On Thursday, the Bengals attended Penn State's Pro Day. Cincinnati's last player out of Penn State was Devon Stil, in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, a pick that never seemed to pan out of the Bengals. Notorious former first-round pick Ki-Jana Carter was also out of Penn State. However, two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Mike Reid was also a first-round pick for the Bengals in 1970.
If the Bengals were to select a Penn State player, it would probably be a defensive tackle. Nose tackle Austin Johnson, at 6-foot-4 and 314 pounds, projects as a second round prospect and would be a nice upgrade over Domata Peko. Cincinnati likely took a long look at Johnson, as the Bengals staff reportedly ran the defensive line drills.
Carl Nassib is also a guy to keep an eye on. The 6-foot-7, 277-pound defensive end fits the bill for what the Bengals are looking for in a defensive end; he's tall, long and quick. His brother, Ryan, is the Giants' backup quarterback.
Nassib was the national sack leader in 2015, despite missing two games last season. Nassib, like former second-rounder Margus Hunt, would be a project prospect, but he has a floor much higher than the Estonian defensive end who is already 28-years-old. Nassib could come off the board in the second or third round, and the Bengals should certainly consider taking a chance on him as a rotational end and potential replacement for Michael Johnson down the line.
Quarterback Christian Hackenberg could go in the second or third round, but Cincinnati doesn't have much need there. The Bengals don't need an additional quarterback, considering how great of a backup AJ McCarron proved to be in 2015. Hackenberg will likely hear his name called in the second or third round, perhaps by a team who needs a starting quarterback.
Strong safety Jordan Lucas is anticipated to come off the board in the sixth round. Lucas actually played corner for his first two seasons at Penn State, but switched to safety in 2015. He suffered an undisclosed right arm injury in November of last season and never returned to the field. His versatility could be of interest to the Bengals.
Finally, 6-foot-4 defensive end Anthony Zettel could come off the board late. He's projected as a seventh-rounder, boasting a great motor but extremely subpar physical attributes. His junior season was slightly better than his senior season. Over the course of his PSU career, he had 20.0 sacks, 38 career tackles for loss and was the only FBS player ranked among the national leaders in sacks and interceptions per game in 2014.