Some people love it, while others couldn't care less for it. To the average fan, the NFL Scouting Combine looks more like guys running around in tights (not that there's anything wrong with that) than it does actual football. So how much can you take from this draft season tradition? Should a player running in a straight line really fast make a team fall in love with him? Probably not, but tell Al Davis that. All joking aside, the Combine is to reassure what you've already seen on tape and answer questions you may have about a player. Why did this guy struggle in college? Can this guy get his weight up to play a specific NFL position? Is this player really as slow as he looks on film? Scouts take the stats from the Combine and add it to the puzzle that never gets solved. These numbers from the Scouting Combine aren't the magic formula to find the next great player, but rather they help coaches, scouts, and general managers (What's that?) get a better feel for these future NFL players.
With that said, some prospects really helped themselves this week with some eye popping numbers. Some guys may have even moved themselves into our discussion as to whom the Bengals should pick. Before the Scouting Combine, we may have thought our options included A.J. Green (WR, Georgia), Nick Fairley (DT, Auburn), Patrick Peterson (CB/S LSU) and DaQuan Bowers (DE, Clemson). Most fans figured that with four players at the top of many draft boards, at least one of them will be available with the fourth pick. After Marvin Lewis said the Bengals would look into the quarterback class for a future signal caller, you can now add Cam Newton (Auburn) and Blaine Gabbert (Missouri) into the mix at number four. That's now six reasonable options with the fourth pick. We've spoken enough about the quarterbacks for now, so here are four other players who may have entered the discussion. Bringing our total to 10 possible players to be picked by the Bengals with the No. 4 overall pick.
Julio Jones - WR - Alabama - 6'3" 220 lbs
40 Time: 4.39 (3rd) Vertical: 38.5" (7th) Bench Reps of 225 lbs: 17 (13th) Broad Jump: 11'3" (1st) 3 Cone Drill: 6.66 seconds (9th) 60 Yard Shuttle: 11.07 seconds (5th)
Julio Jones entered the draft process as the clear cut number two wide receiver available. Some people say Jones may have taken the top spot from A.J. Green after his amazing combine performance. Jones exceeded expectations in the 40-yard dash and posted one of the best broad jumps to ever be recorded at the combine. The best part about his impressive numbers? Jones seemed dissatisfied with himself after every drill and looked to be competing with his own expectations. I like that a lot. This guy is motivated and extremely competitive. I still think Green is the better receiver, but it's possible that Jones closed the gap enough to be considered a better fit for the Bengals. Julio Jones is big, fast, strong, tough, and an amazing run blocking wide out. His run after the catch ability and willingness to go over the middle may make Jones a better fit in the west coast offense and the rough AFC North division.
Note: I don't know if this is better for Jones or not, but he performed like this at the Combine with a broken foot that will require surgery. Wow.
Marcell Dareus - DT - Alabama - 6'3" 319 lbs
40 Time: 4.92 Bench Reps of 225 lbs: 22
The name Marcell Dareus has been thrown around here only a few times. He would have to make the transition from 3-4 end to 4-3 tackle in the Bengals scheme. Not a big deal because he would have the best chance to reach his potential there. If Dareus is competing with Nick Fairley to be the first defensive tackle selected, he may have created some separation. NFL Network's draft expert Mike Mayock said before the drills on Monday that "Bottom line, Fairley may have a little bit more upside, but I think Dareus is the safer pick." Dareus is almost a full 30 lbs heavier than Fairley and almost ran the same 40 time. Add that to his amazing 1.66 ten yard split, and I would have to agree with Mayock. He also showed good bend and fluidity during positional drills. Dareus is a very powerful player that probably locked up his spot in the top-five picks in the draft with a great performance.
Von Miller - OLB - Texas A&M - 6'3" 246 lbs
40 Time: 4.52 (2nd) Vertical: 37" (3rd) Bench Reps of 225 lbs: 17 (DNQ) Broad Jump: 10'6" (1st) 3 Cone Drill: 6.70 (1st)
The Bengals have already expressed their interest in moving Rey Maualuga to his more natural position in the middle. So that creates a hole a SAM backer. Enter Von Miller. If the Bengals are serious about creating a dominant defense with a consistent pass rush, there is no better pass rushing defender in this draft than Von Miller. He showed up at the Combine heavier (246 lbs) than he did at the Senior Bowl (237 lbs) and showed he can add the weight without losing speed. Miller posted the 2nd fastest 40 time and had the best broad jump of the linebackers. Miller has an amazing build for a rush linebacker and one scout even compared him to Derrick Thomas. Most scouts project Miller as an OLB in a 3-4 defense, but I think he would be a perfect fit for the Bengals strong side. As much as Maualuga is asked to rush the QB and almost never asked to play man coverage, Miller could be a perfect fit. He could also line up at DE on 3rd downs. He would complete a group of talented linebackers for the Bengals for years to come.
Robert Quinn - DE - North Carolina - 6'4" 265 lbs
40 Time: 4.70 (6th) Vertical: 34" (7th) Bench Reps of 225 lbs: 22 (DNQ) Broad Jump: 9'8" (11th) 3 Cone Drill: 7.07 seconds (12th)
When thinking of the Bengals drafting a defensive end in the first round. Most people think of DaQuan Bowers first. Robert Quinn didn't have a headliner type of workout, but he showed that he's in good shape after missing an entire year of football. A 4.70 time in the 40 yard dash may not seem very fast, but when you consider it was the 2nd best by a 4-3 defensive end, Quinn looks a lot better. Add in his 1.63 ten yard split, and you can tell the Quinn's biggest strength is his quick first step. Sure, the Bengals have Michael Johnson at right end, but Quinn would be also splitting time with Johnson while he gets his legs under him after missing the 2010 season. A nickel defensive front four of Quinn, Johnson, Atkins, and Dunlap would really give opposing offensive lines nightmares.