The Cincinnati Bengals are still showing interest at the linebacker position in the draft as linebacker coach Jim Haslett attends Texas pro day.
Jim Haslett, linebacker coach for the Cincinnati Bengals, was in attendance today at the Texas pro day getting a good look at linebacker Malik Jefferson. Haslett was seen running drills with Jefferson up close at the pro day. Jefferson had a great combine performance and looks to be taken in the earlier rounds of the 2018 draft.
While his athleticism is remarkable, Jefferson lacks the instincts which may have him dropping closer to the second round. If he wants to make it as a starting linebacker at the next level he will have to improve his instincts and pick apart plays faster. His athleticism is something that the Bengals are in need of in a linebacker that has the speed to get from sideline to sideline.
Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict is facing a four-game suspension at the beginning of the 2018 season and the team brought in former Buffalo Bills linebacker Preston Brown to help cover that weakness. However, Cincinnati lacks the speed at the linebacker position still and need to find a linebacker that can cover tight ends and running backs when needed.
Standing at 6’3″ and 235 pounds, Jefferson is the right build at the next level and adding in his speed could make him a developmental player with high potential. If he can develop better instincts and react faster to diagnosing plays, there is absolutely a fit for the linebacker in the NFL.
Another player performing at the Texas pro day is defensive tackle Poona Ford who was not invited to the combine but some scouts have high praise for. Cincinnati is still looking to fill the role next to defensive tackle Geno Atkins even after the one-year signing of defensive tackle Chris Baker. Due to size and scheme, Ford has fallen down the draft boards but could be a late round pick for the Bengals to learn for a year.
Ford got his chance to show teams what he can do after not being invited to the combine despite having phenomenal practices for the Shrine Game and a good day at the Senior Bowl.
"Ford tipped the scales at 312 pounds, six more than his Senior Bowl weight, completed 24 reps on the bench press and touched 29 inches in the vertical jump and 9-foot-3 in the broad jump. His 40 times ranged between 4.94 and 5.18, his three-cone timed at 7.4 and his short shuttle came in at 4.47. Ford looked good in drills, and teams are projecting him as a three-technique tackle."
According to draft analyst Tony Pauline, the Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, and Cincinnati Bengals are all showing a lot of interest for Ford. While he wouldn’t be an instant starter along the defensive line, he could provide quality depth as a rotational piece. Keep an eye out for Ford during the later rounds of the draft.