The NFL draft is now one month away from kicking off, and maybe the biggest Pro Day this year took place Monday.
No, it wasn't in Tuscaloosa, L.A., Baton Rouge, Columbus or even somewhere in Florida. It was in little old Oxford, Mississippi as the Ole Miss Rebels put their pro talent on display one last time before many of their players hear their names called early and often during the draft.
Anywhere between 6-8 Rebels will hear their names called during the draft, including perhaps the No. 1 overall prospect in offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. He's contending with Florida State's Jalen Ramsey to be the first pick, so the Bengals will probably show little interest in the mammoth tackle.
Another Rebel likely off the board when Cincinnati picks at 24 is wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. Many regard the 6'2", 221-pound physical specimen as this draft's best receiver, so it's hard to see him falling to the 24th pick. But while Treadwell is an excellent possession receiver who had little trouble getting open in college, his straight-line speed is a concern for teams that make it possible he's on the board in the 20s.
About what was expected. Treadwell no slam dunk to be 1st WR taken. Some evaluators prefer Doctson as a prospect. https://t.co/GSZrKZgFjs— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 28, 2016
Treadwell's porous 4.65 40-yard dash at his Pro Day did nothing to help that cause. He's still a guy who will make an impact his rookie year and become a good NFL receiver. The only questions are, will he be on the board at 24, and does Cincinnati pull the trigger if so?
You can still like him at WR1, but 4.65 and a 33" vertical (plus a really bad ankle injury) aren't good for Treadwell.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 28, 2016
Dane Brugler of CBS Sports wrote,"If I'm listing the top reasons why I really like Laquon Treadwell, speed isn't among them." Yahoo Sports writer Eric Edholm points out another great reason not to put too much stock into this:
Larry Fitzgerald, at virtually the same size, ran a 4.63 at the combine and was the third overall pick in the draft. Anquan Boldin, at 216 pounds, ran a 4.71. And Boldin's was the second-most famous 4.71 ever; Jerry Rice ran that at below 200 pounds. Dez Bryant ran in the high 4.5s at 225 pounds.
The only other first-round prospect Ole Miss has is defensive (enigma) tackle Robert Nkemdiche. He's a first-round talent with a lot of off-field issues and questionable work ethic that likely will cause him to fall into Round 2.
Not only were the Bengals at Nkemdiche's Pro Day, but defensive line coaches from Cincinnati and Miami ran his drills:
As was expressed to me, defensive line coaches from the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals ran the defensive line workout and tried to break Robert Nkemdiche, but could not. Everyone in attendance was very impressed with his position drills with some calling it a "special workout."
He'd be a tremendous value pick if he's on the board at 53 when Cincy makes their second pick, though this is already a crowded position with Brandon Thompson and Pat Sims re-signed.
With the Bengals letting Andre Smith go this offseason, they could be in the market for a developmental lineman in the latter rounds. That's why Ole Miss tackle Fahn Cooper may be someone to look out for. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein's evaluation of Cooper suggests he may be a good fit for the Bengals since he's not a good pass-blocker, which gets negated for a lot of guys in Cincinnati with Andy Dalton and the quick-passing offense. He's still not someone to look for until Round 4 at the earliest.
The Rebels have another receiver that may interest the Bengals in the form of Cody Core. The 6'3", 205-pounder caught 78 passes for 1,202 yards and 10 scores over the past two seasons in Oxford. Roster Watch did a nice draft profile of Core and compared him to some notable NFL receivers, noting how he's a physical guy not afraid to go over the middle with bodies around him.
Cody Core (@cody88core) not afraid to make this tough catch surrounded by bodies https://t.co/5VclZJSTPi— IDthe22 (@idthe22) January 24, 2016
NFL.com's Lance Zierlein also pointed out a number of traits that could make Core a nice target for the Bengals.
Core played mostly special teams, and even some defensive back, during his first two years in Oxford. But then the door opened for him as a receiver in 2014, and he took advantage (41-558, six touchdowns). Core's numbers didn't increase as a senior due to the return of Laquon Treadwell and quarterback Chad Kelly's ability to spread the ball around (37-644, four TD) but his big play ability (17.4 yards per catch in 2015) is obvious.
Good overall size. Pushes hard upfield to sell the deep ball and put defender in defensive posture. Good leaper who uses his size and spring to go up and get the ball. Strong enough to grind out yards after the catch with his size. Effective special teams cover man during his time at Ole Miss with 18 tackles. Able-bodied blocker.
The Bengals love their rookies, especially the late-round guys, to be major contributors on special teams. They've gone as far as to spend picks on guys like James Wright just based on their special teams impact, so keep an eye out for Core once Day 3 of the draft begins.
One other Rebel to watch for late in the draft is cornerback Mike Hilton. A second-team All-SEC pick this past season, Hilton was one of the league's best corners as he finished third on the team in tackles with 70. Hilton also recorded 12.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, 1.5 sacks, and 13 pass breakups.
Just watching him play, you'd think Hilton would be projected to go higher than his 261st-overall ranking by CBS suggests. The problem is his 5'8", 179-pound frame. That's not a death sentence for his pro career, but it will certainly limit his ability to be an effective NFL corner.
CBS Sports' Jamie Newberg wrote a favorable review of Hilton and why he can make an impact in the pros:
He may be on the small side but this is a defensive back that could be a huge asset to an NFL defense. First, I think he's ideal to play the slot cornerback position. He will be matched up more favorably to the smaller, slot receivers in the NFL. He has the athleticism to keep pace with most in coverage. Secondly, Hilton is a physical player that's very good playing close to the line of scrimmage. He can set the edge and be a very effective player in run support. Hilton brings leadership, toughness and a love of the game to the professional level. Hilton can play free or strong safety and the cornerback spot. He won't go high in the Draft like some of his Ole Miss teammates but I see Hilton having a good NFL future, particularly in the right defensive scheme that can utilize his scheme versatility.
With slot corner Leon Hall still unsigned, the Bengals could use another guy whose specialty is there, so watch for Hilton on Day 3.
Some other names that could draw consideration in the late rounds and/or as undrafted free agents include linebacker C.J. Johnson, offensive guard Aaron Morris, and strong safety Trae Elston.
Of all the names mentioned, which interest you the most for Cincinnati?