The proverbial “diamonds in the rough” are available in every draft. This year is no different. Maybe even more so, as this year’s draft contains several hugely underrated potential targets for the Cincinnati Bengals to target.
As it stands now, the Bengals have five picks on day three; They hold the 136th, 174th, 209th, 226th, and 252nd selections.
D’Marco Jackson, LB (Appalachian State)
The Appalachian State linebacker is a tackling machine and a violent hitter. D’Marco Jackson is a classic middle linebacker. Watching him makes it easy to understand why he went with number 52 in college.
Jackson accumulated a gaudy 119 tackles this past season, an eye-popping 20 tackles for loss, six sacks, and one interception. He finished his career with 291 tackles, 35 for loss, 11.5 sacks, and three interceptions. Those are outstanding numbers.
On tape, he shows excellent acceleration. He showed off his speed at the NFL combine, running a 4.55 40.
Also, Jackson was a captain for the Mountaineers. Zac Taylor is going to love that.
He didn’t always get to show off his coverage skills in games. However, Jackson flashed his awareness, instincts, speed, and bad intentions whenever he covered running backs in the flats. As a result, his coaching staff felt comfortable in passing situations as he stayed on the field on third downs.
It may no longer be the case to consider Jackson a diamond in the rough. That is because he caught a lot of attention with his performance at the Senior Bowl.
Right now, Mock Draft Database ranks him at 192nd and PFF ranks him 132nd overall; That is just ahead of where the Bengals pick at 136 in the fourth round. Count on Jackson being selected closer to where PFF ranks him than Mock Draft Database.
If Cincinnati does target him, it would have to be with the 136th pick. Do not count on him being there far beyond that point.
Jake Ferguson, TE (Wisconsin)
The Wisconsin Badger tight end Jake Ferguson is one of the most underrated players in the draft, especially for NFL offenses that have a penchant for blocking defensive ends with tight ends.
Ferguson is a great pass blocker who held his own, one-on-one, against the potential first-overall pick in this year’s draft, Aidan Hutchinson. Ferguson even looked better at pass blocking against the Michigan defense than some offensive linemen.
Ferguson is also a reliable receiver. He finished this past season with 46 receptions, 450 yards, and three touchdowns and his college career numbers totaled 145 catches, 1,618 yards, and 13 touchdowns.
Ferguson’s season and career numbers are on par with or better than some tight ends ranked ahead of him. That includes Jeremy Ruckert, Greg Dulchich, Cade Otton, and Jelani Woods.
Currently, Mock Draft Database has Ferguson ranked 152nd. PFF ranks him 206th, which is absurdly low. The Bengals should target Ferguson in the fourth or fifth round if they do not address the tight end position before then and if he is still available.
Zach Tom, OT/C (Wake Forest)
Wake Forest’s offensive tackle Zach Tom is one of the most underappreciated prospects in this draft. He should not be on this list because there is no way he should make it to Day 3 but, alas, here we are.
Tom is a guy on who there is no consensus. PFF ranks Tom 92nd overall and off the board in the third round while Mock Draft Database has him going in the seventh round and rates him 253rd overall. NFL Draft Buzz lists Tom’s average overall rank as 142 according to their all scouts average.
No matter where he ranks, he is underrated.
Tom has an excellent athletic profile. Mock Draftable compares his measurables favorably to those of Rashawn Slater but the comparisons do not end there.
As much as Slater’s performance against Chase Young leading up to last year’s draft, not enough is made of Tom’s performance against Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson. Tom shut out Johnson, who is expected to be a first-round pick.
One of Slater’s selling points was his capability of playing several positions along the offensive line at a high level. Tom was an excellent center in 2019 before moving to left tackle the past two seasons. In 1,003 pass attempts at left tackle, he allowed only four sacks and five quarterback hits. While at center, he allowed zero sacks and only one quarterback hit.
Tom uses his agility and quickness to get to the second level of defenses with ease. He also does an excellent job passing off stunts and twists with the guard.
Oh, yeah, he was also a personal protector on the punt team.
Do not be surprised if a team selects Tom in the third round. The Bengals should grab him if he makes it to them in the fourth round. It should be a no-brainer if he is available to Cincinnati beyond that.