After three days of practice in pads, several of college football's senior prospects have risen dramatically on draft boards because of their performances. On the other hand, a few who were highly touted might have slipped a little bit because of poor showings. One of the main benefits of Senior Bowl observations for NFL coaching staffs is the ability to grade some of the "intangibles" such as effort and work ethic that don't necessarily present themselves on film or at the combine.
The Bengals are focusing on improving themselves at three main positions in the draft: offensive guard, running back, and in the defensive backfield. Here are some whose performance stood out, for good or for bad, during the three days of practice.
Running back: Boise State's Doug Martin may have had the best three days of any back. He showed both power and burst as a runner and an ability to run good routes and catch out of the backfield as well. If that weren't enough, he was impressive as a kick returner on the last day as well. Martin would make a good fit for the Bengals as part of a rotation with Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard, giving them three talented backs who are excellent receivers as well.
The University of Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead also had a great three days. SI.com's Tony Pauline called him the "toughest back to tackle" among all the participants. Pead was projected as a middle round pick going into the Senior Bowl, but may have moved himself up with his performance. His ability to contribute on special teams helps his stock as well.
Cornerback: Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard was tabbed by many to be the Bengals' target with one of their two first round choices. He had a terrible three days and may have not only practiced himself out of the first round, but out of his position. Several scouts commented that Dennard's inability to stay with receivers downfield may necessitate him moving to safety in the NFL. He won't get to show anything in the game this weekend, withdrawing due to a hip flexor injury. Whether or not the injury is to blame for his poor showing is unclear.
Janoris Jenkins out of North Alabama (and formerly Florida) confirmed his star status. Pauline emphasized Jenkins' "terrific ball skills" and his ability to blanket receivers all over the field. His off the field issues will be questioned however before a team makes him their first round selection.
Guard: If Georgia's Cordy Glenn is available, it's hard to think the Bengals would pass on him. He's a versatile lineman, having played tackle most of this season, but will most likely be a very athletic guard at the next level. He's not just agile, but tough straight ahead either with a bit of mean streak. Having a guard with Glenn's capabilities would be a great get for Jay Gruden given his penchant for pulling guards on run plays.
If Glenn is gone, or even if he isn't, the Bengals could get a bargain in a later round with Washington's Senio Kelemete. He too can play either guard or tackle and impressed scouts in Mobile with his athleticism. He was not projected at all on several draft boards. He could be a diamond in the rough.
Of course there are some caveats to remember when looking at these prospects. First, these are only seniors. A record number of underclassmen have declared and as many as 20 of them may be first round picks. Second, there's still the combine and pro days where teams will get a chance to view the "measurables" of these players. Who the Bengals are able to attract during free agency will play a major role in who they draft also.
In any event, this draft promises to be quite deep at the positions the Bengals are targeting. With a wealth of picks, this promises to be a key draft for the Bengals to add pieces to continue their development.
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