The Linebackers – Barkevious Mingo & Jarvis Jones. See Above; but keep in mind nobody is advocating the Bengals take a linebacker with their first pick…unless its one of these two. Though Mingo is listed as both a defensive end and a linebacker, his relatively small size and somewhat disappointing season lining up as a helmet-to-helmet pass rusher would make him more soundly appreciated in a 3-4 defense as an outside rushing linebacker who has an uncanny knack for analyzing passing lanes – Mingo’s also second in passes defended with six for LSU.
Explosive and flexible, Mingo is another late comer to the game of football, picking the game up as a high school junior. Consequently he is still a bit of a uncooked dish, as he’s only started five colligate games, but still, his upside is too great from him to fall that far out of the top half of the first round, if that.
Similarly, Jones is an elite caliber outside linebacker coming off a monster year at Georgia, one of the Bengals favorite scouting grounds; but as player easily capable of going in the top three over all, the chances that Cincinnati will even get a whiff of him is faint. However, Jones did sit all of 2010 coming off a substantial sprained neck sustained while he was playing for USC, something doctors in California never cleared him for play with. Some speculate that this could cause him to slide, but the risk/reward for a player like this will certainly cause teams more desperate for immediate impact to roll the dice. The Combine will likely dictate more on Jones.
The Talent – Ezekiel Ansah. The Ghana native has blown up at BYU this year, penciling himself in as a keystone player in a top-ranked defense. This is even more impressive because as a sophomore and junior Ansah logged only 10 tackles total, which is even more compelling because those are the first two years that he had ever played the game of football. Athletically a phenomenon that would have had the late Al Davis drooling, Ansah is still relatively raw and certainly a project player for any team who drafts him. Currently projected in the late first or early second round, the Combine may have a distinct affect on his draft stock once coaches see A) his pure athleticism on the clock and B) sit down with him to gauge his ability to understand NFL-level defensive schemes.
The Other Bengal – Sam Montgomery. Despite what the numbers or the scouts say, Montgomery has been extremely troublesome for offensives facing-off against LSU this past season. A year removed from a devastating knee injury, Montgomery bulked up and looks NFL ready in terms of size and speed. His knock is that he depends a great deal on his athletic ability, and if locked up, has difficultly re-establishing his burst.
Many scouts are looking hard at his potential for future improvement as well as how his knee injury fairs in its second year. While most drafters have him third on the depth chart for defensive ends, most mocks have him selected as the fourth, fifth, sixth or even seventh DE off the board. The reason; while its clear that Montgomery could come in and be a productive starter on day-one, it’s hard to see him as a break-out threat or marquee player at this point.
The Tower – Dion Jordan. Listed as 6’7”, 243 lbs, Cincinnati fans are highly intrigued at the idea ofJordan lining up across from Michael Johnson and creating a ‘twin tower’ pass-rushing threat. However, it’s very important to note that Johnson is a solid thirty pounds heavier than Jordan who was rarely a fingers-in-the-dirt defensive end this season. Nonetheless, Jordan is an extremely smooth athlete for someone his size and thus was dropped back into coverage against slot receivers as much as he rushed the passer towards the end of this season.
With his demonstrated skill set, Jordan would be best utilized in a 3-4 defense as a coverage outside linebacker, designed to stop hybrid tight-ends (a position he used to play until 2010) while keeping a pass-rush ability in reserve; very much in line with how Cincinnati’s Emmanuel Lamur is being groomed. As he stands,Jordan would take a year or two of strength training and defensive prep (much like Michael Johnson required) before he would be able to make impact plays within the Bengals’ current the front four schemes.