As the Bengals prepare for the draft, they're doing their homework on some of the key prospects this year. Two of the many Pro Days the Bengals attended this week were University of Michigan and San Jose State.
Prospects from each of these schools are hoping that these events have helped teams like the Bengals value their services in the draft.
The Bengals sent their new defensive line coach, Jacob Burney to Michigan's Pro Day, confirmed by Walter Football, hinting that they could be interested in one player in particular. That player is defensive tackle, Willie Henry. Henry has all of the natural motivation and drive to succeed at the NFL level, although scouts worry about his hand technique and his ability to fit into NFL systems. As a result, even though he is the only real prospect projected to be drafted this year from Michigan, he's likely to fall to the fifth round, where the Bengals could pounce on his potential.
Pauline confirmed that the Bengals were one of three teams to work out Henry, along with the Jets and Patriots. Some of Michigan's lesser known prospects include outside linebacker Jamie Ross and free safety Jarrod Wilson. Both are expected to be priority free agents following the draft.
Ross projects the kind of strength and closing speed that excites prospects, but a lack of confidence and discipline scares many away. Wilson helped to lead one of the best college secondaries in the nation, although he tends to shy away from the spotlight. As a result, he seems to be a perfect fit for a Bengals squad that may have a hole in their free safety depth this coming season.
The Bengals also have worked out a prospect from San Jose State, Tyler Ervin, per Walter Football. The Bengals don't really need a running back in this year's draft, even in the fourth or fifth round when Ervin is projected to be taken off the board.
However, the possibility still remains that they were at the Pro Day to check out San Jose State's cornerback, Cleveland Wallace III. Wallace is not necessarily expected to be drafted, but he's got the kind of frame and patience that could lead to success at the NFL level. The Bengals could be looking at him potentially in the seventh round or even as a priority free agent, to help shore up the back end of their depth chart.
It's also safe to assume that the Bengals attended the University of California's Pro Day. Players like wide receivers Kenny Lawler and Trevor Davis, and defensive lineman Mustafa Jalil. Lawler was Jared Goff's favorite target at Cal with the kind of highlight tape to show exactly why.
To his detriment, he has a very thin frame and doesn't seem to possess the kind of speed that you'll need to burn NFL defensive backs. This could cause him to fall to the third or early fourth round. The Bengals will likely be looking to the first or second round for a wide receiver, but it's possible they take two receivers in the draft. Lawler seems like the perfect value option.
Davis is not exactly the most well known player in this years draft, but it's easy to see why the Bengals would have at least a passing interest in the receiver. As far as measurables go, Davis has a very similar build to Mohamed Sanu, albeit a bit thinner. Davis actually out-performed Lawler at the NFL combine, posting an impressive 4.42 in the 40-yard dash and a 38.5" vertical. Lawler has the highlight tape to assure that he'll be the only Cal receiver drafted in April, but the Bengals might have been impressed enough by Davis to sign him to a free agent contract following the draft.
Jalil is a priority free agent whom the Bengals may be interested in. When facing a single blocker, he has been known to do incredible things, like recording a safety against USC in his senior season. If an NFL team can properly develop his technique to be more consistent, he could be an effective pass rusher who could command respect and extra blocking away from a high-end weapon like Geno Atkins.