Buckeyes to Bengals?

Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby working out.

With former Ohio State Dane Sanzenbacher signing his one-year tender with the Bengals and possibly headed for a larger role this year, it’s fair to wonder if Sanzenbacher will soon have more Ohio State company in the Bengals locker room.

Several Ohio State players seem to fit the Bengals needs and priorities in next month’s NFL Draft, starting with the team’s first-round pick at No. 24 overall and a potential fit Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby.

Obviously all 32 teams will look at Ohio State’s prospects, but here we look at how a few of them could fit 100 miles down I-71.

CB Bradley Roby

Roby didn’t have the best season last fall, but he has enough talent that every NFL team watched him closely throughout. There’s no guarantee the Bengals have interest or that he’ll even still be on the board at 20, but physically and athletically he fits what the Bengals like in their defensive backs and what the team needs as it looks at 2015 and beyond.

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Roby is a man-to-man corner who can really run. The Bengals are in the market for such a player, though they’re not certain to take one in the first round.

If the Bengals take a first-round corner, he won’t be under pressure to immediately crack the starting lineup. Roby is a good enough athlete to contribute in the return game while he works towards becoming a full-time NFL cornerback.

LB Ryan Shazier

Shazier’s best fit is probably in a 4-3 defense, probably on the weak side. The Bengals already have a Pro Bowler in that spot in Vontaze Burfict, but Burfict has position versatility.

Teams don’t play a ton of base defense anymore because offenses don’t allow it. In a two-linebacker set against three receiver sets, Shazier and Burfict would cover an awful lot of ground.

Shazier isn’t a likely Bengals pick in this spot, but he’s a possible one. He figures to come off the board between picks 20-40.

RB Carlos Hyde

With his ability to move the pile, find space on the second level of the defense and block, Hyde might be the most coveted running back in this year’s draft. There are questions about how coveted any back in this draft is, however.

2014 will be the last season before BenJarvus Green-Ellis hits 30, often the end of the road for running backs. It’s also the last year of his contract. The Bengals look to have a rising star runner in Gio Bernard but will probably at some point draft a bigger back to be the 2015 replacement for Green-Ellis, who’s been reliable for the Bengals and is just as valuable in the locker room as is he is in the week to week game plan.

Because they have Bernard and want to get him more touches, the Bengals probably will wait until later in the draft to pick a running back but could be in the position in the second round to draft the best available player. If Hyde’s on the board, he’d be an intriguing possible fit.

OL Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell and Corey Linsley

One of the few questions the Bengals will answer in the coming months is whether their 2014 offense will have Andrew Whitworth at left tackle or left guard. Mewhort is probably a guard or right tackle in the NFL but has left tackle experience. He figures to be drafted on the second day of the draft, maybe as early as the late second round.

Linsley figures as a late-round draftee at center; the Bengals are looking for a backup center and potential future competition. Norwell is a Cincinnati native who can play both guard and tackle but probably is a guard in the NFL. He’s a late-round or undrafted free agent type who could compete for a job with the Bengals.

WR Philly Brown

Receiver doesn’t appear to be a priority for the Bengals in this draft but upgrading the return game should be. A late-round pick or undrafted free agent, Brown figures to be among a large group of players the Bengals will evaluate for a potential backup role and the creation of competition in the return game.

S Christian Bryant

A broken ankle ended Bryant’s senior season last October, and last month at Ohio State’s pro day Bryant said he was getting closer to being able to return and participate in workouts at full speed. Bryant hopes to hold a workout at Ohio State when doctors clear him, and with the need for depth at safety, the Bengals figure to attend if and when that happens.

Bryant doesn’t have prototypical NFL size but he has plenty of good film and has been tracked by many NFL teams. If healthy, he can play special teams and compete for a backup safety spot. Getting drafted in the seventh round if he can prove healthy enough for May and June football activities isn’t out of the question.

Former Ohio State coach John Cooper is on the Bengals scouting staff. He maintains close relationships with many around the Ohio State program; Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said he speaks to Cooper every week during the season about the opponent’s best players.

The Bengals have selected Ohio State players late in the draft in each of the last two years. RB Boom Herron and OL Reid Fragel were claimed off the Bengals practice squad to the active rosters of the Colts and Browns, respectively, last season.