Jalin Marshall wants teams to know he has maturity, talent for NFL

Jalin Marshall on his skills as a return man: "When I catch the ball back there I can be a dangerous threat immediately." AP Photo/Darron Cummings

CINCINNATI -- Jalin Marshall is well aware of what most draft analysts have said about him ever since he announced his stunning early entry into the draft process.

He's too young, they have said. He's unpolished. He tests slow for a receiver. He simply isn't ready for the NFL.

But the former Ohio State wideout has made it his mission throughout the pre-draft period to let coaches and scouts form their own opinions after they meet him and watch him in their workouts. Still a week away from the draft, Marshall's sole focus remains on finding believers within just one of the 32 league front offices.

"The question is if I'm too young or too not NFL-ready," Marshall said following a workout this week with the Cincinnati Bengals with other local prospects. "But that's what I come to prove day in and day out. I can only prove it to myself before I can prove it to everybody. I just pray to God that I keep going and going and going and don't worry about what everybody says outside. Just make it happen for me.

"Because I know if I make it happen for me, then nobody can say anything about it."

A native of Middletown, Ohio, Marshall grew up within the footprint of Bengals territory. Although he lived less than 40 miles from Paul Brown Stadium, Marshall contends he wasn't a Bengals fan as a kid -- "I was always a fan of the game." If the Bengals pick him the third day of the draft or if they sign him as an undrafted free agent, he'll gladly pull out the orange and black pom poms.

Marshall said he's had multiple conversations in recent weeks with the Bengals. He also has spoken regularly with the New England Patriots staff.

A two-year player at Ohio State, Marshall caught 74 career passes and had 11 receiving touchdowns. He also averaged 6.5 yards on 27 rushes, the bulk of which came in his first season.

Where Marshall might find his best NFL value lies is as a punt returner. He averaged 13.5 yards per return in 2015, and seven of his 28 returns went for more than 20 yards. He returned one punt for a touchdown in 2014, and also had a pair of fumbles on returns that season. He hasn't had one since.

"When I catch the ball back there I can be a dangerous threat immediately," Marshall said. "It's just how bad I want it. If I go out there unprepared and drop the ball, then I get cut."

If Marshall gets picked by the Bengals, he likely wouldn't be their immediate impact punt returner. Cincinnati already re-signed lead returners Adam "Pacman" Jones and Brandon Tate this spring, and speedy second-year player Mario Alford figures to enter the equation, too. Running back Giovani Bernard also has been a backup punt returner, and is entering the final year of his contract. Marshall would have to fight through all of that competition.

Late in this week's workout, Marshall went through a drill that had him and other local prospects catching punts at the same time they were already holding multiple balls in their arms. Jones regularly practices the drill. It's one that tests focus, concentration and catching skills. At times, Jones will successfully do it with four or five balls tucked into different corners of his upper body.

"If he's done it with five, I've got to do it with six," Marshall said, smiling. "I've got to beat Pacman. That's my job."