There were two moves in the draft that very few of us saw coming: the selection of Brandon Thompson in round 3 and the selection of Orson Charles two picks later in round 4. Neither was a pick based on need, but both were great value picks who deepen strengths of the team.
I like the selection of Charles. The scouting report on him is really good, and his presence automatically creates a roster battle.
On The Roster
I have a suspicion that Jay Gruden was a little bit excited to see Charles still on the board as pick #116 approached and may have done a little lobbying for the big tight end out of Georgia. The TE roster looked adequate with Gresham, Lee and Cochart already in the fold, but the Bengals chose to add another dynamic to the group and add to the offense the increasingly popular threat of the two tight end set.
Starter: A.J. Green
Gresham is the most physically gifted TE on the roster. Last year he was 13th in catches (56) and 18th in total yds (596). But he has not yet reached his full potential. In the 14 games he played last year, 5 times he was held under 25 yds receiving. Only three times in 29 career games has he caught more than 5 balls in a game. A couple more catches per game could move him into being a Vernon Davis / Brent Celek / Dustin Keller type of serious threat all over the field.
I was surprised and pleased to see that last year Gresham was the most productive when facing AFC North opponents. Over have of his receiving total (306) came in 6 AFCN games. Using him just as well outside the division will garner him and the team plenty of attention.
Primary Backup: Orson Charles
Coaches have to clean up some of Charles’ technique during the offseason: route running, exploding into defenders, and catching with soft hands. As the season progresses and these issues clear up, look for Charles to get more and more time on the field with Gresham. His presence on the field along with Gresham, Green and Shipley will give the Bengals an Aaron Hernandez-type of threat that will give defenses fits.
Camp Battler: Donald Lee
More of a blocker than a receiver, Lee was the primary backup to Gresham last year. Going into his 10th season, we could argue that he bring a wealth of experience to help coaches groom Charles and Gresham. Or we could argue that his age is a liability because the Bengals will prefer the younger, cheaper option.
Camp Battler: Colin Cochart
Despite going undrafted out of tiny South Dakota State, Cochart impressed the coaches enough to make the roster when third rounder Chase Coffman couldn’t. He is a big, tough, hard-working, very likable guy. He made it onto the field in 10 games last year, but he only caught five balls for 44 yds.
Long Shot: Josh Chichester
Chichester is tall and has long arms, two traits the Bengals love. But he struggles as a blocker and is incomplete as a receiver. Worst of all, he reportedly needs a coach to keep his pilot light lit. That is not a recipe for beating out Lee or Cochart. I simply cannot see him beating out either one, let alone both.
The choice between Lee and Cochart will not be an easy one for coaches. They are similar size, both good blockers and OK receivers. Will they prefer youth or experience? Smarts or fight? They both have a year in Gruden’s system, so whomever catches on first and shows the most understanding on the field will be the guy who wins this fight.
If the coaches can settle on the right answer for the #2 WR, the potential for the passing game is going to take a significant step forward. Having four receiving options on the field will be the norm, and, depending on the RB or TE package, five options will not be uncommon. It will be fun to watch Gruden at times flood the field with receivers and dare the defense to cover them all. The TE’s will be an integral part of the passing attack.
And the better that the passing attack is, the more potent the running game will be.