Ohio State has a wealth of talent in this year’s draft, and the Bengals have their eyes on several Buckeye prospects.
The Bengals, wanting to fill some holes in the linebacker crew, might be looking to their in-state college powerhouse for help. Bengals linebackers were so battered in 2017 that six linebackers started throughout the course of the season.
Every linebacker on the opening day roster was forced to start at some point in the season (except Carl Lawson, but that was because of his strictly pass-rushing role). The Bengals did sign Preston Brown in the offseason, but might need an extra linebacker to fill in while Vontaze Burfict is serving his four game suspension (assuming his appeal is denied).
The Bengals have invited linebacker Chris Worley to venture down I-71 and work out in Cincinnati. As other prospects from Ohio State might pop out like Billy Price, Sam Hubbard, or even the polarizing J.T. Barrett, Worley is a name that goes largely unnoticed. However, Worley is a name that Bengals fans might hear more of in late April.
Even if Worley never never sees the field on defense, he could be a very solid special teams player for Darrin Simmons.
Weight: 230 pounds
College: Ohio State
Projected Round: 7/PFA
40-yard dash: 4.86 sec
Bench press: 15 reps
Vertical: 29.5 inches
Tackles: 153 career; 56 in 2017
Sacks: Two career; One in 2017
Tackles For Loss: 11 career; Five in 2017
Fumbles Forced: Three career; One in 2017
While there are many great players coming out of Ohio State’s defense, which is consistently ranked in the top 10, Worley falls to the bottom of the list. In fact, one could even argue that he wasn’t even the best linebacker on the team last year. He ranked fifth on the team in total tackles and tackles for a loss, and 11th in sacks.
The two other starting linebackers, Jerome Baker and Tuf Borland, both outranked him in almost every category. Even backup linebacker Dante Booker ranked ahead of Worley in a couple as well. So Worley hopes that Mel Kiper Jr. is correct when he says “stats are for losers,” because Worley’s stats don’t jump off the page.
While stats don’t do bode well for Worley, watching film gives you a good sense of what he can contribute. He has played considerable snaps both outside and inside as demand at each position required. Worley has great instincts, which helps him in zone coverage and pass rushing. He was able to find holes in the blocking schemes and slip into the backfield, even if he was picked up by a tight end or a running back. If he couldn’t slip a lineman’s block, he would at least eat it up and clog running lanes.
The problem is that he had a difficult time slipping blocks on the offensive line. In addition, his man coverage on defense needs some work, but he is probably suffering due to a general lack of athleticism that elite linebackers have. His pursuit running is also a weakness, which stems from his athletic deficiencies.
While he is a reliable open-field tackler, Worley will definitely be a great special teams player. His tackling ability and toughness would work really well on a kickoff or punt coverage set. If Worley wants to make a living in the NFL, special teams is where he will have to shine.
Worley could be a great fit for the Bengals, who have a history of turning out good special teams players. Alex Erickson, Clayton Fejedelem(who was an alternate for the 2017 Pro Bowl), and Cedric Peerman (who went to the Pro Bowl as a special teams player) are great examples of players who initially relied their special teams abilities to keep a spot on the Bengals roster. Worley probably won’t have quite the same impact, but he is a player who could flourish under special teams coach Darrin Simmons’ coaching.
Worley could be a great addition to the roster as a special teams player, and he could become a player who could play some spot-snaps at linebacker. He would be worth a late-round investment, or at the very least a priority undrafted free agent.