Marvin Lewis didn't have time to congratulate George Iloka on his five-year extension yesterday, as he was busy in Oklahoma. The Bengals head coach attended the Sooners' Pro Day, keeping an eye on players like cornerback Zack Sanchez.
Bengals HC Marvin Lewis here at #Sooners pro day. pic.twitter.com/xyQ6InxXWP— Scott Hiney (@scotthiney) March 9, 2016
Lewis reportedly kept a close eye on the Sooners' linebacking drills, but he was also impressed with Zack Sanchez, a corner projected to fall in one of the middle rounds of the 2016 NFL Draft. Sanchez ran the 40-yard dash in under 4.5 seconds, estimated in the range of 4.44-4.49, according to Walter Football's Tony Pauline. Sanchez met with the Bengals and 49ers after his workout.
Zack Sanchez turns heads at OU pro-day. Drawing interest from Cincinnati Bengals & San Francisco 49ers. https://t.co/eAc9lpevT6— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) March 9, 2016
Sanchez, at 5-foot-11, fits the Bengals' mold of a corner. He has longer arms than both Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard, yet he possesses the instincts and ball-hawking abilities that Cincinnati highly values. Sanchez was a playmaker, intercepting 15 passes over a three-year college career. Like most Bengals corners, Sanchez is an inconsistent tackler and gives up too many deep plays. But he's instinctual enough to jump routes and athletic enough to come up with big interceptions, which is what the Bengals look for. And with George Iloka back deep, the Bengals aren't too concerned with their corners giving up long passes.
Sanchez is in no way a perfect corner, but he fits the physical and schematic mold of what the Bengals look for in their corners; he'd mesh very well in Paul Guenther's defense.
Lewis is also taking a look at the Sooners linebackers, presumably to see how Eric Striker performs. Striker is extremely undersized, but he was extremely productive in his college career. If he were to come to Cincinnati, Striker would likely play a safety-linebacker hybrid role like Emmanuel Lamur and Taylor Mays once played. Perhaps Striker is the player Marvin Lewis has been looking for all these years to fill that role.
Another player Lewis was likely watching was wide receiver Sterling Shepard. Shepard stood on his combine numbers but worked out as both a wide receiver and punt returner at the Pro Day, and impressed in drills. Shepard is known as a great route-runner and he could be someone the Bengals look at to replace Marvin Jones or Mohamed Sanu. He's expected to be a day 2-3 draft pick and is rated the eighth best receiver in the draft by CBS Sports.
For a full list of the Sooners' Pro Day results, go here.