While the Senior Bowl is a major scouting opportunity for NFL teams to get exposed to many incoming prospects, it's the annual Scouting Combine that is the preeminent scouting event for staffs. The 2012 Combine will be held in Indianapolis on February 22nd and unlike the Senior Bowl, teams will get exposure to a number of declared underclassmen.
Sometimes labeled the "underwear olympics", the Combine is a few days of teams gathering in the confines of Lucas Oil Stadium to watch many young men run, jump, pass, kick and catch their way into the NFL. Certain positions are grouped together on certain days and the teams also get access to interview several players they are interested in drafting. This week is very important to teams and prospects alike, as one bad workout or interview could change a team's perception of a player.
With the team likely looking at wide receiver, cornerback, safety, defensive linemen and offensive linemen, they will have plenty of opportunities to see the top prospects at these positions in action. Most of the names that have been linked to the Bengals in mock drafts will be participating in Indianapolis.
The University of Alabama has the most invitees to the Combine with nine. The Bengals will be particularly interested on three of those attendees: safety Mark Barron, running back Trent Richardson, and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. Some controversy has swirled around Barron and Kirkpatrick recently, however. Barron was just diagnosed with a sports hernia injury and Kirkpatrick just cleared his name of a marijuana charge hanging over his head.
Over the past few years, the vast majority of players drafted were attendees of the Scouting Combine. February 22nd will be a big step in a critical offseason for the direction of the Bengals.