CINCINNATI -- Last spring, the Cincinnati Bengals used strong ties to LSU's coaching staff to land two of their eight draft picks.
Running back Jeremy Hill and receiver James Wright were selected in the second and seventh round, respectively. Bengals coaches said that conversations with friends and trustworthy allies in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, had them convinced about adding both despite varying concerns other teams had.
Hill brought to the draft process his share of off-field baggage, the result of two arrests in three years. The first came when he was in high school and delayed his arrival to LSU by a year. The second forced him to miss the first game of his sophomore year; a year that proved to be his final college season.
Ahead of last year's combine, Hill sent a letter to all 32 teams explaining in deep detail what led to his arrests. He wanted them to know they were part of his past, but didn't define his character. Since coming to Cincinnati, he's avoided legal troubles and is a well-liked teammate and media favorite.
Teams were concerned about Wright because the receiver didn't catch a pass his senior year. The Bengals' own evaluations of the special-teamer/wideout and their conversations with LSU coaches led them to believe he was worth the gamble.
The decisions paid off extremely well in 2014.
But what about in 2015? Are there any Tigers gems the Bengals might mine from Les Miles this year? Here are four LSU prospects who could draw some attention from the Bengals the next few weeks:
Size: 6-foot-4, 324 pounds
Projection: Possible first-round pick
Analysis: Collins is one of six LSU products who will be at the combine and one of seven who are hoping to be drafted (there are two running backs and a corner not listed below; those are position groups not pegged as needs for the Bengals this year). He's certainly one player worth keeping an eye on for the Bengals as they start focusing on shoring up depth behind veteran tackles Andrew Whitworth (another LSU product) and Andre Smith. Whitworth hasn't shown signs of slowing down, but he will turn 34 next season. His career likely will come to a close soon. He and Smith also will hit free agency next year, and it will be good for the Bengals to have a talented player to groom there in case they don't get re-signed. ESPN draft insider Todd McShay said Collins is a strong run-blocker with good character.
Size: 6-foot-6, 235 pounds
Projection: Rounds 2-3
Analysis: Cincinnati needs pass-rushers, and Hunter fits the prototypical build the Bengals like. He's got the right height, although he's a little lighter than they might want as an edge-rusher. He had trouble getting to quarterbacks in 2014, though, finishing with just 1.5 sacks. He had 4.5 across his three seasons. It's not likely the Bengals will draft him, but he could be worth exploring.
Size: 6-foot-2, 230 pounds
Projection: Rounds 2-4
Analysis: Depending upon what happens in free agency with Rey Maualuga, the Bengals could have a draft need for interior linebackers. Even if Maualuga is re-signed, they still have depth concerns at the position from a talent standpoint. Alexander is primarily noted for his speed, toughness and blitzing ability. He's ESPN's third-rated inside linebacker.
Size: 6-foot-4, 260 pounds
Projection: Rounds 5-7
Analysis: Any and all pass-rush options are on the table for the Bengals at this point. It seems most likely they'll use one of their earlier picks on taking a pass-rusher, but it's also possible they could have a few late-round options.