With NFL free agency now here, it's easy to forget that the college Pro Day circuit continues with a big week ahead.
Oklahoma State, Louisville, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Clemson, Oregon and Ohio State are among the schools showcasing their NFL talent this week. The big Pro Day taking place Monday was at Auburn, where representatives from every NFL team but the Arizona Cardinals were in attendance.
Among those in attendance were New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley, former Auburn tight end and current Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah, and Bengals running backs coach Kyle Caskey.
Bengals TE @cjuzomah81 at @FootballAU Pro Day. 5th-round pick in 2015 NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/x90ImjBtk0— Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) March 7, 2016
Coming into this past college season, Tigers wide receiver D'Haquille 'Duke' Williams was viewed as one of the top pass-catchers in this draft class, not to mention Auburn's best draft prospect. The big 6'2", 216-pound receiver caught 45 passes for 730 yards and five touchdowns despite missing three games in 2014 and was expected to be an All-American candidate in 2015.
That is, until multiple suspensions and poor play led to him being dismissed from the program midway through the year. But Williams was invited to participate in Auburn's Pro Day, a possible sign he was getting his life straightened out and on the right path.
Then again, head coach Gus Malzhan didn't exactly speak glowingly about Duke or letting him workout at Auburn:
#Auburn coach Gus Malzahn on the decision to let Duke Williams participate in Pro Day pic.twitter.com/6TB11uOZ5o— Ben Bolton (@BoltonSports) March 7, 2016
Duke Williams left Auburn's Pro Day without speaking to the media...— Tom Green (@AUBlog) March 7, 2016
Despite all of his issues, Williams did earn an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine, where he more or less admitted to his issues. Assuming the Bengals need a receiver in this year's NFL draft, he might be a reclamation project to watch out for toward the end of Day 3, or maybe even as a priority free agent.
Most draft analysts and gurus view Auburn's pair of offensive tackles as the Tigers' best NFL prospects. Shon Coleman is viewed as a possible late first-round pick, though injuries are keeping him from working out and improving his stock.
Fellow tackle Avery Young is viewed as a Day 3 developmental lineman who probably makes more sense for the Bengals, assuming they don't spend a high pick on an offensive lineman other than center. Coleman and Young were both ranked among Pro Football Focus' top four offensive tackles in the SEC this past season.
Anytime you play at a high level in the best conference in college football, you're going to get NFL interest. It's worth noting that ESPN's Mel Kiper views both of them as Round 2 or 3 prospects.
One Tiger whose draft stock is rising is defensive back Jonathan Jones. The All-SEC corner recorded seven interceptions, 24 pass breakups and 105 tackles over the past two season as a full-time starter while earning all-league honors in 2014.
Going into this year's Scouting Combine, Jones was projected as a Day 3 pick before he ran a blazing 4.33 official 40-yard dash. His unofficial time was 4.28 seconds, which would've ranked among the best ever recorded at the combine (Cardinals RB Chris Johnson's time of 4.24 seconds is the current record).
Even with his speed, Jones was never used in the return game at Auburn, but said he'd field punts at practice. His speed alone will have NFL teams looking to utilize him on special teams, whether it's as a gunner or returner, and we know how much the Bengals value those kinds of contributions.
Not to mention Cincinnati may quickly be in need of multiple corners after free agency possibly leaves them without Leon Hall and/or Adam Jones. Jonathan is barely in CBS Sports' top 100 prospects, so he could be an early Day 3 target for Cincinnati.
Wide receiver Ricardo Louis is another Day 3 prospect just trying to ensure he hears his named called during the draft. He was a quality receiver this past season, despite Auburn having major issues and changes at quarterback throughout the season.
At the Scouting Combine, Louis ran the fourth fastest 40-yard dash time at 4.43 seconds, which was just .10 seconds behind the fastest time of Notre Dame receiver Will Fuller. Lous also posted a position-best broad jump at 11'0" to go with the fifth-best vertical jump of 38.0. He's a freak of an athlete who will get drafted based on his athleticism alone, so hopefully he lands with the right team who makes best use of his talents.
Two other Day 3 prospects/undrafted free agents to watch out for are linebackers Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy. Frost is the more sought-after prospect and should squeak into the end of Day 3 after a solid career marred by multiple coaching changes.
In his four-year career at Auburn, Frost had 241 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, seven forced fumbles and 3.5 sacks while going through three different defensive coordinators. He even moved from middle linebacker to outside linebacker three games into his senior season after the Tigers gave up 411 rushing yards at LSU.
As for McKinzy, he too didn't do too well this season after a strong career prior to 2015. He had just 74 tackles, his fewest in three years after leading Auburn in tackles in 2013 (75) and 2014 (91). McKinzy did make 10 tackles for loss with a career-best five sacks along with 20 QB hurries this season. The Bengals could certainly use more pressure from their backers, so McKinzy may be a good situational player to watch out for late in the draft.
We also have to point out Auburn running back Peyton Barber, especially since Caskey was the Bengals coach in attendance for this event. It's not like Cincinnati needs another back unless Rex Burkhead moves to receiver full time, but Barber is a nice talent hoping to get drafted sometime late on Day 3.
You may recall Barber is the man who decided to leave school early in order to support his mother. He's a solid back who split time in a loaded backfield this past season but still managed to run for 1,017 yards and 13 scores on 238 rushes. Hopefully, he gets drafted by a team and can earn a job to support his family, but the Bengals don't appear to be that right now.