At certain gyms around the country, as soon as the college football season ends, they’re filled with NFL hopefuls looking to prepare for the NFL. You won’t find these guys at your local Gold’s but, rather, at a D-1 gym, if there’s one in your city, or a specialized gym like Ignition in Cincinnati, OH or Future of Fitness in Crofton, MD.
The motivation behind these workouts is to perform well in their pro days and the NFL combine, if they’re invited. All of these things will hopefully lead to good news on draft day.
The Cincinnati Bengals will be closely monitoring several prospects that could end up in stripes after the draft. Here are ten players to keep an eye out for on draft day, as they could likely be Bengals.
The Bengals like to draft Dawgs. Both of the Bengals’ Pro Bowl starters in 2013 were Georgia alums: A.J. Green and Geno Atkins. ESPN College Football Analyst David Pollack was drafted 17th overall by the Bengals in 2005. That same year, the Bengals drafted Odell Thurman out of Georgia in the second round.
The Bengals need a linebacker arguably more than any other position. With the demise of Rey Maualuga as a result of the difference between his hype coming in and his performance, Vontaze Burfict is the only contributing linebacker on contract for 2013.
Alec Ogletree, with his speed and range at linebacker, would form a dynamic duo with Burfict to back up the stout Cincinnati defensive line. At 6’3”, 232 pounds and with game changing speed, Ogletree is undoubtedly one to watch on draft day, regardless of where he lands.
His athleticism alone has him projected to go in the first two rounds. A large advantage for Ogletree is that he originally played safety at Georgia earlier on in his career. His experience playing safety gives him a unique pass defending skill set to accompany his more notable run stopping abilities.
Early in the 2012 college football season, Texas A&M linebacker Sean Porter was a projected first round pick. His stock has since dropped but mostly because of how he was utilized in the Aggie defense last year.
He is now projected to be drafted on Day 2, in either the third or fourth round. Given the need for playmaking linebackers in Cincinnati, Sean Porter is a name to watch for when the Bengals are on the clock.
Porter recorded 9.5 sacks in 2011 in a role that involved much more pass rushing. In 2012, he had only 3.5 sacks but did record his first career interception.
If the Bengals select a linebacker with their first pick, it won’t likely be Sean Porter. That would also lower the likelihood that the Bengals choose Porter. However, if Porter is still on the board with one of the Bengals’ first four picks, regardless of whether the Bengals have selected a linebacker or not, don’t rule him out.
Giovani is the number one ranked running back and could end up in Stripes on Draft day.
As of now, Giovani Bernard is listed as the number one back in the 2013 NFL Draft class. With a deadly blend of speed, agility and acceleration, Bernard led the ACC in rushing and earned All-America honors in 2012.
Bernard has decided to enter the draft despite having one year of eligibility left; probably a good decision considering he's already missed a season due to an ACL injury. After amassing 1,324 yards as a redshirt freshman, Bernard backed up his performance by averaging 123 rushing yards per game in 2012.
Bernard's ability to find holes between the tackles, run away from corners and juke safeties shouldn't overshadow his ability to receive out of the backfield. In 2012, Bernard caught 47 passes for 490 yards and five TDs as well.
My only question for Bernard is, can he run block? He didn't compete in the Senior Bowl because he was only a junior at Chapel Hill (despite the fact that Justin Pugh and D.J. Fluker found a way around it), so we'll have to wait until his workouts or the combine to see.
Gio's all around ability to make plays with the ball have earned him the top running back spot in this year's draft. He is projected to go in the first or second round, depending on team needs. With the 21st pick, the Bengals could reasonably take Bernard with this pick.
Running back is certainly an area of concern in Cincinnati, and Bernard is the kind of player that can add variety to the position.
Many of you probably never heard of Robbie Rouse; at least not before the Senior Bowl. At 5'7", 185 pounds, he's easy to miss amongst the masses. However, on the field, he makes his presence known. Over the course of his career at Fresno State, Rouse has accumulated 898 carries, for 4,647 yards and 37 TDs.
Size is his biggest obstacle. However, Rouse has proven that his stature is no impediment to his durability. He has carried the ball over 600 times in the last two years and amassed just over 3,000 yards.
Because of his small frame, Rouse will be drafted in the later rounds, if he's drafted at all. I can't say I'd draft him but he'd certainly be a steal to pick up in rookie free agency. His usage would be pretty specialized: specific to jet sweeps, wheel routes, screens and misdirection. I can see him having a similar role to ex-Bengals RB DeDe Dorsey a few years back.
It's not improbable that we won't hear Robbie Rouse's name announced on draft night. But, nonetheless, he is a name to watch because if he's still around after the end of Round 7, his popularity will certainly go up.
With his on-field intensity and hard hitting plays, Elam is one of the best safeties of this year's class. Projected to go on Day 1, Elam's physical attributes outweigh the other concerns that have warranted red flags from some scouts.
Keep an eye on this prospect during the draft. The Bengals need to find a safety with Nate Clements and Chris Crocker as free agents. Taylor Mays and George Iloka remain on the roster, but neither have given head coach Marvin Lewis reason to believe that the position is in good hands.
With Elam's ability to play closer to the line of scrimmage and guard tight ends, he would generally be brought in for run stopping purposes and to slow up inside receivers off the line. His raw ability and upside is attractive to scouts regardless of his role in the Florida defense.
If the Bengals decide to select a linebacker or running back with the first pick, Elam could likely turn out to be one of the two second round picks that the Bengals have on Day 1.
NFL Trade Rumors lists the top five needs for each team by position. They have the Bengals needs, in order of importance, as running back, outside linebacker, inside linebacker, defensive end and safety.
Considering how much the Bengals have in cap space, I expect them to do whatever it takes to re-sign Michael Johnson. He's even a viable candidate to receive the franchise tag.
However, if the Bengals don't plan to re-sign Johnson, Southern Methodist defensive end Margus Hunt would be a great addition. At 6'8", 275 pounds, Hunt possesses the length to maintain the style of the Bengals defensive line.
Hunt, a native of Estonia, came to America to compete in track at SMU after winning gold in the shot put and discus at the 2006 World Junior Track and Field Championships. While he is new to the game of football, Hunt already possesses the skills that the Bengals defensive coaches have proven they can mold into a productive NFL player.
If you don't already know the name Margus Hunt, remember it. Because even if he doesn't end up on the Bengals roster, we'll be talking about him going one-on-one against Andrew Whitworth or Andre Smith in due time.
Wisconsin has been a factory for NFL teams the last few years, from J.J. Watt to Russell Wilson to Kevin Zeitler. This year, Montee Ball headlines the group but OT Ricky Wagner is a large part of Ball's success in the run game.
Because of Wisconsin's run focused style of offense, Wagner's strengths are obviously in run blocking. His pass blocking needs improvement but, hoping that Mike Brown can lock in Andre Smith, the Bengals won't be looking for Wagner to contribute immediately.
With Wagner backing up Whitworth and Smith, he adds more youth and depth to add with Trevor Robinson, Zeitler and Clint Boling.
If the situation warrants the Bengals to draft a tackle that must contribute immediately, Wagner isn't the best choice. However, if they can afford to stack the tackles with inexpensive, young talent from the later rounds, watch for Wagner to join the Who Dey Nation.
Playing under Nick Saban for the last four years has proven beneficial for Alabama LB Nico Johnson. He has won two national championships and anchored one of the most stingy defenses in college football history.
Known as a disciplined player, Johnson is reliable to be in the right place. Johnson also has the ability to guard tight ends and running backs in the passing game. However, he has his list of downfalls as well. With the Bengals' need for a linebacker, Johnson will certainly be a topic of discussion in the Bengals' war room on draft day.
The Bengals look to be moving towards a young, rejuvenated linebacking core and, regardless of what the Bengals do with their first few picks, Johnson is a legit candidate after the second round.
An Ohio native, Dysert has the frame and potential to be a great scout team quarterback for a year. It just so happens that the Bengals are considering replacing backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.
Dysert threw for 3,483 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2012. In the Senior Bowl, he completed 10 of 16 for 93 yards including one to Oregon's Kenjon Barner.
Dysert isn't yet ready to be an NFL starting quarterback. However, with the leadership of Jay Gruden and the mentorship of Andy Dalton, Dysert could turn out to be the perfect backup to Dalton.
The biggest weakness, according to NFL.com, for LSU safety Eric Reid is that he is sometimes overaggressive. At 6'2", 208 pounds, most scouts agree that his upside outweighs his eagerness to make plays. And what coach doesn't like aggressive?
Reid would have to be used with the first pick if the Bengals were to ever have a shot at drafting him. Even at pick 21, Reid could likely already be sporting an NFL logo by then.
The Bengals' player personnel department has been better about drafts the last couple of years. The risks taken have paid off for the most part, some have yet to play out. However, drafting Reid would be as low risk of a pick as any other safety in the class. We'll have to wait until April to see whether or not that happens.