Throughout the 1990s and most of the 2000s, Bengals fans started to look at collegiate prospects before the final whistle had blown on the regular season. But in December, one has to wonder where to look? The SEC? BCS play-off teams? Heisman Trophy candidates? During yester-year’s dog-days of Bengals fandom that probably would have been logical considering Cincinnati often picked in the top ten of the NFL Draft, if not the top five. However, for the past three years the Bengals have selected in the bottom third of the first round, and have done so consistently well. Additionally, they have turned critical undrafted free agents into productive players each year since 2011.
This upcoming draft will be very deep with pass rushers and cornerbacks, not to mention some very strong signal callers. Additionally, another great class of offensive linemen appears to step into the professional ranks, despite two consecutive classes saturating the rosters. What does this mean for the Bengals? All good things considering offensive tackle and the secondary are aging and will need depth. The defensive line may also require some tweaking down the road as well.
Considering such, let’s take a look at some of the college teams most likely to produce future Queen City All-Stars…
The No Fly Zone – Michigan State
While defensive end Shilique Calhoun will likely capture most of this year’s offseason attention and be touted as a top ten pick next year, he will probably not be on the board when Cincinnati selects. Meanwhile, the Bengals clearly had their eyes on Darqueze Dennard throughout the scouting process last offseason, which means those same scouts got an eyeful of his underclassmen mates in the Spartan secondary. Cornerback Trae Waynes should still be lingering on the board in the second or third round. Last year the sophomore tallied 50 tackles, 5 deflections, and 3 interceptions across from Dennard.
Moreso though is free safety Kurtis Drummond. After selecting only four safeties to their final roster with only one true free safety, the Bengals must look to upgrade their longtime secondary anchor Reggie Nelson who becomes a free agent in 2016. Drummond looks to be a day-one starter in the NFL regardless, but under Nelson’s tutelage, he could become a hallmark threat in Cincinnati’s secondary. Last year alone, Drummond totaled 91 tackles, 10 deflections, and 4 interceptions.