Alma Ata Orange – NCAA Prospect Preview 2014

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It is important to remember how things are in the beginning.  For example, one may say that a given team’s schedule is easy or difficult at the opening of the season, but this is based upon the how opposing teams finished the year prior.  Contrast this with the end of the season; the same team’s strength of schedule will likely have shifted based upon both the outcome of its own games as well as the outcome of all the games played by the opponents.  With regards to truly subjective evaluation, an examination of both points in time must be considered as critically as either point viewed independently.

The same is true of individual players.  With NFL training camps moving in full swing, so too are the various NCAA Football programs on campuses across the country.  Certainly, there are no shortages of prospects for NFL scouts to keep their eye on as several leading draftniks have already released their Top-50 lists with little difficulty.  While by and large the consensus of a deep, talented NFL Draft class is out there, the time is nigh for raw diamonds to be discovered in plain sight.

For most here, the excitement around the Cincinnati Bengals will make individual scouting something that won’t likely be considered until after the Bye Week.  Still, if you’re without formal Saturday alliances to a particular educational institution, then consider the following few teams whose prospective talent pools sit well within how Cincinnati could foreseeably be reloading come May 2014.  In other words, watching these teams should get you a snapshot of a Bengal before he becomes a Bengal.

Those Guys Up The Street – Ohio State

Oct 6, 2012; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Ryan Shazier (10) and defensive back Christian Bryant (2) against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The only way that Cincinnati gets even a whiff of the Buckeye’s top rated cornerback Bradley Roby or stud mayhem-machine Ryan Shazier is if the Bengals’ season goes completely off the rails.  Too bad; while both would be great additions to the roster, its more prudent to focus a bit further down OSU’s pecking order.  Carlos Hyde is a highly talented running back, but he doesn’t fit the Bengals’ mold or need.  Free safety CJ Barnett does though.  Nothing against George Iloka, but unless something flashes, Barnett appears to be an upgrade at this point.

The real value of taking a look at the Buckeyes this year is primarily for late round talent.  Both offensive tackles, Jack Mewhort and Andrew Norwell are both solid players for depth in the wake of rookie Bengal Reid Fragel.  Curtis Grant is a serviceable inside linebacker, and Christian Bryant is a hard-hitting strong safety with a gritty work ethic.  The most audacious thought would be quarterback Braxton Miller in a later round as a home-grown and groomed back up for Andy Dalton.