The Cincinnati Bengals were on hand at South Florida's pro day this week, and one player they showed specific interest in was defensive end Aaron Lynch. After looking like a future top 10 draft pick at Notre Dame, Lynch transferred to South Florida and sat out the 2012 season.
After a sos-so 2013 campaign, Lynch declared for the draft, despite only having two full seasons of college football under his belt.
Needless to say, he's one of the biggest wildcards in this year's draft, so I talked with Mike Mallory, who covers the Bulls for their school newspaper, The Oracle. He offered an in-depth background on Lynch and what kind of NFL prospect he is.
1. It was reported the Bengals sent defensive line coach Jay Hayes to work with Lynch. What did they do drill-wise and talk about?
At first I thought he was just a scout. But If there were any other coaches there, they sure didn't stand out. Hayes was running the defensive line drills with his strong voice.
Anyhow, Lynch has been batting a hamstring that he pulled prior to the combine, which is why he did no running or drills there. It was bothering him on pro day as well. said he wishes he had another week to get ready.
But after initially not running the cone drill, after everyone was done, Lynch decided to give it a shot and looked pretty good. Lynch was the last player on the field, as he spoke to our football SID, D coordinator Chuck Bresnahan, and Hayes, who was locking arms with him, teaching what looked to be just the proper angles to use his hands. They were kind of forearm to forearm, up high, just standing there. It was nothing intense.
Afterward, Lynch came over to speak, and said that he enjoyed the talk with Hayes more than anything, which included technique and "life lessons" as he called it.
2. Do you feel the Bengals like Lynch and will target him at some point in the NFL Draft?
It would seem very Bengal-like to make the pick in the second half of the draft. I say that because of their tendency to choose questionable-background players. No one at that pro day paying attention to what went on would be surprised by the pick.
I don't know if that's common for a coach to fly in and spend extended time with a player at a pro day, but Hayes was the only one who did so. Unlike many of those Bengal picks, Lynch hasn't been arrested and was never suspended for significant time, but his off field situation is interesting.
He said at the combine everyone asked two things, why he transferred out of ND, and why he lost weight. He said there was no other reason than his girlfriend at the time, who he ended up marrying and then, as he told us, got a divorce a couple months ago. He's tweeted recent pictures with her though, so I believe they're still together.
If I were an NFL personnel guy, I'm questioning him hard on that one. I mean it's Notre Dame, he was a freshman all American and left. And with line-mates Luis Nix and Stephon Tuitt next to him, he'd be a first rounder with 3 years in game experience. instead he had just two and I don't think he's going in the top 3 rounds. He's just been one of those guys who makes you say. "it's always something with him.
As far as which NFL teams are interested, the Bengals and Chiefs respectively are all I have on that right now.
3. Talk about Tevin Mims, the less heralded of USF's two defensive ends.
Post-pro day was the first time I actually spoke to Mims, and he seems to have his head on straight especially when compared to Lynch. next to DeDe Lattimore, who for some reason stared dead into the camera the whole time (he's never done that) , Mims was polished, well spoken and calm.
Mentally, I think Mims is an NFL guy. He can handle it. Never heard a bad word about him off the field. While Lynch discussed the possibility of having his family in New York during the draft, Mims said he'd be fishing with his family in Texas. He has a great attitude.
Physically, Mims is a tank. He's thick top to bottom. He started his career as a Texas Longhorn 5 years ago, went to Juco and ended up at USF.
Mims LOOKS like an NFL player. Even his handshake was a death grip, compared to Lynch's soft hands and soft handshake. Compared to the lanky Lynch, Mims stands out as most well put together of the three.
But I just don't know if he is an NFL player. As big as he is, he may have reached his physical potential. He's not explosive and doesn't flash. Only had one sack last season I believe. Maybe he could drop muscle and work on quickness and be a backup 3-4 outside linebacker.
He said teams have talked to him about being a rushbacker. He said the Chiefs have expressed the most interest in him and I could see why. Physically he's like Tamba Hali, a thick body, but I don't think he will be nearly the player.
4. If you had to write a very brief scouting report on Lynch, what would it be?
He has huge potential and upside. Has top 15 pick athleticism if he was polished off the field and a consistent performer with more muscle. Needs to put on at least 15 good pounds to play end. Inconsistent. Has a temper that showed on field. Best games were his last four, ironically.
Needs to be with the right coach who can tap into his brain at any given time and know how to get consistent results. Did he leave for NFL because people are in his ear, or because he really believes he's an NFL player? Only looked NFL ready in last four games, which allowed his stats to slightly pass his freshman Notre Dame stats.
After freshman All-American honors with the Irish, was projected in future mock drafts as high as top 10. Could have used another year in college. Only played games in two seasons after sitting out following transfer.
In his one season here, it was always something. Taggart benched him for the first quarter of a game for violation of team rules, he also benched him when he had back to back boneheaded penalties, then Lynch proceeded to sit at the end of the bench for a good few minutes.
The one time he spoke to the media during the season, was after the Bulls dropped to 2-8 and were heading into the UCF game. He said "UCF is a good team but USF is a great team" . We were all kind of dumbfounded. USF almost beat them though. He's really something else.
Now, on the field. If you look at Lynch's TFL and sacks last season, most of those came in the last four games. He was noticeably playing with more effort, and smarter. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense to sit out a year as a transfer then leave, but I think as time wore on here on campus, he wasnt happy with how things were going. Turned on the switch and realized he had no NFL shot this season if he didn't start to make an impact.
If Lynch played that way the whole year, with relentless effort and focus, he would've had double digit sacks. He's a great athlete. If he stayed at ND I think he's possibly a top 15 pick.
He said teams had been talking to him about being a rushbacker, which he did a little bit of this past season. he'd probably be the tallest outside linebacker in the league, and I don't think you want him dropping into coverage.
Just because he's athletic doesn't mean he'll be assignment sound. I think he belongs around 270 in a 4-3. He's too lanky.
7. What are your thoughts on linebacker DeDe Lattimore?
Most of us who cover the team would tell you linebacker DeDe Lattimore was consistently the best player on the USF team. For some reason wasn't invited to combine. He'll be drafted. Should be anyway. I'm a fan of his. He sacked Teddy Bridgewater twice on delayed blitzes. Only player that showed up that game.
Mike also mentioned the Chiefs as a team specifically looking at Mims.
Be sure to follow Mallory on Twitter, @MikeMalloryUSF.