The Cincinnati Bengals had one of the better, if not the best draft this year. The team is continuing to build on the success they started last year. While they were a playoff team and got great contributions out of rookies, AJ Green and Andy Dalton, it was their top 10 defense that led the playoff push. The team looked to fill holes on the defensive side of the ball in the draft but also did well in finding Andy Dalton more weapons, while taking some of the focus off of Green.
AJ Green can become a special player in this league. The Bengals are doing everything they can to ensure that he doesn’t fall off. Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald both weren’t able to reach their maximum potential in years where they didn’t have a compliment receiver opposite of them to take away some of the defensive focus. Green will have an abundance of potential playmakers joining him on the roster. The Bengals already had Jermaine Gresham, who’s an underrated tight end and they’ll be getting back a healthy Jordan Shipley for this season. In April’s draft they added Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, two receivers out of Rutgers and Cal.
Sanu is a big body, physical receiver that can move the chains. Sanu is a great fit opposite of Green in this offense. Jones hasn’t gotten the press that Sanu has but he is a much better playmaker. Marvin is more versatile than Mohamed as well. To say I was surprised that Jones was still available at the end of the fifth round, when the Bengals selected, would be an understatement. From what I’ve seen on Jones in college, I believe that he could play any of the three wide receiver positions and also adds value in the return game for the Bengals. Cincinnati will look for Shipley, who’s already got NFL experience to step in and play the slot early but Jones by far has more explosiveness and big play ability. Sanu’s size / build, is probably more fitting as an every down possession receiver in the Bengals offense but I would expect Cincinnati would also give Jones some looks in two receiver sets with AJ and have them both lined up wide. Depending on down and distance, Jones would make sense in some scenarios as the team’s number two option.
The Bengals acquired Brandon Tate and Armon Binns last season and there has been mixed reviews on both. Both players could factor into the mix and it’ll be a highly competitive offseason for wide receiver positional battles. Andrew Hawkins played well in action last season but I don’t see a spot for him on the roster this season. Cincinnati has several young, talented receivers as you can see. It’s a good problem to have but I believe the cream will rise to the top. From everything I’ve seen, Marvin Jones is the second best receiver on the Bengals’ roster. Jones can manipulate the boundaries. Routinely in college he high pointed the ball in coverage and could contort his body to get the angle on the ball over the defensive backs and remain in bounds. He has mid 4.4 speed and one of the quickest rookies in and out of his breaks. At 6’2, 200 pounds, Marvin is that rare breed that can run the fly route with a high success rate, take a screen or slant to the house, and lacks the fear that prevents his former Cal teammate, Desean Jackson from going over the middle.
Every coaching staff is different and you never know what any of them are looking for or what they like out of the particular guys on their roster. The receiver battle will have to play out through August before we understand Cincinnati’s plan for Jones. It may not be by week one but at some point the Bengals will realize that Jones is the second best receiver on the roster and will force the issue of having him on the field as much as possible.
Dr. Roto’s Fantasy Football Spin
When I think of Marvin Jones, I think back to the linebacker Marvin “Shade Tree” Jones from Florida State University. He was the college football player of the year in 1992 and then went on to a terrific career with the New York Jets from 1993-2003. Now there is a new Marvin Jones I need to familiarize myself with. This one is a wide receiver who flew under the radar of every NFL team but not every NFL scout. Better yet, this Marvin Jones might just be a big time sleeper on Fantasy draft boards.
Let me give you some of the superlatives that I have read about Jones. NFL Films guru Greg Cosell said that Jones has, “The widest catching radius of any receiver I evaluated.” CBS Sports analyst Rob Rang compared Jones favorably with Chad Ochocinco in terms of his on-field ability. Joe Reedy, one of the top beat writers in all of Pro Football also agrees that Jones will be the starting WR2 in Cincy. More good news about Jones…he ran a 4.47 at the NFL Combine, he stands 6′ 2″ and has long arms and big hands, and he played in a pro-style offense at Cal. All this sounds great, so where is the rub?
The rub is that the Bengals run a fairly conservative offense. They signed BenJarvis Green-Ellis in the off season to pair with Bernard Scott to diversify their running attack. They also have a stud wide receiver in A.J. Green. Green is going to catch well over 1000 yards and is a true red zone TD target. Don’t forget that they also have Jermaine Gresham at TE and added another TE (Orson Charles) at the draft. Additionally, Jordan Shipley seems to be over his injury and should be the starting slot receiver this year. Oh yeah, the Bengals drafted a pretty good prospect named Mohamed Sanu in the third round as well.
So what does this mean? It means that Jones has a lot of competition in front of him. All this good press is for naught if he doesn’t get onto the field. However, I have learned two big things in my years of covering the NFL: 1) True talent rises to the top; 2) Injuries always play a large part in a 16 game season. That said, I fully expect Marvin Jones to get a chance at some point this year, and when he does I will hopefully have him on my team as a WR5 that I cherry picked late in my draft.