Now that one of my favorite television shows, "24," is back, I haven't been able to get the show's iconic tick-tock sound out of my head. Especially as I start getting excited about the anticipation of Thursday's draft, it seems to keep getting louder.
As we keep saying, thank goodness the draft is almost here.
Cincinnati Bengals fans are similarly saying "thank goodness" this Tuesday after reading that cornerback Leon Hall seems to be right on schedule in his seemingly smooth return from a season-ending Achilles tear:
1. Hall proud of progress. On a daily basis, there may be no calmer person in the Bengals' locker room than Hall. He's always had this ease about him that makes it seem like very little in the world troubles or worries or concerns him. His existence in life, from the outside looking in at least, appears peaceful. He'll admit that early on, not long after he tore his right Achilles last October, that he didn't have many peaceful thoughts about the matter. After all, he had a second season in three tries go awry because of an Achilles injury. To make matters worse, it was the same injury just on the opposite foot. While it's been easy for those of us outside Hall's mind to compare the two injuries and his respective recoveries from them, the veteran said Monday that he likes to think of them as two separate incidents that require their own special attention. He was proud of the way his progress this time has gone, even admitting that he and trainer Nick Cosgray slowed down the rehab process at one point just to make sure he was keeping a good pace in his march for pre-training camp preparedness.
2. Where Hall factors this season. A lot of Hall's 2014 role could be dictated by what happens this weekend when the Bengals make their nine draft selections. Cornerback is a real need for the team with so many of their current corners like Hall getting older and soon to be hitting free agency. Terence Newman is 35 and scheduled to be a free agent after 2014. Hall is overcoming his second major injury in three seasons now and will turn 30 in December. Adam Jones will turn 31 during the season, too. Dre Kirkpatrick hasn't had the early impact the Bengals anticipated when they took him 17th in the 2012 draft. So the position is one the Bengals have good reasons to address, particularly with so many good cornerbacks who could be available early. Naturally, they could use the first-round pick on any position, but whenever it is that they do select a corner, it could have an impact on all the veteran corners and their current rotation. Injury and draft aside, Hall still ought have his regular role as the team's top corner. Yes, he fits on the slot, but he also can and most likely will play on the outside. Much like he was in 2012 after the 2011 injury, expect to see a slightly angered Hall this fall, resolved to make up for lost time.
3. Motivation. Vontaze Burfict has talked about it often. So has Marvin Jones. Now, add defensive end Carlos Dunlap to the list of Bengals who are fueled in-season by where they were claimed in the draft. In the linebacker Burfict's case, there was no drafting at all. He was signed as an undrafted free agent after seven rounds went by in 2012 and his name wasn't called. Jones was a receiver who slipped all the way to the fifth round before the Bengals added him. When Dunlap was going through his draft process in 2010, he was anticipating a first-round selection. His name wasn't called until the second round at 54th overall. He admitted Monday that four years later he still uses his draft-day fall as motivation. When he faces a team that picked a defensive lineman when it could have taken him, he makes a personal vow to make that team pay. One such team will visit Cincinnati this year: Tennessee, who took Derrick Morgan at 16 overall. Morgan hasn't had more than 6.5 sacks in a season. Dunlap has gone beyond that twice already.
4. Pub Time Part 1. Shameless plug time. I promise, though, these are two events on ESPN.com on Tuesday that you won't want to miss. Starting at 1 p.m. ET, ESPN's 32 NFL Nation team reporters will participate in a live mock-draft chat with readers. We'll be on the clock, making each one of our teams' picks and discussing why we made them. These are picks that reflect what we believe the teams WILL do Thursday night. Oh, and be on the lookout for a few big trades.
5. Pub Time Part 2. Right after the mock-draft chat, stay on ESPN.com at 4 p.m. ET for our weekly Spreecast video chat. In this all-draft edition, your weekly hosts, Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez and I, chat with Jaguars reporter Mike DiRocco and Texans reporter Tania Ganguli about the mock draft, as well as the actual draft later this week. Tell your boss right now that your work productivity Tuesday will be incredibly low.