Bengals linebackers coach Matt Burke puts Jordan Hicks through the paces Wednesday.
The depth chart and injury list say the Bengals should be looking for linebackers in the April 30-May 2 NFL Draft and they got a look at two pretty good ones Wednesday at Paul Brown Stadium.
Each NFL team is allowed to work out players that either played high school or college in their metro area. The University of Cincinnati's Jeff Luc and Texas' Jordan Hicks via Lakota West High School were two of the 24 prospects that participated. Offensive lineman Greg Mancz, a member of Anderson High School's Ohio state champions who once played four positions in a game while at the University of Toledo, didn't work as he recovers from shoulder surgery.
When it comes to the draft rankings, the 6-1, 236-pound Hicks is the most recognizable of the group and has the best shot at getting drafted. The 6-1, 251-pound Luc and Louisville running back Dominique Brown, Winton Woods High's magician option quarterback, have been mentioned as possible late picks but no one seems to have a consistent read on Hicks.
So CBS Sports.com put Hicks in about the middle of the draft, projecting him to the Bengals with the first of their fourth-round picks.
"I'd love to see that. Keep him up here all year long,' said Clif Marshall, who runs the Mason, Ohio Ignition Sports, the gym where Hicks trains. "It's hard a lot of times to find athletes who want to train in Cincinnati in January and February when they have the opportunity to go to facilities in California, Florida, and Texas. The message is he loves this city and wanted to come back and train in the ice and snow and he worked his butt off."
Hicks worked enough that he raised eyebrows at the three major stops of the draft process in the Senior Bowl, at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, and his campus workout in Austin. After his 2012 season was short-circuited by a hip problem and his 2013 season was wiped out by a torn Achilles, he made it through 2014 and then felt like he showed the scouts at the Senior Bowl he could play in the middle after playing mainly the WILL backer at Texas.
"I thought I proved I could attack," Hicks said. "That I had the mindset of going downhill."
Cincinnati Bengals host 25 local players at annual pre-draft workouts 04/15/2015
With the status of Pro Bowl WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict's microfracture knee surgery an unknown for a few more months and former Packer A.J. Hawk signed just in case, the Bengals are looking for a young guy that can play all three spots. Say a young Vincent Rey.
Hicks, who played for three different coordinators since 2011, knows all the spots. And Hicks has Rey's kind of athleticism.
It was Rey's measurable at his 2010 campus workout at Duke that opened the eyes of Greg Seamon, the Bengals' East Coast scout who ran Wednesday's drills. When the coaches had a gander, the club decided to take a shot on him as a free agent and he's been terrific as a role player excelling off the bench. Playing last season in place of both Burfict and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, Rey finished 12th in the NFL in tackles.
And Hicks and the 6-2, 240-pound Rey (at his Duke workout) are pretty close not only in size, but in measurables and both are currently working in Marshall's gym.
Hicks' change of direction has grabbed some attention. His 6.78 seconds in the three-cone drill was the 11th best of all players at the combine and second among linebackers. Rey clocked a 6.89. Hicks went 4.15 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle run for fourth among backers. Rey went 4.28. The vertical leap is supposed to measure power and Hicks did that with 38 inches, good for fifth in the linebacker group. Rey went 38.5 while repping 225 pounds 20 times. Hicks weighed in with 19. Rey edged Hicks in the 40-yard dash, 4.58 seconds to 4.68 seconds.
But the Bengals and the other 31 teams have to figure if those numbers are enough to translate.
"I think I've helped myself in the interviews," Hicks said. "They're starting get to know who I am.
"I wanted to show I was healthy and I think the Senior Bowl and combine have done that."
The Bengals must have a good feel for him, too. He's been around long enough. Including this past winter, when Marshall's faith-based group went into the community to give back.
"I know Clif. I know Ignition. I wanted to make sure I had the right perspective going into this process," Hicks said of the decision to stay home. "I'm sticking to my values. It's a faith-based organization. That was huge for me. Being around guys like that, having Bible Study and going into the city and helping out feed the homeless. Not letting things get the best of me."