Tuesday’s Pro Day circuit was focused heavily on North Carolina, where Mitch Trubisky tried to solidify his status as the best quarterback in this year’s NFL Draft.
But that wasn’t the focus of the Bengals, who had running backs coach Kyle Caskey in attendance, according to Joe Marino. Caskey was likely there to watch Tar Heels running backs T.J. Logan and Elijah Hood, both of whom are projected to be late Day 3 prospects.
Logan was the backup this past season, though he still managed to account for 650 yards and seven touchdowns on 120 carries (5.4 avg.). He also caught 29 passes for 249 yards and three scores while returning 21 kickoffs for 690 yards and two touchdowns.
That versatility and special teams impact should make him an intriguing option for the Bengals on Day 3 if they still haven’t drafted a running back in the early rounds.
As for Hood, he was the starter in 2016 while rushing for 858 yards on 145 carries (5.9 avg.) and eight touchdowns. He added 25 catches for 142 yards. He was better in 2015 with 219 runs for 1,463 yards (6.7 avg) and 17 scores.
Hood is the bigger back at 5’11” and 232 pounds, whereas Logan measures in at 5’9” and 196 pounds. Even though Hood was the starter, it’s Logan who has more wear and tear on his body after playing four full college seasons, whereas Hood is entering the draft after his junior season.
Another Tar Heel to watch for is defensive tackle Nazair Jones. The 6’5”, 303-pound big man racked up 70 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and three pass deflections this past season. He is also entering the draft as a junior and is projected as an early Day 3 pick.
North Carolina also features a pair of late-round receiver prospects who the Bengals may have interest in. The most notable is Ryan Switzer, an explosive slot man who tied the NCAA record of five punt returns for touchdowns while recording a nation-best 20.9 yard per return average as a freshman in 2013.
Switzer has returned ‘just’ two punts for scores since then, and he racked up 96 grabs for 1,112 yards and six scores this past season. Standing at 5’8” and 181 pounds, NFL teams won’t be willing to spend a high pick on him in fear that he won’t hold up in the pros, but he could be a nice late-round steal for whoever takes that chance.
If the Bengals want to get a bigger-bodied receiver, Bug Howard is a nice prospect. The 6’4”, 221-pound pass catcher caught 53 passes for 827 yards and eight scores this past season. He too is projected as a late Day 3 pick, if not an undrafted free agent.
Here’s some further insight on UNC’s pro day from NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt:
» RB Elijah Hood (5-11, 230) ran the 40-yard dash in 4.64 and 4.63 seconds. I was told he looked like he hadn't worked out since the combine and was sluggish in drills. He only lifted at the combine, so teams don't have a full timing profile on him.
» WR Bug Howard (6-4 3/8, 222) only did the vertical (34 inches) and stood on the rest of his combine numbers. He caught the ball very well in his workout. He's the only player in this draft named Bug.
» RB T.J. Logan (5-9 1/4, 192) ran a 4.29-second short shuttle and a 6.59-second three-cone drill. He stood on the rest of his combine numbers.
» WR Ryan Switzer (5-8 1/8, 179) stood on all of his combine numbers. He looked very good in his workout. He's a slot receiver who will return punts at a high level in the NFL.
Which of these prospects intrigue you most for the Bengals?