Michigan State hosted the Bengals and all 31 other NFL teams this week as the Spartans' top draft prospects worked out.
The Spartans' top prospect and possible first-round pick is offensive tackle Jack Conklin, whom should draw little-to-no consideration from the Bengals. That's just not an area they'll address unless it's just an absolute steal where they're getting said tackle, which Conklin is not at 24.
The same goes for MSU quarterback Connor Cook, who will probably be drafted within the first three rounds when Cincy isn't looking for another backup passer.
But there is one Spartans lineman who the Bengals should have sing infant interest in. That's Jack Allen, who was one of the best centers in college football this past season and would likely be an upgrade over Russell Bodine.
A first team All-American and first-team All-Big Ten selection this past season, Allen was a four-year starter for the Big Ten champs and routinely held his own against NFL-caliber defensive lineman. Just this past season, Allen did well against Ohio State's Adolphus Washington (projected as a first/second-round pick), Alabama's A'Shawn Robinson (projected first-round pick) and Nebraska's Maliek Collins (projected second-round pick).
Allen screams of someone the Bengals coaches would love, as Lance Zierlein writes in his scouting report of Allen:
Despite having a cat named "Bubbles," Allen is a coach's dream with the leadership, competitiveness and the tenacious mindset to grind out the will of defenders by the end of the fourth quarter. While there are clearly some athletic limitations, Allen is especially adept at minimizing those while accentuating his strengths. There are too many check marks in his favor to expect him to fall short of an NFL career as an eventual starter.
Zierlein also compares Allen to former Bears center Olin Kreutz, who went to six Pro Bowls and helped lead Chicago to Super Bowl 41. As close as this Bengals team is to being a true Super Bowl contender, maybe Allen can be their Olin Kreutz and help them break through.
This offensive line is probably just a good center away from being truly elite, and Allen might be enough to help them reach that level. Even better is that Allen is good, but not exactly someone that will be drafted early and should be there on the board in Round 2 and possibly 3 for Cincy to snag.
Another Spartan that may interest the Bengals is defensive end Shilique Calhoun, who actually was talked up as a possible first-round target for the Bengals last year before he opted to stay in school for his senior year. That didn't exactly help him as he had a so-so year and is now projected as a second-round pick.
Like we mentioned yesterday with Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman, Calhoun is a raw athletic freak who could be developed into a quality NFL pass-rusher with time and patience. Calhoun is more polished though and should make an impact his rookie year, which is why he's projected as a top 50-60 pick.
That means the Bengals will probably have to target him in Round 2 if he's even still on the board when Cincy picks at 55. I doubt the Bengals take a defensive end that early, but Calhoun would be a solid pick there.
But the Spartan prospect who may be the best fit for the Bengals is wide receiver Aaron Burbridge. His game reminds me a bit of Marvin Jones in that he doesn't do any one thing great, but is a solid route-runner who can bring in contested balls over cornerbacks.
I'm watching Michigan State LT Jack Conklin at the airport, but WR Aaron Burbridge jumps off of the tape. https://t.co/WthaTXrVNo— Lorin Cox (@CoxSports1) December 29, 2015
He's also hard to take down and can make guys miss after the catch like Jones could:
Aaron Burbridge with the Spartan play of the year? https://t.co/F9GlH51ilj— Brent Cohen (@Spar10dude) February 2, 2016
The problem with him is drops and he doesn't do great getting off press coverage.
There's a lot to like about Aaron Burbridge, but drops a definitely a problem for the Michigan State WR. pic.twitter.com/JunONocRx1— Ethan Young (@NFLDrafter) January 7, 2016
Still, he's a guy I'd love to see the Bengals land in the latter rounds, even if they do take a receiver in Round 1. Most experts project him as a Day 3 prospect, but I would be happy if Cincinnati takes him in Round 3 at pick No. 87.
Another Pro Day the Bengals attended recently is right in their backyard as Kent State showcased their top NFL talent with Cincinnati reps there. That may have been the Bengals doing their due diligence though as no Golden Flasher is projected to be drafted, and the only player with a draftable grade is fullback Trayion Durham.
The 6'0", 261-pound power back played both running back and fullback in college. He's a similar prospect as to Mike Tolbert for the Panthers, so if the Bengals want that instead of what Ryan Hewitt gives them, then maybe Durham is a guy to look for in Round 7. Maybe the Bengals draft him and make Hewitt more of a full-time tight end/h-back.
The Bengals also made a trip to Annapolis for Navy's Pro Day. The Midshipmen don't usually have any guys with draftable grades, but they do this year in two of their backs.
The one everyone knows is star quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who is moving to running back for the NFL and put on a nice show at his workout. He may even play some slot receiver in the NFL, so that could make him a target for the Bengals. He's projected as a seventh-round pick/undrafted free agent, so don't expect Cincinnati to spend a pick on him.
Fullback Chris Swain is also a name to watch for as he too is projected as a late Day 3 pick or undrafted free agent. He's more of a true fullback even though he played in Navy's triple-option offense.
Again, if a true fullback is something the Bengals want, he's someone to monitor, but I doubt they go that route.