To be a successful team in the NFL, a team has to score big with annual draft hauls. Lately, the Cincinnati Bengals have been putting on clinics to other franchises on how to be winners over draft weekend. One could argue that for the past three to five years the Bengals have been swooping up quality talent that has been a major contributing factor to their three postseason appearances in that time window. It's becoming a Bengals fan expectation that the team will receive high grades and praise for their efforts at the end of every April.
Because of their limited resources and small front office staff, there might not be any other NFL coaching staff that does more grunt work in the draft than Marvin Lewis and Co. If you had been paying attention to our comprehensive lists and streams of prospect visits, university Pro Days and other private workouts, you would have noticed that the Bengals coaching staff and scouts have racked up quite a few frequent flyer miles.
After the smoke cleared from what looks to be another potentially outstanding Bengals draft class, I began to wonder how much stock the team placed in these Pro Days, visits and other workouts. Going through these hoops are a necessary practice for any NFL team, but again, with the limited manpower that the Brown family employs in their front office, the coaching staff becomes part of the foot soldiers in scouting. Were there any patterns? Do these visits subtly point to the players that they end up drafting?
Here is what I found out:
The Bengals were in attendance for seven of their ten 2013 draft picks' Pro Days and/or had a private visit with them. I didn't do the legwork to see how that stacks up against the league average, but I'd assume that that would be on the high side. A representative and/or Bengals coach was in attendance for the Pro Days at Notre Dame, North Carolina, SMU, Texas A & M, and South Carolina. We did not receive confirmation that the team was in attendance for the Pro Days at Georgia (as if they don't have a good enough pulse on that school already), Arkansas and Kansas. We also didn't directly receive confirmation that they were at the Ohio State Pro Day, but the team had a private visit with Reid Fragel.
The Bengals were in attendance at the Pro Days of three of their top four picks in 2013. This stat may or may not say a lot about their scouting practices. They obviously took a lot of stock in what they saw up close with a handful of their top picks. Interestingly, the team was pretty involved at the Texas A & M Pro Day and we mistook that they were really intrigued by defensive end DaMontre Moore. It turns out that the staff really liked linebacker Sean Porter, who wasn't even really on our radar as a possibility.
The Bengals sent smoke signals that they were going to draft a tight end high in 2013. Though some of us refused to believe it, the Bengals wanted another pass-catching tight end this year. Aside from attending Notre Dame's Pro Day to see their future first round selection in tight end Tyler Eifert, the team also sent position coach Jay Hayes to San Diego State's workout to have a look at Gavin Escobar, as well as staying in their own backyard to look at the University of Cincinnati's Travis Kelce. When the idea was first kicked around to "Bengaldom" about an early tight end, we saw a lot of negative feedback, though that has seemed to turn to optimism with the Eifert selection.
The Bengals drafted two players from Pro Days at which their coaches conducted the drills. We're not sure if this means anything or not, but it is worth noting. Both Hayes brothers conducted workouts at the Notre Dame and Texas A & M Pro Days. This may or may not have directly led to the team selecting Eifert and Porter.
The Bengals were taking a running back high and Giovani Bernard was always their guy. We spent all offseason wondering who the Bengals would be adding to the running back stable to complement BenJarvus Green-Ellis, be it a rookie or a veteran like Ahmad Bradshaw. The team opted to bring back Bernard Scott, but always had another Bernard in their sights, in North Carolina's Giovani Bernard. Aside from showing interest in Le'Veon Bell, Eddie Lacy and even Marcus Lattimore, the Bengals paid the most attention to Bernard. From his Pro Day to the wine-and-dine visit he had with the staff, the Bengals were smitten. Running backs coach, Hue Jackson also is apparently giddy about Bernard--maybe it's because he could pass as Jackson's son with eerily similar-looking facial qualities.
These visits are a critical part in the team's recruitment of undrafted free agents. By my count, six of the Bengals' of the 14 UDFAs this year were from schools that the Bengals had paid a visit. Every year it seems like a handful of these players seem to stick with the club, be it on the final roster or the practice squad and it appears that this year will be more of the same. If you were to ask us today who has the best chance to make the final roster, I think I'd place my money on Onterio McCalebb (who is from Auburn and the Bengals saw at his Pro Day), and/or linebacker Jayson Dimanche.
So, there you have it. Take the data however you would like, but if you weren't paying much attention to the team's activity in this regard in 2013, you may want to pay closer attention next year. Some recurring names and positions from those visits and workouts are likely to be headed to Cincinnati.
+ Some sad news out of San Diego with the passing of former Chargers running back, Chuck Muncie. He died of a heart attack on Tuesday at the relatively young age of 60. Muncie was a three-time Pro Bowl selection during his nine-year NFL career and was named one of the 50 greatest Chargers of all-time by the club. He had a previous stint with the Saints and was a touchdown machine for both clubs, rushing for 11 touchdowns in 1979, 19 in 1981 and another 11 in 1983. Muncie finished with 71 career touchdowns in those nine seasons.
Unfortunately for Muncie, he had some demons throughout the 1980s. He had a well-documented love affair with cocaine during both his playing days and in the years after, and that undoubtedly had some sort of contribution to his heart attack earlier this week. But, Muncie was one of those types of people that turned a negative chapter in his life to a positive.
For many years, Muncie ran a foundation to reach out to at-risk youth. According to reports, the foundation had assistance programs with drug issues, gang involvement and even things like tattoo removal. It was a great story for a man that had so many personal demons and had a fall from grace. Rest in peace, Chuck.