Taking the field


Kevin Huber

In all probability the Bengals coaches won't be putting their first-round draft pick through the paces for the Draft Day green room when they work with the North team in two weeks at the Under Armour Senior Bowl. But going off their North roster from the 2009 game in Mobile, Ala., they have a shot at everything else central casting offers.

From now until the Jan. 29 game, the roster changes more than a manuscript. When the Bengals reported to work two years ago, they got one that landed five first-rounders, 13 second-rounders, and five third-rounders. A total of 16 more went in rounds five to seven and the remaining 10 became free agents.

They ended up drafting one player they coached, selecting University of Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber in the fifth round. They picked up Virginia running back Cedric Peerman this past spring, a sixth-round pick of the Ravens eventually released by the Lions.

After perusing a partial list of this year's projected North players (the first 45 prospects have yet to be assigned teams), Jerry Jones, author of the draft survey on drugstorelist.com, expects more of the same with Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn looming as the North's highest-rated player so far but not high enough to be taken No. 4 in the Bengals slot.

That mirrors '09, when the highest drafted player the Bengals coached, Boston College tackle B.J. Raji, went ninth to the Packers in a draft they took Alabama junior tackle Andre Smith at No. 6. Their second-round pick, USC middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, played for the South.

"For the first time ever last year, you had more juniors picked in the first round than seniors with 17," Jones says, "and five of the first 10 players taken were juniors. You have to figure that trend is going to continue."

At least 50 more players are going to be added to the game, so it's too early make any grand pronouncements. The 6-4, 285-pound Clayborn is also coming with his bookend, 6-5, 297-pound Christian Ballard, a guy that could go anywhere from mid-first to the second. Both are seen as players with strength and pass-rush ability.

"Clayborn had a great year as a junior (11.5 sacks), but he fell off to only three this year and Ballard picked up his numbers," Jones says.

Another Big 10 end, Purdue's 6-4, 263-pound Ryan Kerrigan, could be ticketed to the mid to late first round. Described by some as a Justin Smith-esque guy with a great motor and steady production, Jones loves Kerrigan's senior stats of 12.5 sacks, six tackles for loss, and five forced fumbles.

The Bengals, who don't appear to be in the market for a quarterback, won't know what to do with the talent at that spot compared to the trio they had two years ago in Sam Houston State's Rhett Bomar, Texas Tech's Graham Harrell and Central Arkansas' Nathan Brown. Only Bomar got drafted, in the fifth by the Giants. This trip so far they've got Washington's Jake Locker, who is trying to get back into the first round, and Iowa's Ricky Stanzi, trying to prove he's more than an NFL backup.

Locker, who might have been the first player taken in last year's draft, is starting out the draft season as a projected second-rounder, while Jones says Stanzi is a mid to late round guy.

"Locker is a tremendous athlete who is going to run something like a 4.5," says Jones of Locker's time in the 40-yard dash. "He can make every kind of throw, but for him it's a question of trying to do too much."

It looks like the Bengals are going to get both Boise State wide receivers in Titus Young and Austin Pettis. At the moment, Jones has Young pegged in the second and Pettis somewhere between three and four, but they don't look like they fit the Bengals. The 5-11, 175-pound Young has the speed but not the size and the 6-3, 203-pound Pettis has the size but not the speed.

Jones, the former Cincinnati pharmacist now living in St. Simon Island, Ga., is already pushing his fellow Georgian, junior wide receiver A.J. Green, for the Bengals at No. 4 for what looks to be a vacant No. 1 role. Jones thinks Young and Pettis are good prospects, but says, "It doesn't look like they fit where the Bengals are headed with that," with slot receiver Jordan Shipley already in place and Andre Caldwell still trying to prove he's a No. 2 and Jerome Simpson still trying to prove he's a No. 1 or 2.

The Bengals get a long look at Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas, coming off a huge year with nearly 1,600 yards and 19 touchdowns. Jones has the 6-2, 228-pound Thomas somewhere in the second round after some of the junior running backs surprisingly didn't come out. Some have had Thomas's 40 time at 4.66 seconds, but that's not a deal-breaker for his style. Thomas has been called a "chain-mover," which in the NFL is high praise and not a code word for "slow."

"He's got ordinary speed, but he's a powerful runner who just grinds it out; he knows how to find the hole," Jones says. "Plus, he's a very good athlete. He's played some quarterback (in junior college and high school)."

The Bengals also have another Nebraska punter in Alex Henery. When they coached the '04 game, they signed Kyle Larson as a free agent and he punted for them the next five years until they drafted Huber. Although Huber fought through some inconsistencies this past season, the Bengals don't look to be making any moves there. Henery is going to be intriguing to the league because he has a good enough leg to be a kickoff guy.

Footnote: Peerman led the North in rushing with 34 yards on five carries. Huber averaged 49 yards on four punts with a long of 61 with one touchback and one inside the 20 in a game the South won, 35-18.

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