The Red Empire – Alabama
Looking at who is likely to enter into the 2014 NFL Draft from Alabama, one has to wonder who will be left on the team when the 2014 season rolls around? Sheer probably says that the likelihood of at least one of these Crimson Tide players being a Bengal next season is fairly good based simply on volume. Wide receiver Amari Cooper, linebacker CJ Mosely, and offensive tackle Cyrius Kouandijo will all be off the board in the top 15, and free safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix will not be far behind. Keep your eye on his partner though, strong safety Vinnie Sunseri, who replaced Mark Barron last year as a sophomore. Largely overshadowed by Clinton-Dix, Sunseri was primarily used against the run, logging 52 tackles, 34 solo, and 6 for a loss. He snagged two interceptions last year too.
Staying on the defensive side of the ball, both Adrian Hubbard and Trey DePriest are incredible talents at outer and inner linebacker respectively, and defensive end Ed Stinson might find himself in that second round wheelhouse of talent right now as well. Slightly further down talent pool, wide receivers Kevin Norwood and Kenny Bell might not have the raw gifts that some of the other receivers this year might have, they do have championship experience. Bell has played in two national championship games now and last year averaged 25 yards per receptions, despite Alabama’s run-heavy offense. With the loss of most of their offensive line and running back, AJ McCarron might be finding these two for targets more often this year. Should this happen, expect all three players’ draft stock to rise.
Lastly, don’t forget to keep your eye on Deion Belue. After two years in junior college, Belue took over at cornerback for Dre Kirkpatrick last season and held his own across from DeMarcus Milliner. A victim of the system, expect him to be over-shadowed and under-valued by scouts looking at the rest of Alabama’s loaded secondary.
Feathered Men – Oregon
The crown jewel of the Ducks’ draft class is probably also the best kept secret in the NCAA: Ifo Ekpre-Olomo. One of the most quick and athletic cornerbacks in college today, Ekpre-Olomo still has some areas of improvement, but with 63 tackles, 4 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles and 16 passes defended, he looks like a second coming of Adam Jones in terms of skill set.
With the mark of the bygone Head Coach Chip Kelly still on this team, Oregon is brimming with multi-facetted players, the likes of which Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden will be salivating over. Specifically, running back / tight end / wide receiver Colt Lyerla already is the multi-tool weapon that Orson Charles is being prepped to be. Lyerla does need to work on his blocking, but if he can demonstrate ability there, he may be a rare first round talent. Another ‘offensive weapon’ is running back / wide receiver DeAnthony Thomas. Possibly the fastest man in college football this year, Thomas ran for 701 yards (7.6 yards per carry) as a sophomore last season with 11 touchdowns. Notably he is small – listed at only 173 lbs – but his explosive versatility should make scouts look twice.
Other considerations from the Ducks are top-rated center Hroniss Grau, and the inside / outside defensive end / tackle Taylor Hart; both would fit nicely into the Bengals roster and locker room. Late round considerations include wide receiver Josh Huff, defensive tackle Ricky Heimuli, free safety Brian Jackson, and outside linebacker Boseko Lokombo. Expect lots of teams to overlook Oregon as they transition under new leadership. Many of these players may look uncomfortable in new roles that they were not selected for or perhaps do not feature all of their talents. However, if the Bengals offensive becomes a unique hydra and the defensive become a blitzing zone nightmare, several of these players could be grabbed up on the cheap come May.