Does Tico Charlton fit the Bengals at No. 9?
INDIANAPOLIS - At first blush Vidauntae Charlton, otherwise known as "Taco," to Big Blue Nation, doesn't fit the Bengals.
He started only 15 games at Michigan after not doing his much his first three seasons and the Bengals are all about big-school production in the draft.
But at 6-6, Charlton is also a prototype of the 4-3 end the Bengals defense has used the last decade and since he grew up in Pickerington, Ohio on the outskirts of Columbus, he has watched 6-6 Carlos Dunlap and 6-7 Michael Johnson do their thing for the Bengals.
In fact, his defensive line coach in Ann Arbor, Greg Mattison, also coached the two-time Pro Bowler Dunlap at Florida a decade ago and spent Charlton's college career telling he reminds him of Dunlap.
And with NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock hesitating to put Charlton into the top ten while also saying he also thinks the move makes sense for the Bengals at No. 9, maybe he is a fit in Cincinnati after all.
"I study a little bit of everybody," Charlton said Saturday at the NFL scouting combine. "Yesterday I was 6-5 and 5/8s. I didn't get to 6-6, but I'm a 6-6 guy. I study guys with that similar body type. Carlos Dunlap. Ziggy Ansah. They've learned how to use their leverage and use long arms. I study them to see how to use my body."
The Bengals figure to be in hot pursuit of an impact defensive player and Charlton may have moved up the ladder just by showing up Saturday. Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett showed up at 259 pounds and not 272, which may give some pause, and he was sick Saturday and missed some of the drills. He may work in the field drills Sunday.
And Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster, projected to the Bengals in more than one draft, never made it out of the hospital. That's where ESPN reported he had a loud confrontation with a hospital staffer and was sent home.
Now here comes Charlton, who is picking up some momentum and may vault into the top ten if he strings together an impressive combine and Pro Day. NFLDraftScout.com has him going 23rd to the Giants, but people are taking a second look at his 9.5 sacks last season and the final two games in which he wrecked Ohio State and Florida State.
Also helping his cause is he came back early from a high ankle sprain.
"In my head I'm an undrafted free agent guy," Charlton said. "I hope (the scouts) look at the last three games. I was nicked with injury and I wasn't healthy until about a month ago. I was probably 80 percent getting close to 100 percent. I think it was a very good example of what I can do when I'm slightly healthy."
Charlton may have started just 15 games, but after three years of playing in a 3-4, he embraced new defensive coordinator Don Brown's 4-3 and his charge to just let it go.
"He let me show my talent and I made sure not to let him down," Charlton said.
When Mattison started pumping up Dunlap to him, Charlton could see why.
"We've got the same coach so I watch him," Charlton said. "He never stops. He's relentless as a rusher. He knows how to use his leverage. I watched those guys in Cincinnati."
Charlton got a few laughs when he was asked if he followed the Bengals or Browns.
"Our pro team is the Buckeyes so we grew up rooting for them," he said.
But they didn't make sure he stayed home.
"Michigan showed me the most love," Charlton said, "so that's where I went."
One of the storylines of this draft is if Charlton gets ranked high enough to come home.
SLANTS AND SCREENS: It's hard to know how Foster's dismissal is going to impact his draft stock. But the Bengals have nearly two months to vet it and that includes a trip to Alabama for Pro Day. Then they'll have to decide if they want to include him on their list of 30 prospects for a pre-draft visit to Paul Brown Stadium.
The Monday Morning Quarterback reported that Foster threatened to put his hands on a hospital worker. NFL.com reported that Foster posted an Instagram that said, "Nothing happened," and that two Alabama teammates, Tim Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson, were among those that witnessed it. But they denied they did …
Mayock doesn't think Barnett's combine weight is going to hurt him because he's sick and because his tape at Tennessee is so solid …
Last month the word in Bengaldom was this is the best cornerback draft ever for depth and Mayock raved about it Saturday evening. He said one coach told him they were going to get a corner in the fifth round that they would typically get in the fifth.
"I counted eight to 10 corners that were 6-2 or longer. If you go back five or six years, you wouldn't have four guys," Mayock said. "The average is 12 corners go in the first three rounds over last five years … I'm getting to 17, 18 names" …
This is why Bengals running back Rex Burkhead is going to be highly valued in free agency. Not because he's as talented as Stanford's Christian McCaffery. But because he's got the same kind of versatility. Mayock said McCaffery is the back that helped himself the most here because after he worked with the backs he went over to play slot receiver and didn't miss a beat …
Mayock is also high on the depth of running backs and said you could get a big three-back in rounds four-five, like Toledo's Kareem Hunt and Wisconsin's Corey Clement …
A look at the NFL Combine Fan Experience.