It's truly amazing how the NFL is taking over the United States. With college basketball in full swing and baseball season just around the corner, most of the sports buzz over the past few days has circled around the NFL Combine.
Manti Te'o and Tyrann Mathieu were just a couple of guys who garnered a lot of attention going into the Combine, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Meanwhile, the likes of Geno Smith and Luke Joeckel showed up ready to prove why they should be the top selections come late-April.
As for the Cincinnati Bengals, there were quite a fair amount of guys they needed to be focusing on so that the debacle that was their 2012 draft effort won't happen again.
Fresh off some Combine performances, who does Cincinnati need to be keeping their eye on?
Here is a seven-round 2013 mock draft for the Cincinnati Bengals.
All Combine results courtesy of NFL.com
I'm currently choosing to ignore the fact that Alec Ogletree now has a DUI on his record, and have instead chosen to focus on the football aspect of his life. In my original mock draft that was posted a few weeks ago, he was my first round projection for the Bengals, and not much has changed since then.
Ogletree is definitely one of the top three linebackers in the class, a position that Cincinnati must address in this draft. Whether the team brings back Rey Maualuga or not, improvements are needed at this position.
There was a time when Ogletree was a safety, but he has since moved to linebacker, so he can cover across the middle and he can also blitz. At the Combine, Ogletree was impressive, putting up 20 reps on the bench press and jumping over 10 feet on the broad jump. The guy is strong and quick, making him a good combination defender.
The odds of him falling to pick No. 21 aren't good, but there's no way that Cincinnati should avoid Ogletree if he's available. He would provide an instant upgrade for the defense alongside Vontaze Burfict and (hopefully) Thomas Howard.
Past his constant need to go airborne, Matt Elam is one of the most solid secondary selections that the 2013 draft class has to offer, and he was a huge part of a great Florida defense.
In particular, he shined in the 2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl against Louisville, recording 11 tackles and a sack. At the Combine, he was one of the top performers amongst safeties in the 40-yard dash, boasting an impressive 4.54 second time. He also performed 17 repetitions on the bench press, a rather impressive feat for a man under six-feet tall and just over 200 pounds.
Elam is an incredible defender across the middle, and has always been good at disrupting the opposing passing game. He is also a great tackler, and he and Reggie Nelson would form a great run-stopping tandem in the back end of the Cincinnati defense.
With Elam's speed and natural ability to make plays, he could also be used in Cincinnati as Troy Polamalu is used in Pittsburgh, not only being counted on to man the defensive backfield but also being counted upon to rush the passer at times.
If Elam is there in the second round, Cincinnati has to jump on him.
My desire for the Bengals would be to have Eddie Lacy in black and orange next season, but given his recent injury and non-performance at the Combine, I'm not inclined to think that Cincinnati should use one of their first three picks on him.
In any case, Andre Ellington would be a solid pick and a good addition to Jay Gruden's offense. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was decent for the Bengals in 2012, but he didn't really have anyone to split time with, which is something that he desperately needs.
Enter Ellington, who has averaged over five yards per carry throughout his entire four-year career at Clemson. His 40 time isn't great, but he performed well in the vertical and broad jumps at the Combine, so he's got powerful legs.
What I gather from this is that he would be able to hurdle over defenders, which is one of the many good qualities that Ellington possesses. He's a smaller, Darren Sproles-type running back, possessing plenty of speed and the ability to make good cuts in the open field. He also has a stellar stiff arm move, making him very difficult to tackle.
Coupling a speed runner with the powerful Green-Ellis would add a more potent running attack to Cincinnati's offense, which would take some pressure off of A.J. Green and Andy Dalton.
With Robert Griffin III under center at Baylor in 2011, Terrance Williams made 59 catches and had 11 touchdowns. Many believed that he would be unable to duplicate those numbers again last season after RG3 left for the NFL.
Yet Williams far exceeded those expectations, catching 97 balls for over 1,800 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012. He could potentially battle Mohamed Sanu for the No. 2 receiver role in Cincinnati this year, as he is a tremendous route-runner who sticks close to the sidelines.
Williams' Combine performance was pretty good, as well. He recorded 11 reps on the bench, a 4.52 40-yard dash time, and a 7.01-second time in the 3-cone drill. This proves that he has a pretty good combination of strength and speed.
Still, he lacks the ability to make defenders miss, but he is still able to get open quite often. With a few improvements, Williams has the capability to be another deep threat in the Queen City.
Kyle Long was a one-year wonder at Oregon in Chip Kelly's offense, but he made a big splash. With how amazing that offense was last season, Long served as a key part of the offensive line that kept the unit going all season.
At the Combine, he ran a sub-5 second 40-yard dash, which is a pretty good stat for an offensive lineman. He hasn't lifted off the bench yet, but strength has always tended to be one of his strong points.
He has an incredible combination of size and athleticism, which is something that Cincinnati's current left guard, Clint Boling, does not possess. Even as a fourth-round selection, the size and speed that Long possesses would provide an instant upgrade for the Bengals' offense.
Long also has great genes, being the son of Hall-of-Famer Howie Long as well as the brother of current St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long
After a solid Combine performance, it may be wishful thinking to assume that Tyrann Mathieu will fall to the fifth round. But, for the sake of argument, let's just say that he will.
While the Honey Badger made quite a splash at the Combine in his first football action since his time with LSU, I'm of the belief that teams will still be hesitant to select him. The only negative mark in his Combine performance where his four reps on the bench press, but after seeing him play as a Tiger, I doubt any NFL team will consider that too much.
Mathieu managed an impressive 4.5 40-yard dash time, an impressive 4.14 20-yard shuttle time and a good 34-inch vertical. All of these numbers are indicative of a pretty solid cornerback.
At LSU, particularly in the 2011 season, Mathieu put himself on the map with a solid ability to read passes and make tackles while also displaying uncanny special teams and return skills. If he can translate his Heisman-caliber performance to the NFL, he'd be a heck of an addition to Mike Zimmer's secondary.
Perhaps most importantly, Mathieu could take over for Brandon Tate in the return game.
Blair Walsh, Greg Zuerlein, and Justin Tucker all paid dividends for their respective teams in 2012 as rookie kickers.
Despite solid efforts from Mike Nugent and Josh Brown last season, it's time for Cincinnati to find a young kicker of their own. Special teams guys like Dustin Hopkins usually fall to the later rounds, and by this point in the draft, it's likely that Cincinnati will have filled most of their other big needs.
Last season at Florida State, Hopkins converted on 25-of-30 field goal attempts, with a long of 56 yards. It'd be nice to have a quality, accurate and strong-legged kicker in Cincinnati to add to a rather lackluster special teams game.
John Simon has yet to workout at the Combine, but given that his stock likely won't go up much anyway, it's worth going ahead and inserting him as the Bengals' final selection of 2013.
Quite a few experts and fans alike are suggesting that the Bengals need to go defensive end in Round One, but I'm not among them. I'm of the firm belief that Michael Johnson will be signed back to the squad and will continue to make an impact in the Queen City for years to come.
Simon should be brought in for depth, and perhaps he will turn out to be a diamond in the rough. He collected 44 tackles and nine sacks for the undeafeated Buckeyes last season, showing that he can be a quality defender. The knock on him is that he is smaller than most teams would like, and he isn't great at breaking off the line to guard a tight end or running back.
His greatest attributed are his speed and patience at the line. He is likely not going to be a star in the NFL, but having him provide depth on the roster could prove beneficial if he hones his game.