The Bengals were in attendance as five international players who didn’t get an invite to the Scouting Combine got a chance to show the NFL what they had at a pro day of their own.
The biggest name there for the Bengals was former rugby player turned offensive tackle Jordan Mailata. NFL.com had this to say about his pro day:
Mailata measured just shy of 6-foot-8 and weighed 346 pounds. His arms measured a massive 35.5 inches. He was timed at 5.12 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which would have been good for seventh among tackle participants at the NFL Combine in February. He also excelled in the short shuttle with a time (4.67 seconds) that would have been among the top 10 at his position. Mailata put up 22 reps on the bench press.
When you watch any of Mailata’s rugby highlights, you can see the strength instantly, but the more surprising aspect is his speed. Obviously that is rugby though, and the NFL is an entirely different beast.
In the little video they have of Mailata performing a positional drill on NFL.com, you can see he transfers that athleticism well to the tackle spot. He has a great ability to change direction while keeping his base ready. It should be assumed though that any team that acquires Mailata will have a project ahead of them.
Mailata has shown he has the physical tools necessary to perform at the position, but it is just something he hasn’t done for most of his life like players who are normally coming into the NFL. He will have to learn the position as well as how the game works. That means explaining how to pick up blitzes and the proper angles to take on blocks. The talent is there though if someone can release it.
The reason the Bengals may be so interested in a player like Mailata is because the NFL is giving AFC North teams an extra practice squad spot for an international player. That means the Bengals could have their usual 10 players on the practice squad as well as one additional player as long as he is not American. This is a notable addition that the Bengals will no doubt take advantage of. They love getting the absolute most out of their roster and practice squad.
This would also be an ideal situation for Mailata and the Bengals. Cincinnati gets another young player at a position of need without even really expending a roster or practice squad spot, and Mailata gets to learn from Frank Pollack, who happens to be one of the best offensive line coaches in the NFL. It could absolutely be a match made in heaven.