If after reading this, you scroll down and glance at my bio below, you'll see I spent time covering Florida State athletics before arriving on this beat.
Until a week before this past NFL regular season started, I was the Orlando Sentinel's FSU beat reporter. My last day before coming to Cincinnati was the first day the Seminoles started officially implementing their game plan for the regular-season opener at Pittsburgh on Labor Day night. Who knew at that time that they were beginning their first national championship season since 1999?
Now of course, I'm on the Cincinnati Bengals beat for ESPN.com and I couldn't be happier to be here and prouder of this first season. With the Seminoles having just claimed college football's last BCS title, and the Bengals in full offseason mode, I thought this was a good time show off my expertise on both teams, while sneaking a quick peek at draft weekend.
The following is purely based on my own understanding of Cincinnati's draft needs and my impressions of the draft-eligible FSU players who play positions of Bengals need. There is no reason at this insanely early date to believe any will end up in the Queen City.
LT Cam Erving, R-Jr. Depending upon what happens with current backup offensive tackle Anthony Collins and free agency, Erving could be a good addition to be groomed into offensive line coach Paul Alexander's system. When he arrived at FSU, Erving already had the size of an NFL offensive or defensive lineman. It was on the defensive line where he began his career before getting switched to left offensive tackle ahead of last season. FSU's pass protection improved dramatically following the switch. Penalties don't often occur with him, although Auburn defenders baited him into one false start Monday night. When coach Jimbo Fisher talks about the NFL futures of his players, Erving will be among the first he mentions.
WR Rashad Greene, Jr. There's a good chance Greene, arguably FSU's most talented receiver, will be leaving a year early. It was his 49-yard first-down catch that set up the game-winning touchdown reception in the closing minute of Monday's game. He's a slender receiver, but has the frame to put on more weight, and did last offseason. He has lined up at every receiver position. In the slot, he has been involved in the screen/reverse game. On the edge, he can be a deep threat. Of Bengals players, he's most like Marvin Jones, even though he is built more like Brandon Tate. With Andrew Hawkins, Dane Sanzenbacher and Tate possibly headed toward free agency, the Bengals could have one or more receiver spots open ahead of the draft. Green also has punt return experience in the event Tate wasn't re-signed. Before muffs became a concern, his first career punt return last season was taken back for a touchdown.
LB Christian Jones, Sr. Among the positions the Bengals certainly will shore up this offseason are their linebacker spots. Even though Emmanuel Lamur will be coming back from injury next season, Cincinnati learned that it pays to have as many linebackers with coverage skills as possible. The Bengals have two linebackers up for contracts in Vincent Rey and Michael Boley. Boley was brought on to add depth after Lamur's injury. Since the Bengals probably would prefer grooming younger talent, you'd have to imagine the nine-year veteran may not be re-signed. Either way, the Bengals could add multiple linebackers this offseason. Jones could be a good fit. Although he's probably best in run situations -- he played "Sam" linebacker this season -- he has cover experience. He played "Will" his first three seasons and did well there tracking tight ends and running backs in the passing game.
LB Telvin Smith, Sr. A smaller-framed linebacker, Smith's size could hurt him in the draft. For that reason, don't be surprised if he's asked to maybe play safety in the NFL. Size aside, he was a true linebacker in every sense of the word. Like Jones, he was a vocal leader the past two seasons at FSU and adapted well to coaching. That's evidenced by the fact that under a new defensive coordinator this year, the Seminoles and their complex scheme ranked third in the nation in total defense. As the "Will" linebacker, he set play calls and changed line formations.
CB Lamarcus Joyner, Sr. Size also will be an issue for the 5-foot-8 Joyner, who moved back to cornerback this time last year after starting at safety the previous two seasons. Heart, football knowledge and athletic ability, however, will not be problems for him. Although it seemed like he still played a lot of safety this season, Joyner made the move back because he knew his shorter stature as a safety might make it harder to get drafted. As a cornerback, he has solid cover skills. As a safety, he has good on-field awareness, like Monday night when he was in the right place to scoop a fumble that came at the end of a cornerback's game-changing interception return. He also blitzed regularly on third downs this year, much like Chris Crocker did late in the year for the Bengals. The Bengals already appeared set to shore up their cornerback and safety positions, but with Brandon Ghee and Taylor Mays' contracts expiring and Crocker possibly headed to retirement, they could need to draft a defensive back or two.
Others to watch
FS Terrence Brooks, Sr. Could be a draft-weekend steal. A better safety than Joyner. Hard-hitting player who's always around the football.
C Bryan Stork, Sr. Between their active roster and practice squad, the Bengals have enough centers, but the Rimington Trophy winner is a versatile lineman who played every line position at FSU.