Bengals Combine Watch List: Who Remains?
The Bengals had their eye on several players heading into the 27th NFL Combine, held in Indianapolis from February 20 to 26. As the days have gone on, interviews have occurred, sprints have been run, and passes thrown—all under constant scrutiny from NFL scouts and coaches.
The Bengals had an idea who to watch for prior to the Combine but, now that it's over, they can certainly narrow their focus to areas deemed more suitable.
The conversation in the discussion room transitions from who to watch at the Combine to who to invite for a workout or which Pro Days to attend.
As Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis dissect these exact questions, I'll do the same...
Alec Ogletree, LB Georgia
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6'2", 242 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.70 (Watch here)
Bench Press: 20
Vertical Jump: 33.5"
NFL.com's Mike Mayock had Ogletree ranked as the number one inside linebacker heading into the combine. He lived up to the hype, running faster than any of the other four names listed in the 40-yard dash.
In the bench press, Ogletree was adequate, but not stunning. His 20 reps show that he's been preparing for the draft, but his performance on the bench won't necessarily vault him up any draft boards, as 15 linebackers put up more reps at the showing.
His performance in the vertical jump confirm that he is an athletic specimen.
Ogletree used the Combine to maintain his ranking as the top inside linebacker. While he could likely be moved to SAM or WILL at the NFL level, Ogletree is a steal and the Bengals still have him high on their draft board.
Sean Porter, LB Texas A&M
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6'1", 229 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.75
Bench press: 22
Sean Porter didn't make Mike Mayock's list of top five outside linebackers. After the Senior Bowl and combine, he may be fighting his way into the top five group. Kansas State LB Arthur Brown did not participate in the Combine nor did Oregon's Kiko Alonso. Both were ranked in the top five going into the Combine.
CBS Sports Analyst Dave Richard identified Porter as the "most athletic linebacker of the bunch" during Senior Bowl practices. Porter's 35" vertical at the Combine ranked him in the top five of all linebackers, confirming his athletic abilities among his peers.
The Texas A&M Pro Day is on March 8 and Porter will be participating. If he continues to impress at his Pro Day like he has at the Senior Bowl and the Combine, he could put himself in position to be taken early second, late first round.
One area of improvement for Porter is his speed. His 4.75 second 40-yard dash isn't bad, but it isn't breathtaking either. In order for him to continue to improve his draft stock, he may have to cut his 40-time to below 4.7
While Porter's stock is rising, don't be surprised if he is taken in the second or even third round. If the Bengals didn't have their eyes on him before, they certainly should give him another look now.
Giovani Bernard, RB North Carolina
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5'8", 202 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.53 (Watch here)
Bench press: 19
Giovani Bernard received a grade of 84.0 from NFL.com, the highest grade given to a running back entering this year's draft. However, most mock drafts have Eddie Lacy being the first running back drafted.
A month ago, the Bengals announced that they need a complementary back to go along with Benjarvus Green-Ellis. With a focus on speed backs that can catch the ball out of the backfield, Giovani Bernard fits the mold.
"I'm able to do a lot of things. Not just run the ball," Bernard said to Panthers.com. "Able to pass block and catch the ball out of the backfield. As a running back, you want to be able to do that."
His days as a Tarheel confirm this. In only two years, Bernard gained 2,481 rushing yards, 852 receiving yards and 33 TDs, including two on punt returns.
None of Bernard's tests or measurements were staggering, but he did enough to maintain his draft stock. He's still a second-round guy because, despite the depth of this year's running back class, there are no clear-cut first-round running backs.
Bernard will likely still be around with the Bengals second pick at 37 but, thus far, he's given teams no reason to overlook him.
Matt Elam, S Florida
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5'10", 208 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.54 seconds (Watch here)
Bench press: 17
Matt Elam knows that he is small for a modern-day safety, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in effort. Known at Florida for his skull-crushing hits, Elam entered the Combine as the number two safety according to NFL.com analyst Mike Mayock.
"I'm not the biggest safety but I feel like I play hard and that makes me stand out," Elam said during a press conference after the Combine.
When asked who he admires, Elam responded with future Hall of Famer Ed Reed, "I watch tape on him every week." Much of Elam's allure has come through big hits, something familiar to Ed Reed as well. Unfortunately, this comparison may not be as honorable if the NFL office continues to inflict harsh penalties for hard hits.
Elam insists that he can do more than just lay down the hammer on defenders. When asked who the best safety in the class was, he didn't shy away from a self-nomination, "I'm very versatile and I think I can do a lot for teams. Special teams, covering, tackling. So, I think I'm the best."
Elam's 4.54 second, 40-yard dash was fifth best of all safeties at the Combine. His strong performance in Indianapolis didn't propel him over Texas' Kenny Vaccaro as the number one safety, but he made a strong claim for number two, as did LSU's Eric Reid.
If the Bengals were to get Elam, they might have to use their first pick on him. He's been number 25 on Mel Kiper's Big Board for the past two weeks. NFL.com's Charles Davis has him going #29 to the Patriots. He's not worthy of the Bengals' first pick at 21 but could be gone before their second pick at 37.
Margus Hunt, DE Southern Methodist
Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports
6'8", 277 pounds
40 yard dash: 4.60
Bench press: 38
As if a guy standing 6'8" couldn't be imposing enough, Margus Hunt put up 38 reps of 225 pounds at the Combine earlier this week. By the end of the week, Hunt was the "talk of the town".
Hunt's background in track and field equip him with a unique blend of size, quickness, range and strength. Originally from Estonia, Hunt tells NFL Network how he came to SMU with hopes to rejuvenate the men's track and field program. When that didn't happen, he was persuaded to try the gridiron.
He was tied for fifth best defensive end according to NFL.com's Mike Mayock. Hunt's 40-yard dash performance is better than any other members of that list and his 38 reps on the bench are tied for the most by anyone this year.
Second on Mayock's list was Texas A&M's Damontre Moore, although his 4.95 in the 40-yard dash and abysmal 12 reps on the bench will certainly move him out of the top five. Moving into that top five may well be Margus Hunt.
Come draft time, Hunt could be a unanimous lottery pick, taking him completely out of contention for the Bengals. Even if he were to find his way onto the Bengals roster, they would have to spend their first pick on him and pay him a contract that corresponds to it. If the Bengals decide to slap the franchise tag on Michael Johnson, that may be too much cap room invested in the position.
Hunt's stock is certainly rising after the Combine and will continue to do so until the Draft. His newness to football is certainly a red flag but not one bright enough to deter teams from gambling on his upside.
Robbie Rouse, RB Fresno State
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5'6", 190 pounds
40 yard dash: 4.80
Bench press: 15
While the fan in me really wants to see Robbie Rouse make an NFL roster, he didn't help himself much at the Combine. With his 4.80 second 40-yard dash, he finished as one of the five slowest running backs.
Also, 15 reps of 225 pounds is respectable for anyone, especially someone who only weighs 190 pounds himself. However, with the demand for pass blocking running backs (which Rouse clearly isn't) in the NFL, Rouse's combine numbers don't make a convincing enough case to compensate for his size.
This year's running back class is deep and we could go a full round without seeing one taken. This doesn't bod well for guys like Rouse who are teetering on the line between seventh-round pick and rookie free agent.
It would take a very strong Pro Day performance for Rouse to improve his draft stock and even then, he may not get drafted. Rouse was considered a sleeper to watch this year with the opportunity to increase his draft status which may still happen however, he didn't do himself any favors in Indianapolis this past Sunday.
The Bengals may consider signing him as a free agent, assuming he's not drafted. He would be used sparingly within the offense, but can also contribute on special teams as well.