Ahead of Saturday’s game, it’ll be important for the Cincinnati Bengals Senior Bowl scouting team to target a select group of players. While the team has many roster needs, the Senior Bowl holds enough to give them some strong ideas for solutions.
Cincinnati Bengals Senior Bowl Targets
After coaching the event last year, it’s a return to the scene of the crime in a different role. The Cincinnati Bengals’ return to the Senior Bowl doesn’t include their full coaching staff this year, but it holds great importance. Their return to the top-five in the NFL Draft puts pressure on their staff to make a major turn of the corner in the upcoming season. Truly, the draft is the team’s best way to get an energy infusion in a hurry. So, the Senior Bowl often gives teams an opportunity to see who’s ready to give their team a major lift in year one.
With the Senior Bowl showcasing some of the best college players from the previous season, it’s a huge scouting opportunity. It can separate the hardest workers and leaders from the rest given the limited time for preparation. This will give this team’s staff a chance to double-down on previous success at the event. Last year’s Senior Bowl was a great opportunity for the Cincinnati Bengals staff, who came away from the event with some clear targets. Logan Wilson, Hakeem Adeniji, and Akeem Davis-Gaither all became Bengals after working with that coaching staff at the event.
Heading to the Senior Bowl, the Cincinnati Bengals have many roster holes to fill. Granted, they’re all set at the most important position on the field with Joe Burrow at quarterback. Instead, this year’s draft is about making his life easier and making the opposing passer’s life a lot harder. Cincinnati needs to add more potency in the trenches in particular, though their skill positions seem worth of a renovation.
Trey Smith, OG, University of Tennessee
With their clear need for an upgrade at both guard positions, Trey Smith is quite the intriguing fit. Once the nation’s top high school recruit, health concerns, and positional changes have Smith falling in the draft. While those health concerns are real, he’s still a very high-ceiling prospect. Blood clots in his lungs caused great concerns about his career, but now those seem to be quelled. Despite the concerns, he did a pretty respectable job containing interior lineman in the SEC and showed the ability to be a deadly run blocker. How he performs against the nation’s top senior bull rushers will be crucial to watch.
Jonathan Cooper, EDGE, The Ohio State University
In recent years, the Cincinnati Bengals continually put a high value on leadership. Well, in his time at Ohio State, Jonathan Cooper was that and more for the Buckeyes. Leading the team with 3.5 sacks this season, Cooper was a defensive stalwart for an Ohio State team that went to the National Championship. In his four years as a Buckeye, he contributed 77 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, and ten sacks. He’ll need to be more productive in the NFL, but his drive and leadership will benefit wherever spot he lands. A captain for the 2020 Ohio State Buckeyes, he’s clearly the kind of player to put in the work and show his team good effort on a consistent basis.
James Wiggins, S, University of Cincinnati
The Cincinnati Bengals need to watch this Senior Bowl closely to find a safety to replace Shawn Williams. Who better to replace the longtime Bengal than someone who played his college ball right up the road? Wiggins played four seasons for Luke Fickell‘s Bearcats. He’s not a very flashy player, he possesses great football instincts and intelligence. He posted six pass breakups, one interception, and one forced fumble for a truly elite Bearcats defense last season. He’ll need to grow to go against faster players than he saw in AAC competition, but his work ethic can carry the day. If he comes to Cincinnati, he’ll also have plenty of time to grow behind Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell, two great leaders.
Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State University
Once a consensus top-ten recruit, Marvin Wilson finds his stock falling ahead of selections in the 201 NFL Draft. Still, he seems like a high-upside prospect to bolster the interior line of an NFL team. On size alone, Wilson intrigues as a prospect. Standing 6-foot-4, 329 pounds, his combination of size and speed could be deadly at the NFL level. Still, he needs to improve his motor to have any long-term success. For now, he projects as more of a run-stuffer on early downs than the three-down pass rusher the Bengals truly need. Still, if he finds the next level in his game, he could be a very promising replacement for Geno Atkins heading into the future. In the Senior Bowl, the Cincinnati Bengals need to watch how he fares against some of the more elite guard talents in the 2021 NFL Draft pool.
Alex Leatherwood, OT, University of Alabama
Acting as the human shield for Mac Jones and Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama, Alex Leatherwood is a really solid offensive tackle prospect. While he’s not the elite option like Rashawn Slater or Penei Sewell, he’s a second-round option with day-one starter potential. Though he’s 6-foot-6 and 312 pounds, he might make more sense as a guard in the NFL, where the Bengals could certainly use help. A part of two National Championships and the Outland Trophy winner this season, Leatherwood is a decorated prospect. He is a primary target for a Bengals team who could use help protecting Burrow.
Robert Rochell, CB, University of Central Arkansas
Based on tape alone, Robert Rochell put up first-round performances over his four years at Central Arkansas. However, Central Arkansas plays in the Southland Conference, giving him no real performances against elite competition. Improving every year, the senior corner now looks like one of the swing prospects in this year’s draft. Standing nearly 6-feet-tall and weighing 195 pounds, Rochell has the ideal size. However, he didn’t record an interception in seven games this season but did record three pass breakups. It’ll be interesting to watch as he plays better talent in the Senior Bowl with the Cincinnati Bengals watching. Their investment in raising Western Michigan-alum Darius Phillips could make Rochell a more interesting target for the team.
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