The University of Michigan will make a significant mark on the 2017 NFL Draft. After sending more players to the NFL Scouting Combine than any other school (14), attracting attention from virtually the entire NFL to scout the numerous players on display, Michigan essentially owns the draft this year.
The Bengals are paying close attention to this group of players as they prepare for the draft and on Friday, head coach Marvin Lewis attended Michigan’s pro day.
Saints Sean Payton and Bengals Marvin Lewis also in the house for Michigan's pro day. Basically the whole NFL is here.— Andrew Groover (@APGroover) March 24, 2017
Linebacker/safety prospect Jabrill Peppers is the hottest name in attendance and only performed positional drills, rather than re-testing his numbers recorded at the Combine. That’s understandable as he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds, recorded a 35.5 inch vertical jump, and a 128.0 inch broad jump. All of those numbers ranked among the top performances among linebackers, showing off just how versatile and athletic he really is.
In addition to Peppers, Michigan’s Pro Day featured other top draft prospects like defensive end Taco Charlton, cornerback Jourdan Lewis, defensive tackle Chris Wormley, wide receiver Amara Darboh, tight end Jake Butt, and defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow. All seven players are expected to be off the board by the end of Day 2, and almost all could potentially be targets for the Bengals. Charlton specifically has been frequently discussed as an option for the Bengals due to the team’s need at defensive end and his 6'6", 277 pound build, which is a perfect fit for what the Bengals typically seek in pass rushers. At the Combine, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.92 seconds, registered 25 reps in the bench press, had a 33" vertical jump, 116" broad jump, did the 3-cone drill in 7.17 seconds and the 20-yard shuttle in 4.39 seconds. He's been compared to former Patriots and now Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones.
Although tight end, wide receiver and cornerback aren’t the Bengals’ top needs, the team will certainly consider Lewis, Butt, or Darboh if the team feels any are the best players remaining on the board when Cincinnati is on the clock. As the Bengals tend to stick to the ‘best player available’ strategy, you can’t completely rule any of those players out if they are available when the Bengals pick.
Given the offseason departures, there is a good chance the Bengals are going to be focused on the offensive line in this year’s draft, a position in which Michigan is rich in talent. Offensive tackle Erik Magnuson, offensive guard Ben Braden, and offensive guard Kyle Kalis are all expected to be drafted and taken on Day 3, when the Bengals possess eight draft picks.
Given the number of players on display at Michigan’s Pro Day and the Bengals’ sheer number of total picks, it stands to reason that there’s a good chance the Bengals pick up at least one former Wolverine this year. The only player whom the Bengals probably don’t have any interest in is punter Kenny Allen, who is expected to be drafted in the seventh round. Allen is one of the top punter prospects in this year’s NFL Draft, but the Bengals are set at the position with Kevin Huber, who is not only one of the NFL’s best punters, but is also under contract through the rest of the season.
It is unclear how interested the Bengals are in any one particular Michigan prospect, however, guys like Peppers, Charlton, Wormley, and Glasgow have to at least be on their radar for the draft. Not only do these players fill crucial needs for the Bengals, but they are all seen as some of the most talented players in this year’s draft, making them attractive ‘best player available’ prospects when the Bengals select. Though, it’s hard to believe Peppers will be the BPA at pick No. 9 and it’s even harder to believe he’ll make it to pick 41.