Do the Bengals Have Another Undrafted Free Agent Gem?
C Chris Jasperse, Marshall
Heading into this year’s draft, the Bengals were lacking depth at the center position. Previously veteran guard/center Mike Pollak ensured the team’s depth along the middle of the offensive line, as he possessed enough versatility to play either guard spot and center. The Bengals chose to release Pollak in February likely due to his knee reoccurring knee issues, because other than that, Pollak played pretty well for the team over the past couple of seasons.
Jan 24, 2015; Mobile, AL, USA; North squad offensive center Chris Jasperse of Marshall (60) enters the field during player introductions before the Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The North won, 34-13. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports
Without Pollak, the Bengals were left with starter Russell Bodine and little used reserve player T.J. Johnson; Cincinnati clearly could benefit from adding talent to the position. They chose to do so in the college free agent pool rather than draft a center. Cincinnati managed to sign Marshall’s Chris Jasperse who despite his little known draft status seems to offer some potential upside.
Jasperse was a four-year starter for the Thundering Herd. He has accumulated 4,040 snaps across his collegiate career, which led all active FBS offensive linemen. He also started every game for Marshall since 2011 (53). This all speaks to the impressive experience Jasperse has acquired across his time at Marshall.
Over the course of his career, Jasperse proved impressive. He was a First-Team All-Conference USA player during his final two seasons and was voted to be a captain of the team the past two seasons. These accolades serve to highlight both the talent and intangibles that Jasperse possesses. Furthermore, Pro Football Focus labeled Jasperse as one of their “10 Offensive UDFA’s to Like” saying:
"“The Bengals have a habit of finding good lineman. Whether drafted or not, Jasperse has some potential to latch on long-term on the inside after man handling the competition for Marshall. There is one alarming concern with him and that’s his ridiculous tendency to draw penalty flags (13 of them last year and mostly false starts) but even with those issues he still had the second-highest grade of all draft eligible centers. Didn’t let himself down in the Senior Bowl at all.”"
A player who “manhandles” opponents while also possessing great experience sounds like a player who should be intriguing to watch come training camp. The penalty issues are of course concerning, but any Bengals fan knows that with offensive line coach Paul Alexander on their side, the Bengals young offensive linemen can overcome such coachable issues.
Chris Jasperse largely flew under the radar leading up to this year’s draft, but this may have been to his advantage. By landing in Cincinnati, Jasperse will now be privy to the workings on Paul Alexander and will have the opportunity to learn from one of the NFL’s best offensive lines. He also won’t be put into a position where he is forced to play before he is ready. Jasperse sounds like a player who could offer the Bengals some much needed depth at center.
Next: Some Potential Depth at Cornerback?