The Bengals have sent some of their scouts to in my neck of the woods this weekend in Kentucky to watch the annual Governor’s Cup showdown between the Louisville Cardinals and the Kentucky Wildcats. The two teams aren’t full of quality NFL prospects for the 2013 draft, but here are two players to watch that could go on day 1 or 2 of the 2013 NFL Draft:
Louisville Center Mario Benavides
Benavides is the Cardinals’ returning leader in games started (34), and has only missed four games in his career. Has been a bright spot on a bad UL o-line for much of his career, and this year with all of the starting o-line returning, could emerge as a quality day-2 or 3 NFL draft prospect.
Here’s the CBS Sports Draft Profile of Benavides:
Toughness and reliability are two of the most important attributes NFL teams look for in interior offensive linemen prospects and in Benavides (pictured above) they’ll find both. A highly regarded prep prospect, Benavides elected to sign with Louisville despite playing his prep ball in Texas and has proven a star since, earning Freshman All-American honors in 2009 and All-Big East recognition after each of the past two seasons. Benavides’ ultimate pro grade could be determined by his medical, as he’s played through some tough injuries over his career, including a knee injury last year that sidelined him for the first three games of the season. I’d like to see Benavides play with a little more power this season but he has enough athleticism to make an NFL roster as an interior lineman and uses his hands well. He enters the year as NFLDraftScout.com’s No. 5 rated center for the 2013 draft.
Louisville Safety Hakeem Smith
Smith emerged as the Card’s playmaker in the secondary as a solid tackler. Led a defense in tackles that ranked 10th nationally in run defense. He was named first team All-Big East at safety, and could emerge as one of the draft’s top safety prospects in what is shaping up to be another rather weak safety draft class.
Here’s the CBS Sports Draft Profile of Smith:
Based on his impactful play over the first two starting seasons of his career, one could make the argument that Smith deserved to lead this list. After redshirting in 2009, Smith simply led the Cardinals with 88 tackles, including six tackles for loss and in doing so earned the Big East’s Defensive “Rookie of the Year.” While Smith’s tackle numbers slipped slightly (84 tackles) in 2011, he developed into much more of a reliable defender in coverage, seeing his number of passes broken up jump from one in 2010 to nine last season. He also notched his second career interception and continued the reliable, physical tackling that has already helped him notch four forced fumbles over his career, resulting in his earning First Team All Big East accolades in 2011. Smith looks stouter on tape than his listed size and appears capable of following the lead of former Louisville standouts Kerry Rhodes and William Gay as productive NFL defensive backs.