2013 Senior Bowl: A Look at Players Who May Be Future Bengals

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Jan 26, 2013; Mobile, AL, USA; Senior Bowl south squad running back Mike Gillislee of Florida (22) carries the ball up the field against Senior Bowl north squad defensive back Desmond Trufant of Washington (6) during the first quarter at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The Senior Bowl week wrapped up with a bang or a thud, depending on which position’s perspective is used. While the quarterback prospects were very underwhelming, with the exception of E.J. Manuel, the Bengals are not in the market for a quarterback.

Although, if Manuel somehow managed to still be on the board on Sunday, that could be quite the interesting developmental prospect.

But looking through the lens of Cincinnati’s draft focus, there were some very interesting prospects on display in an all-star game that was far more entertaining than the Pro Bowl promises to be. Most of the reviews here are based on the Senior Bowl and the limited tape that I have had the chance to watch, while more in-depth opinions will come closer to the draft.

Running Back

The star at this position, which was pretty stacked, was Johnathan Franklin from UCLA. The serendipity began at weigh-ins, when he tipped the scales at 201 pounds on a 5’10” frame, but his patience behind the line of scrimmage was the most impressive aspect.

Franklin is the very definition of a home-run threat, but what he displayed before hitting the line was something that man home-run hitters lack: patience. In the past, Franklin displayed a bad habit of running in to his linemen’s backs by sprinting to the line of scrimmage.

In the Senior Bowl, Franklin had a big gain and a touchdown on a couple crack sweeps that were made possible by waiting for a hole to develop, then exploding through the crease using his exceptional speed. Franklin would be an excellent target with the second pick in the second round, especially if Gio Bernard is off the board.

Florida running back Mike Gillislee had been spotted talking with Bengals personnel this week, and his performance showed a solid mid-round selection. Gillislee may not have the all-around skills to stay on the field for all three downs, but he displayed excellent lateral agility and explosiveness. At 5’11” and 210 pounds, he has the size to run through the tackles and the speed to turn the corner.

Stephan Taylor many not have shown Senior Bowl viewers a ton, but he ripped off a couple nice runs with a Marcus-Allen-like ability to always fall forward. He is a good barometer for the offensive line, losing yards when the line failed and gaining chunks of real estate when a hole was open. He looked like a solid back, but nothing overly spectacular.

Lastly, another James from Miami, this time Mike, surprised with a very good performance. Like the James clan, Mike looked solid all-around but without a huge “wow” factor, although he played like a three-down back. Unfortunately, a back that was supposed to display the “wow” factor, Kenjon Barner, was mostly held in check until Zach Dysert began relying on him as a safety valve during the two-minute drill. Still, Barner is surprisingly good in pass protection and should not be written off based on one performance.

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