While many of the high-profile prospects are receiving all the hype heading into the NFL Draft, which starts Thursday, some little-known prospects are gaining serious interest from scouts.
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Like every other team, the Cincinnati Bengals are hoping to unearth some buried treasures.
Here are some possible hidden gems the Bengals may want to keep an eye on:
Diontae Johnson WR, Toledo
Johnson is creating a real buzz. He visited nine teams and worked out privately for eight since the Scouting Combine in February.
The 5-foot-11, 183-pound Johnson is a versatile, athletic, elusive receiver with outstanding quickness to beat press coverage as well as good transitional skills necessary to run after the catch. He’s an ankle-breaker in the open field. The receiver doesn’t have blazing speed (4.5/40) but sometimes that pure speed can’t catch up to game speed.
Johnson will likely see a spike in his draft day stock due to his big-play ability and in the return game, which adds to his value.
Cole Holcomb LB, North Carolina
The former Tar Heel played in the East-West Shrine but really grabbed scouts’ attention at the school’s Pro Day, where he put on a show.
The 6-foot-1, 235-pound linebacker ran a 4.45 40-yard dash with an 11-foot broad jump and 39.5 inch vertical. He did 22 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.
Holcomb is extremely athletic, versatile and productive with good ball skills and football awareness. He displays great pursuit and physical toughness. He showed his ability to cover with back-to-back pass breakups, forcing a change of possession in the East-West game. He’s very intelligent, scoring a 27 on the Wonderlic test. He would be ideal at Will or Mike in a 4-3 defense and would serve well as a backup to veterans at all three linebacker positions.
Holcomb is on a number of team’s radar after paying visits to New Orleans, Atlanta, Kansas City and Dallas. Cincinnati had the linebacker in for a visit late last week.
Benny Snell Jr. RB, Kentucky
While the Wildcats’ all-time leading rusher is not an unknown, he is not expected to come of the board until the later rounds, making him a potential steal.
Snell is a physical, powerful, downhill runner with good vision to find cutback lanes. He’s a terrific inside runner and short-yardage stud, especially during goal-line situations. He demonstrates patience, willingness to block and solid receiving skills.
The running back is consistent, durable and a true workhorse. He’s as productive as they come, holding school records for career rushing yards (3,873), TDs (48) and 100-yard games (19) in three seasons.
Snell’s ability to run the ball has drawn comparison to Marshawn Lynch and LeGarrette Blount. He had a private workout with the Oakland Raiders and met with five other teams.
Amani Bledsoe DE, Oklahoma
Bledsoe is another intriguing prospect.
The 6-foot-5, 286-pounder wasn’t invited to the combine but his pro day numbers were comparable to the defensive ends who participated in the event.
He ran a 4.91 in the 40-yard dash, posted a 31-inch vertical, 11.5 broad jump and muscled up 25 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.
Versatile with tremendous upside, Bledsoe is an ideal 5-technique D-end who could bounce inside in pass-rush situations, but strong enough to play outside in a 4-3 defensive set. He is athletic with a quick first step, good hand placement, a force against the run and pressing the quarterback.
Bledsoe is coachable and willing to develop the techniques that will make him a better pass rusher at the pro level. He’s being tutored by former Philadelphia Eagles defensive line coach Pete Jenkins, who is known as a D-line guru. The Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans played host to the sleeper prospect.