Going into the draft, everybody has their favorite prospects. Some people are high on talent, some are high on speed, and others are high on previous success--whatever the criteria, there's one name you desperately hope to hear the Bengals call on April 26th. The NFL Scouting Combine may not heavily influence that common fan's evaluation of prospects, but it does bear slightly more significance to the 32 NFL front offices. Earlier today, Cincy Jungle's own Mike Fightmaster discussed the importance of the NFL Combine and the impact it has on certain players' draft stock. Whether or not the Combine is that important is debatable, but pre-combine player rankings carry significance regardless.
Mike Mayock of NFL Network recently posted his top five players at each position heading into the Combine. For the positions most important to the Bengals--guard, cornerback, and running back--Mayock provides no shock at the No. 1 spots, but has quite a few interesting choices at No. 2 through No. 5. The rankings are as follows:
1. Morris Claiborne, LSU
2. Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
3. Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama
4. Trumaine Johnson, Montana
5. Leonard Johnson, Iowa State
This list is different from almost all other pre-combine cornerback rankings. The usual suspects of Claiborne, Kirkpatrick and Jenkins are no surprise as the top three prospects, but instead of the frequently heard names of Stephon Gilmore and Alonzo Dennard at No. 4 and No. 5, Mayock lists Trumaine Johnson and Leonard Johnson.
In comparison, Sports Illustrated's Tony Pauline listed Trumaine Johnson as the 9th best cornerback and Leonard Johnson as the 12th. Mayock does not elaborate on his selections, but it would be interesting to see why he values Johnson and Johnson more than Gilmore and Dennard. Perhaps he sees Gilmore and Dennard as busts--as most people feel about Dennard lately--and Johnson and Johnson as middle round sleepers, so he lists them according to that sentiment. Whatever the case, the addition of Trumaine Johnson and Leonard Johnson to the top five cornerbacks in the upcoming draft is sure to draw some attention and criticism.
Interior Offensive Lineman
1. David DeCastro, Stanford
2. Peter Konz, Wisconsin
3. Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin
4. Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State
5. Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State
Out: Glenn (switched groups from interior offensive lineman to tackle)
The first thing to notice is the guard de-classification of Georgia's Cordy Glenn. Glenn played both guard and tackle in college and has been listed as a guard prospect for most of this offseason, so it's fair to still classify him in that position. Mayock lists Glenn as the fourth best tackle prospect, behind certain first round selections Matt Kaliil, Reilly Reiff, and Mike Adams.
Of this list, DeCastro is the best guard talent by far (Konz is a center) and many Bengal fans will be crossing their fingers that he isn't off the board by picks No. 17 and 21. Zeitler, Silatolu and Osemele are projected by most as middle round picks, which may work out well if CIncinnati decides to address other positions with their first few picks.
1. Trent Richardson, Alabama
2. David Wilson, Virginia Tech
3. Lamar Miller, Miami (Fla.)
4. Doug Martin, Boise State
5. LaMichael James, Oregon
When it comes to the draft, running back the most highly debated position among fans. Should Cincy trade up to grab Richardson? Should a first rounder be used on running back at all? What about free agency?
Each of the top four on this list have been discussed as possible draft choices of the Bengals. All except LaMichael James. Draft scouts do not hold James in high regard despite his collegiate success, and usually predict him as a middle round selection. His inclusion in the top five means that another prospect was snubbed off the list--in this case, University of Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead. Pead's stock has been steadily rising since the end of the season--TFY Draft Insider now lists him as a possible second round pick--and has all the makings of a steal if he can be had with a middle round selection.
It's been said a thousand times, but this upcoming draft is sure going to be interesting.