With the 46th pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select Jerome Simpson, WR, Coastal Carolina.
What?! Who is this guy?
The new member of the Cincinnati Bengals, that's who. Right away, the question began about whether or not this was a reach to pick him this early. Projected to go much later, Simpson himself was surprised when he got the call from head coach Marvin Lewis. In fact, he wasn't even home yet, driving to his home with his family to begin watching the draft.
If anyone spent their time watching Big South football, they know exactly who this player is. He set Big South records with receptions and touchdowns, as well as multiple school records. The Cincinnati Bengals had plenty to be impressed about.
Simpson ranked with the best receivers in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, and broad jump. He ranked second in the vertical jump and first in the broad jump, leaping for 11' 4''. His big hands and 6'2'' stature make him a very good target for quarterback Carson Palmer.
A big target could not come at a better time for Cincinnati either. With Chris Henry ousted after another arrest, and Chad Johnson demanding a trade, the Bengals are screaming for help at the wide receiver position.
One argument for this being a poor pick is that the receivers available at that time were much better than Simpson. Yes, there were bigger names, but one has to realize what the Bengals were looking for.
For one thing, they don't want a guy with character issues. Jackson had troubles off the field, and so did Mario Manningham. Another reason for their pick is size. The Bengals have a history of drafting big wide-receivers, and at 6'2'', Simpson is a perfect fit. He is not extremely tall, but Jackson is only 5'10'' at best and other big names were not that tall. With Simpson's solid vertical jump, his height is much more than listed, also.
Limas Sweed was a player available at that time as well, and he also seemed like a good fit for Cincinnati. The fact that he is injury prone hurt him a little bit. Overall, the Bengals looked at their short-list of wide outs, and determined that Jerome Simpson was the best.
Is Simpson a sure thing? No, he is not guaranteed to be successful. Many scouts are worried that by playing in a weaker conference, he never really saw talent that is noteworthy. If a football player is going against poor competition, then it is difficult to figure out the talent level of that player.
One thing is for certain; When you play in a sub-par league, you have to excel and stand out. There is no way to just be "good" and get noticed. You have to be outstanding. That's what Jerome Simpson was, and that's who the Cincinnati Bengals hope he continues to be.
Final verdict—No Reach
With five wide receivers taken before the Bengals in Round two, and the fact that the remaining best receivers were all gone by twelve picks after the Bengals', it's fair to say that Simpson wouldn't have been around much longer. It would have been risky to try to wait for their third-round pick.
Let's hope he brings energy to this football team, as well as a way to forget about the receivers that once wore a similar uniform.