solid camp and looked great in action against the Bears. He hauled in 3 receptions for 41 yards, with one being a beautiful catch near the sideline where he extended and drug his toes. Malone should take a big year two step and become a very good bench player for the Bengals. I do not think Malone has the skill set to over for anyone listed above him, but as a fourth wide receiver for the Bengals, I am very excited for him.
- Auden Tate – Auden Tate is the biggest riser, from a seventh round pick who many thought wouldn’t even make the team, to one of the most talked about players of training camp. Tate is playing very well and turning a lot of heads. Tate fell to the seventh round in the draft, his biggest knock being his speed as he has never been a guy to burn you down the field. However, as he’s showing in camp, he doesn’t have to be. One spot we could see Tate specialize is in the red zone. Tate is a physical freak, standing at 6’5” tall. Pairing him and Tyler Eifert in the red zone could be a nightmare for defenses. Tate is on his way to making an impact on this offense this upcoming season.
- Alex Erickson – I’m predicting Erickson to win the last receiver spot over Cody Core primarily due to Erickson’s return ability. Alex has been a fairly effective return man for the Bengals the last two years. And with no one else stepping up to challenge him for this spot, it is likely he is safe due to being the expected starting return man. He caught one touchdown in 2017 for the Bengals along with 12 catches, so do not expect him to make a very big impact on offense. Cody Core has also just not provided much for the Bengals, so it is very unlikely Core wins the last spot.
Outside of A.J. Green obviously, the two biggest names to watch this year will be John Ross and Tyler Boyd. They will both be fighting for that WR2 spot behind A.J. Green and should be interesting to see who ends up the more productive of the two. It is also possible they both end up having great seasons and take over as the teams 2A and 2B due to their different skill sets and what they bring to the offense.
Andy Dalton should have plenty of pass catching options this year with what looks to be a very promising group of receivers. It isn’t so long ago when he had A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, and Mohamed Sanu and that is when he had one of his best years as a pro. Factor in the running backs and tight ends to throw to and we could see Daltons best year as a pro in 2018.
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