All 32 NFL teams, including the Cincinnati Bengals, made their way to Starkville, Mississippi for Mississippi State’s pro day.
One of the Bengals’ last coaching hires this offseason to fill out their staff was linebackers coach Tem Lukabu, who spent the 2018 coaching Mississippi State’s linebackers. It was reported that tight ends coach James Casey was at Houston’s pro day earlier this week, as Casey was most recently an assistant there, so Lukabu could’ve been sent to check out his former school as well.
If things go to plan, Mississippi State should have at least four players drafted in the first three rounds. Their best player, defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons, was projected to be a lock for the first round before he tore his ACL right before the NFL combine. Simmons was able to put up 28 reps on the bench press during Wednesday’s workout, but was obviously unable to partake in any other drills.
Recent history has shown that top players can still get taken relatively high despite not being able to play in their rookie season. Linebacker Jaylon Smith was the 34th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft after suffering nerve damage in his left leg during his final collegiate game.
Cornerback Sidney Jones was also a first-round prospect who suffered a torn ACL at his pro day and ended up getting drafted 43rd overall in 2017. Simmons could still find himself off the board before the end of the first day, but early in the second seems more likely.
Defensive end Montez Sweat, on the other hand, shouldn’t leave the top-16 picks. An impressive Senior Bowl showcase established himself as a contender for first-round status, and his insane combine performance should have him locked inside the first half of the first round. Sweat’s ascension speaks volumes to the immense pass-rushing talent this draft class has to offer.
On day two, expect to see safety Johnathan Abram and center Elgton Jenkins come off the board. Abram, originally a Georgia Bulldog, transferred to Mississippi State in 2017 after leaving Georgia and spending a season at Jones County junior college and became an integral member of a secondary that would help form the No. 1 ranked defense in 2018.
Jenkins has started 34 games for the Bulldogs, mainly at center, but has experience at both tackle spots and left guard. He figures to be the second center taken after North Carolina State’s Garrett Bradbury and shouldn’t last long after Bradbury is taken.
Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald also hopes to be drafted, but shouldn’t interest teams before the very late portion of the draft.