NFL Draft: Senior Bowl Players to Watch - Defense

The Bengals will be involved in meaningful football in January. So what if it’s the Senior Bowl? With the CBA in flux, this may be closest thing to Bengals football we might see for a while. While coaching the Senior Bowl three times in seven years isn’t anything to brag about, you can look at the previous stints (2004, 2009) to forecast who could be on the 2011 Bengals roster. After coaching the North team in 2004, the Bengals have since drafted or signed seven players from that game. Keiwan Ratliff, Madieu Williams, Kyle Larson, Greg Brooks, Ronnie Ghent, Alex Stepanovich, and Kirk Champbers. Four players on today’s roster played in the 2009 Senior Bowl where the Bengals coached the North team. Rey Maualuga, Kevin Huber, Quan Cosby, and Cedric Peerman. So what does this tell us? We will probably draft a punter again. OK not really, but it does show that watching the Senior Bowl can be a preview of future Bengals. With that said, here’s a few players that I think we could see in stripes next season.

Defense:

Quinton Carter:  S   Oklahoma   6'1"  211 lbs.  No. 20  North Team

Carter is quickly rising on draft boards because of his great size and production over the last two seasons (185 tackles, eight interceptions). He added more weight before the Senior Bowl weigh-ins so it shows he’s been working hard. Only solid speed for Carter, but he makes up for it with good range and taking great angles to the ball carrier. He’s more of a strong safety that can play cover one if needed. Safety is a huge need heading into 2011 for the Bengals. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them take two during the draft.

Carter is expected to be there for the Bengals in round two, but there’s a chance he could be had in round three. Lets see how he plays this Saturday, and if it will effect his draft stock.

DeAndre McDaniel:  S  Clemson   6'0"  213 lbs.   No. 2   South Team

I’ve seen a bunch of Bengals fans asking for McDaniel to be one of the Bengals picks come April. He didn’t have a noticeable week of practice, but when I watch McDaniel play, I was thoroughly impressed. His range is like no other safety I’ve seen. If you got to watch Clemson vs. Georgia Tech, you might have seen two of the best interceptions ever. The problems with McDaniel are his lack of experience in the secondary (moved from linebacker to safety before 2009 season) and his character questions (arrested in 2008 for assault). Sounds perfect, not because he’s a typical Bengals troublemaker, but because these questions could push him into the third round where I expect a run of safeties to start.

Ahmad Black:  S  Florida   5'9"  184 lbs.   No. 35  South Team

What can I say about Ahmad Black? He’s a guy I want on my team. I don’t care if scouts say he’s small and slow. This man can play football. He had excellent production in the SEC (227 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 13 interceptions), and he consistently showed up on the practice field this week. His instincts and play recognition are top notch for a safety just coming out of college. Combine that with quick feet and great ball skills, and you have a player who will find a way into the NFL. Some people even wondered if teams would draft him as a cornerback because his feet are so good. Before this week’s practices, Black was considered a third or fourth round pick. If he plays the way he’s been practicing, Black could find himself in the late second to early third range.

Von Miller:  OLB   Texas A&M   6'3"  237 lbs.  No. 40   South Team

Miller was a top-15 player before this week’s practices. A great pass rusher, but too small for 3-4 OLB, and probably not athletic enough to play 4-3 OLB. At Texas A&M, Miller was a rush linebacker, a “Joker” as many teams call them. So now where does he play?  Miller showed up at the Senior Bowl weighing only 237 lbs. Despite his size, he is a phenomenal pass rusher. The way he bends around the corner is like no other player I have ever seen. The NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said, “Miller looks like he is defying gravity”. Teams running a 3-4 defense will ask him to add weight, while some say he could play strong-side linebacker for a traditional 4-3 defense. I was skeptical if Miller could fit a 4-3 team like the Bengals because he wasn’t asked to play much coverage in college. After getting a good look at him at the Senior Bowl practices, Miller was way more athletic than I thought. Yes he's light, and I still believe a poor fit for a 3-4 team. But he looks like a safety the way he can flip his hips, turn and cover a running back in the flats. I was thoroughly impressed. So were NFL scouts. Many now have him ranked as a top-5 player. We can now add him to the long list of possible picks for the Bengals at No. four overall. Miller will be playing in a 4-3 defense on Saturday, so we should get a good look at how he covers and plays the run. He’s not allowed to blitz because of Senior Bowl rules, but lets see if they let him put a hand down to rush the passer on third downs.

Go here for Senior Bowl frequently asked questions.

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