That’s why seeing Cincinnati represented at Missouri’s Pro Day comes as no surprise, given the Tigers feature one of the best pass-rushers this draft has to offer. That’s Charles Harris, who Bengals linebackers coach Jim Haslett was reportedly scouting at Missouri on Thursday during the Tigers’ pro day, according to the Columbia Tribune’s Blake Toppmeyer.
Charles Harris went through some linebacker drills under the watchful eye of Joey Porter, Kevin Greene and Jim Haslett.— Blake Toppmeyer (@btoppmeyer) March 23, 2017
The 6’3”, 253-pound Harris was among the nation’s best pass rushers over the past two years, racking up 16 sacks, 30 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and 117 total tackles across 24 games.
That kind of production is why Harris is projected as a first round pick, but his smaller frame makes him an ideal 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL, not a 4-3 defensive end like the Bengals need. Seeing Haslett attend the workout suggests the Bengals may think Harris could be a hybrid 4-3 outside linebacker who moves to defensive end on passing downs.
Three of NFL.com’s four most recent mock drafts project Harris to be a first-round pick, though he comes in the 16-28 range, suggesting he won’t be anything close to worthy of the No. 9 pick.
Perhaps the Bengals think there’s a chance Harris falls to them early in Round 2. That’s about the only scenario that makes sense for Cincinnati spending a draft pick on him.
After Harris, the only other Tiger projected to be drafted is Aarion Penton. A three-year starter at cornerback, Penton registered 30 pass deflections, nine interceptions and 138 total tackles across 36 games since 2014.
Penton is a small guy at 5’9” and 177 pounds, which is why he’s not expected to hear his name called until late in the draft, despite great production in arguably the best college football conference.
CBS Sports projects Penton as a Round 6 prospect. If you’ve been following Cincy Jungle this week, you’ll see a pretty consistent theme of the Bengals scouting defensive backs projected to be late-round picks or priority free agents.
Cincinnati doesn’t need to take a corner early in the draft, but the team could shore up its depth with a guy like Penton in the latter rounds or after the draft ends.