With January 15th being the deadline for draft eligible players to declare for the NFL Draft, the list of underclassmen continues to grow. The majority of players planning to declare have already done so, but we could expect a few more to announce their decisions by Sunday.
Yesterday's news involved the two most talented teams in the country as Alabama and LSU held press conferences for their declaring players.LSU will lose two top-15 picks in CB Morris Claiborne and DT Michael Brockers. Alabama's underclassmen include first round picks CB Dre Kirkpatrick, RB Trent Richardson, and LB Dont'a Hightower. The only surprise of this bunch is Brockers, who was a redshirt sophomore, but he will probably end up being the first DT drafted. Also declaring today is Reuben Randle, WR from LSU. Randle is a big, strong, physical WR who will be very appealing to west coast type offenses starting in the top of round two.
How does this affect the Bengals?
I fully expect four of these five players to be selected before the Bengals first pick at 17. That only helps push down a few more players to the Bengals. We can all hope that any one of these players will fall to the Bengals. Claiborne, Kirkpatrick and Richardson all would fill major needs. Claiborne is expected to be a top-8 pick, while Kirkpatrick is a top-15. Richardson is the wild card. While most consider him one of the few elite prospects, the RB position has been devalued by the NFL recently. There is a small chance Richardson could be available at pick-17. He is the exception to the rule of never drafting a RB in round one. Trent Richardson is a stud and only ranks behind Adrian Peterson and Darren McFadden in RBs drafted in the last five years. That's why I really don't see him being available outside of the top-12 picks. The realistic option from the BCS Championship teams is LB Dont'a Hightower. If the Bengals are ready to move Maualuga back to Sam LB, or have some different combination of LBs to surround Maualuga, Hightower is a guy who could play both positions while the Bengals wait for Rey to figure it out.
Here's the full list of underclassmen who have already declared and a few who I would really like to see in stripes in round one.
David DeCastro - G - Stanford
Lamar Miller - RB - Miami
Peter Konz - C/G - Wisconsin
Nick Perry - DE - USC
Whitney Mercilus - DE - Illinois
Stephon Gilmore - CB