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Cody Core impressing Bengals' coaching staff every step of the way

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Playing second banana to one of the top receiver prospects in the nation usually isn't great for a player's draft stock. But, Cody Core was impressive enough to catch the eye of James Urban and the Bengals' coaching staff.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Sharing receiving duties with Laquon Treadwell isn't exactly the best way to showcase your talent and value to NFL teams going into the draft. The dynamic Ole Miss receiver caught the ball 82 times for 1,153 yards in his senior season at Ole Miss and became the No. 23 overall pick, going to the Minnesota Vikings. A lot of that had to do with the fact that he was too talented to not throw the ball to, especially for a redshirt sophomore quarterback like Chad Kelly, who just arrived to the program earlier that year.

As a result, talented players like Cody Core were targeted much less often (37 catches) and never had quite the same amount of opportunities to show NFL teams his talent. However, that hasn't dampened Core's personality or competitive spirit.

"Just come on, catch me," Core said, repeating his taunting of William Jackson III to Coley Harvey for an article on ESPN.com "Try to catch me."

The competitive nature of Core's comments came after he beat Jackson on a deep route and pulled away after the catch in rookie mini-camp. If you're looking for a way to impress the coaching staff as a sixth round wide receiver prospect, shredding the team's ultra-talented first round cornerback and not being afraid to taunt him in the process is quite a way to make an impression. "I'm just very competitive," Core added.

The ability to play that well against a player like Jackson at such an early practice in your NFL career is huge for his stock going forward. One of the biggest criticisms of Core is the fact that he may struggle to find separation against NFL cornerbacks. But, don't tell him that, because he'll probably just take that as a challenge and repeat what he did to Jackson.

That level of competitiveness, despite the fact that he didn't have a whole lot of room to grow in his previous gig, has really been Core's calling card. The Bengals first met with the receiver at the NFL combine, where confidence was just one thing that Urban was particularly impressed by.

"Cody's obviously got NFL measurables, so that puts him in there automatically," Urban told Harvey. "And then you dig down on him and you meet him at the combine, and it's hard not to take a liking to the kid."

One look at Core is really all you need to see what Urban is talking about. It's not hard to see exactly what measurables they found impressive from Core.

At 6'3" and 203 pounds, he almost seems like an undersized tight end. But, he plays so well on the outside and deep up the field that it would really be a waste to use him purely as an up the middle guy who also focuses on blocking. Then again, his ability to lay out the crushing block is part of what impressed Urban so much on the tape.

And, though Treadwell's productivity may have limited Core at Ole Miss, it also helped the Bengals to find him while scouting Treadwell.

"He blocks like he's supposed to," Urban said of Core. "He's a blocking jet ski. I mean, he's out there pushing and he finishes blocks so much that we're like, 'Oh.'"

Combine that assessment with his strong performances as a special teams player at Ole Miss and you've got a player who clearly wants to make it in the NFL enough that he'll look do whatever it takes to succeed.

Most NFL receivers would be comfortable with focusing on their pass-catching skills and route running abilities, but Core just wants to compete and doesn't shy away from the dirty work. That's an especially useful quality to have when you're trying to make a roster like the Bengals', a team with many young players at the receiver position trying to make the roster due to the losses of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu this offseason.

One particularly impressive aspect that impressed Urban and the rest of the Bengals' coaching staff was the fact that Treadwell was so complimentary of Core when he visited with the team. Leading up to and after the draft, it was generally known that Treadwell wasn't as high on the Bengals' draft board as he was for other teams. In fact, there was even speculation that he wasn't a first round consideration for the team, even if the Vikings hadn't taken him at No. 23. However, the Bengals brought him in for a visit anyway, at which point he had nothing but nice things to say about his Ole Miss counterpart.

"When we brought Laquon in for a pre-draft visit, he talked about [Core]," Urban told ESPN. "He talks about, 'yeah, that's my guy,' and 'he's my dawg,' and that kind of stuff. So you get a strong sense of Cody. Like all these guys, he's got a lot of work to do, but there's some tools to work with."

Even though the two players were teammates in college, that's still quite a ringing endorsement for a receiver to be so complimentary of another player at his position in the same draft. Ultimately, Treadwell was off the board before the Bengals even had a chance to really consider whether they wanted to take a chance on him in the first round. But, they got another Ole Miss receiver later on in Cody Core, with the famous Tom Brady pick (199 overall).