Baton Rouge was the latest Power 5 program a Bengals rep attended on Monday. The LSU Tigers routinely put out a host of NFL prospects in the draft, and have the most players of any college in the NFL, but this will be one of the weaker classes in recent memory for Les Miles' program. There may not be a first-round prospect among this year's crop of Tigers, though there are some interesting names to keep in mind after Round 1.
Perhaps the most intriguing prospect the Bengals may look at is one-year senior starter Deion Jones at outside linebacker. The 6'0", 221-pound Jones ran the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.38 seconds, which would have been the fourth-fastest 40 among linebackers at the NFL Scouting Combine. He did the 20-yard short shuttle in 4.26 seconds and the three-cone drill in 7.13 seconds while registering a 35.5-inch vertical jump.
That's a freakish workout for the athletic Jones, who showed flashes of said athleticism in college, but wasn't consistent enough to start until his final year. After finishing his junior year with 27 tackles and one pass deflection, Jones finished as the team leader in tackles with 100 this past year to go with 13.5 tackles for loss, five sacks and two interceptions with one of those interceptions being returned for a touchdown.
I like Lance Zierlein's breakdown of what Jones has to offer as an NFL prospect since it fits a lot of the traits the Bengals desire and frankly need more of on the outside.
Three-down linebacker prospect with outstanding athleticism and a willing, aggressive mindset for the position. Jones lacks the playing experience that most linebackers in this draft will have so he might need a year of tutelage on the NFL level to help him expedite his learning curve. Jones could be a fit at ILB for a 3-4 team or as an outside linebacker in a 4-3. Jones potential as a special teams cover man gives him a shot to get early playing time.
It seems like almost too good of a fit in that Jones would play a lot of special teams this year while learning and developing before becoming someone the Bengals can utilize a lot of because of his abilities in coverage. With Emmanuel Lamur now gone, linebackers who can cover well may be one of this team's biggest deficiencies.
After Jones, offensive guard Vadal Alexander is someone who should hear his name called by the end of Day 2. I don't see the Bengals spending a pick on a guard before Day 3.
Free safety Jalen Mills is someone to watch out for beginning in the late second round or third round.The four-year starter had an up-and-down career that ended on a fairly low note. Mills was injured in the offseason and missed some time early in the season while recovering from a fractured fibula, which limited him to just six games this past season.
Still, his first three years were promising enough that he's being touted as a Day 2 prospect. He finished his career with 134 total tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, four sacks and six interceptions.
Mills is also a guy who one NFL scout told NFL.com that, "I think he'll be a long-time player in the league because he has pretty good feel in coverage, but I also don't think he's a safety at all. He's a slot corner."
So more food for thought there since drafting a corner in the latter rounds is something the Bengals will do after letting Leon Hall leave, not to mention Darqueze Dennard coming off a major injury and Dre Kirkpatrick entering the final year of his deal.
One former Tiger to watch for is cornerback Rashard Robinson, who is one of this draft's more interesting prospects. Robinson last played at LSU in the 2013 season, but ran into a series of off-field issues that led to his eventual departure. CBS Sports still lists him as a top-150 prospect in this draft, even though he's not played football since 2013.
Robinson was suspended indefinitely in 2014 and attempted to return to LSU in 2015 in hopes of being reinstated, but it never happened so he didn't play football in 2015, opting instead to train in Florida. He was also arrested last year before the 2015 season began. I don't think Robinson will be drafted, but the Bengals could take a flyer on him late in the draft or as an undrafted free agent.
Another Pro Day the Bengals have recently attended is for the Richmond Spiders, which took place Tuesday. Though this program doesn't sport the level of NFL talent any of the Power 5 powerhouses put out, it's still good to see the Bengals doing their homework and peeking under every rock they can.
One Spider to watch out for in the draft is offensive lineman Nick Ritcher, who actually has NFL bloodlines. His father, Jim Ritcher, was part of a Bills offensive line that went to four Super Bowls while he played guard and center. The younger Ritcher played offensive tackle during college, which he projects to in the NFL.
It's hard to evaluate guys playing at the FCS level, but if offensive line coach Paul Alexander likes what he sees, don't be surprised if the Bengals draft the younger Ritcher.
One other Spider the Bengals may be interested in is wide receiver Reggie Diggs. This past season, the 6'4", 200-pound Diggs caught 66 passes for 901 yards (13.7 avg) and five scores in 14 games. Again, it's hard to evaluate players at the FCS level, but Diggs is now a name to watch for since the Bengals were at his Pro Day.