At the time of the 2011 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals had a lot of holes to fill. We can look back now, with amazement, at how successful the team has been at accomplishing this task. The process of building this team had clearly started long before that draft, but when draft day rolled around, the Bengals used the number four overall pick to select A. J. Green, wide receiver, out of Georgia.
Green hit the ground running in the NFL, breaking team and league rookie records hand-over-fist. He earned a Pro Bowl bid as a rookie (along with draft mate, quarterback Andy Dalton) and has not looked back. Green increased his production during his sophomore season, returning to the Pro Bowl, and now listens as his name is mentioned, with regularity, among the greats of the position.
Along with Green, nearly all of the other holes in the roster have been addressed. One spot, however, that many fans seem to be concerned about is opposite Green at the second wide receiver position.
It seems there are a lot of fans that would like to see this spot filled with a big name, older veteran. I think that would be a big mistake. This approached has been tried, often, and seldom works out the way a team hopes it will. Cincinnati fans shouldn't have any trouble remembering some of these attempts. Attempts such as Terrell Owens. T. O. was a great receiver. the Bengals brought him in in free agency in 2010, the year in which the Bengals earned the number four overall draft pick for 2011. Other examples include Laveranues Coles, and Antonio Bryant. Both had been successful elsewhere, but didn't pan out in Cincinnati. There are very few quick fixes in the NFL.
The Draft is a much better means by which to bolster an NFL roster. This is something the Bengals have proven very well over the past few years, and it is on this point that I disagree with those fans who believe the second wide receiver spot has not been addressed.
Last year, with the first of two third round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft, The Cincinnati Bengals selected Mohamed Sanu. The 6' 2" 210 pound receiver made his way into the line up and eventually became a starter. As Sanu's production increased he drew comparisons to T. J. Houshmandzadeh who served the Bengals very well at the same position for several years. Sanu became a serious red zone threat, catching four touchdown passes in his last three games before being sidelined with a broken foot. According to one report, Sanu is already able to run routes again and is expected to be back at 100% long before training camp.
Cincinnati has their franchise quarterback in Andy Dalton. They have a phenomenal first option in the passing game in Green. They have another Pro Bowler in tight end Jermaine Gresham. Andrew Hawkins is explosive in the slot, and another rookie, Marvin Jones, received some valuable playing time, last year. If Sanu comes back healthy and picks up where he left off last season, he could be the piece that secures Cincinnati's place among the top passing games in the league over the next few years.
Owner Mike Brown needs to save his money to re-sign several of his own stars over the next year. Cincinnati has done a very good job in the draft. They just need to allow time for the picks they've already made to pay off.