How Simpson's departure affects Bengals

April, 24, 2012
4/24/12
2:42
PM ET
Jerome Simpson became the second Cincinnati Bengals free-agent wide receiver to go elsewhere this offseason, signing a one-year deal with Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday.

Many believed Simpson and Andre Caldwell (now with the Broncos) would not be retained this offseason because it was assumed the Bengals would upgrade at wide receiver. A couple of days before the draft, wide receiver is the one position of need that Cincinnati has ignored.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said last month that he feels better about the wide receivers currently on the roster than people know, and he hinted at Tuesday's pre-draft news conference that Cincinnati might be leaning toward defense in the first round. That's still difficult for me to believe. Losing two wide receivers from last season and not adding anyone to replace them adds a sense of urgency for the Bengals to take a wide receiver with one of their three picks in the first two rounds.

The Bengals will have plenty of options at wide receiver, which is one of the deepest positions in this year's draft. Wide receivers who should be available in the bottom half of the first round are Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, Baylor's Kendall Wright and LSU's Rueben Randle. The ones who should be on the board in the second round are South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery, Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu and Illinois' A.J. Jenkins and Arizona's Juron Criner.

The No. 2 wide receiver spot is one of the final pieces in the Bengals' passing game. Cincinnati drafted wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton last season to go along with tight end Jermaine Gresham, a first-round pick in 2010.

The Bengals have selected seven wide receivers in the first round in their history. Only once -- 1985 and 1986 -- did they do so in consecutive years. This year could mark the second time after taking Green fourth overall last year.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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