The fourth possibility at cornerback for the Cincinnati Bengals might have the most upside of the first-round corner options. Justin Gilbert is an athletic marvel and has as much raw talent as any player at any position. He could fall to the Bengals at pick 24, or he could go inside the top ten, depending on how the teams needy at that position view him. Cincinnati could address the cornerback spot early on, and they’ve likely taken a look at the early round prospects. Gilbert could be wearing stripes in 2014.
Strengths: Gilbert’s athleticism is off the charts. He’s blazing fast, but he’s agile as well, able to change direction quickly and get up to full speed in an instant. These are things that can’t be taught. His speed enables him to never be out of a play, as his recovery speed is special. He also has ideal size at 6’0″ and a little over 200 lbs. His ability as a return man only makes him more attractive to NFL teams, who love guys who can contribute in multiple ways. He also has terrific hands and great timing when defending opposing receivers. He’ll come up and make tackles in the run game too.
Weaknesses: Gilbert is still a little bit raw when it comes to technique. He’ll need to learn to use his hands less, or he’ll be penalized often. His tackling is also inconsistent, as he doesn’t have great mechanics when going after ball carriers. Also, while his recovery speed is excellent, it may lead to over-confidence, and problems with letting guys get past him deep.
Overall: The Bengals could certainly have Gilbert as their number one cornerback. His speed and versatility will have him highly rated by most teams with a need at the corner position. If he continues to work hard, and maximizes his potential, he could be a star at the next level, and could be a shutdown corner for the Bengals.