The Combine Report: 2016 NFL Needs – AFC North

By:  Barry Barnes, Founder

Other than using the vehicle of the NFL Draft to solve an immediate need, teams look to the selection process to build depth. For expected injuries and overall development, constructing a solid roster from top to bottom is essential for clubs’ success. Players must be teachable, hungry and ready, which is why the NFL Regional Combine is significant.

NFL teams should build according to their division. If a squad can collaborate the right athletes, and they can executed the system well enough to dictate their actions on the field, skies the limits.

Jamal Marshall/

Clearly, the NFC West has been the most highlighted division, defensively, for the past few seasons. Nevertheless, pound for pound, the AFC North is the divisional face for defense. Hands down, the AFC North is the most physical division in all of football. To survive in this brutal division, teams must be prepared mentally and physically. Heck, spiritually because it’s not a game in the AFC North – it’s war.

In the AFC North, it’s obvious, teams must be sound defensively and have the heart to run the ball. The division was one of the units that didn’t allow more points than they scored with 1,431, while registering 1,448 last season.

Due to the physicality of the AFC North, depth is paramount, but selecting the correct caliber of players is half the battle. Every athlete who dawn football pads is not equip to handle the demands of the AFC North.

Fortunately for the AFC North, the RC has spring boarded such players.

CINCINNATI BENGALS (Current RC Players – TE Matt Lengel and S Floyd Raven)

Justin Zimmer/

2015 record, (12-4), .750 

For the past seven seasons, the Bengals has been one of the marks for consistency in the NFL as they won six divisional crowns during that span. However, the postseason told another story about the inspiring ‘ThunderCats’ who were merely kittens as they failed to advance in six attempts.

With their talent, the Bengals should have tasted a conference title match at some point. Countless opportunities presented itself to the Bengals to succeed in the playoffs. Has the ‘moment’ been too big for the Bengals as they imploded on several occasions?

Maybe the current Bengals need to be pushed and challenged by other athletes who can get the job done.

Here are a few studs who can challenge roster spots, and propel the Bengals to the next level.

Needs: Wide Receiver, Defensive Tackle, Defensive End, Linebacker, Offensive Tackle

Wide Receiver 

Imani Davis (Akron), Possession receiving skills, great hands, decent speed, solid footwork.

Christian Collis (Middle Tennessee), Runs hard, decent speed and ball skills, balance

Shane Williams-Rhodes (Boise State), Decent speed, solid ball skills, physical runner, disciplined route runner.

Defensive Tackle

Justin Zimmer (Ferris State), Crazy strong, powerful, agile, decent hands and speed.

Greg Carswell (Shorter), Can perform as a nose tackle, explodes off ball, powerful, quick, moves well, hands.

Defensive End 

Brandon Jones (Widener), Decent speed, moves well, strong, quick first step.

Jonathan Woodard (Central Arkansas), Huge, good hands, balance, powerful, quick.


Gregory Hilliard (Wagner), Physical, quick, good hands.

Keyen Lage (Univ. of South Dakota), Decent speed and ball skills, moves well, coverage skills.

John Hugunin (Drake), Very fluent, quick, balance and runs hard.

Offensive Tackle

Trevor Strickland (Youngstown State), Great balance and speed for size, solid footwork.

Alfred Thomas (Morehouse), Fluent in movement, powerful, uses hands well, solid footwork.

Lewis McCormick (Catawba), Powerful, explosive, moves fluently, use hands well.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (Current RC Players – P Jordan Berry, DBs Jordan Dangerfield, Isaiah Frey, and Robert Golden, WR Shakim Phillips and T Alejandro Villanueva)

Fonyi Agendia/

2015 record (10-6), .625 

Unquestionably, injuries challenge a team’s ability to succeed. Nevertheless, injuries or not, many squads are not championship caliber.

But the Steelers are.

The Steelers were on a crash course for at least an AFC Championship appearance, but the injury bug bit them at the wrong time. Clearly, the 2015 NFL season ended on a sour note for the Steel City. So, for the 2016 campaign, the Steelers will look to sweeten the deal with a triumphant run – with some more help from the NFL Regional Combine.

Needs: Cornerback, Safety, Defensive Tackle, Linebacker, Quarterback 


E.J. May (S. Alabama), Playmaker, plays big, great hands, solid speed.

Mike Ford (American Int’l), Serious, discipline, solid speed, decent ball skills, read angles well.

Gabriel Hamner (McNeese State), Can play in anyone’s system, big, great hands, foot, speed, discipline.

Jamal Marshall (North Texas), Complete package, great speed, hands and footwork, balance, motivated.


Anthony Beaver (Central Washington), Great hands, balance and control, good footwork

Fonyi Agendia (Morgan State), Elite speed, decent hands and footwork, aggressive.

Taylor Loffler (Univ. of British Columbia), Huge, physical, decent speed and ball skills, good footwork.

Tyrell Green (Southeastern, Florida), Big, moves fluently, solid ball skills and leaping ability.

Defensive Tackle

Steven Wright (Fort Valley State), Quick, explosive off ball, moves well, powerful.

Justin Zimmer (Ferris State), Crazy strong, powerful, agile, decent hands and speed.

Johnny Maxey Jr. (Mars Hill), Huge, decent speed, powerful, moves well.


Gerard Fives III (Cornell), Intense, calculated, quick, strong hands, moves well.

David Wilkerson (Lenoir-Rhyne), Strong, solid ball skills, great footwork, quick first step.

Manoa Pikula (BYU), Solid speed, great ball skills and footwork, decent jumping ability, explosive.


Jeremy Johnson (Charleston, West Virginia), Solid arm, mobile, throws well on the run, solid footwork.

Will Arndt (Western Connecticut), 6-5, 215-pound gun-slinger, power arm, great footwork, pocket pressure, quick release.

BALTIMORE RAVENS (Current RC Players – None)

Austin Jacques/

2015 record (5-11), .313

From the gate last season, the Ravens were in the tank since Week 1 when linebacker Terrell Suggs was loss for the season after sustaining a torn Achilles against the eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. From there, a host of players followed Suggs to the sideline for the season, including quarterback Joe Flacco.

As expected, the Ravens are entering the 2016 campaign healthy, and they made some additions in key positions.

Albeit, the Ravens will enter the season with heavy hearts due to the loss of one of their own in cornerback Tray Walker. Walker was in a tragic dirt bike accident when he rear-ended a SUV in Miami last month. With greater significance, Walker was a pioneer of the NFL Regional Combine as he was the highest player from the platform to get drafted. The Ravens selected him in the fourth round (138th-overall) in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Who will the Ravens sign from the RC this year? Without question, they will once again find players who will “play like a Raven.”

Needs: Cornerback, Linebacker, Offensive Tackle, Guard


Eric Rawls (Kentucky State), Tackling Machine, good hands, decent ball skills and speed

Byron Benson (Eastern Oregon), Physical, Great leaping ability, solid ball skills, decent speed, moves well.

Jamal Marshall (North Texas), Complete package, great speed, hands and footwork, balance, motivated.

Gabriel Hamner (McNeese State), Can play in anyone’s system, big, great hands, foot, speed, discipline.


Austin Jacques (Johnson C. Smith), Explosive, good speed and leaping ability, decent ball skills, quick, athletic.

Emmanuel Graves (Colorado Mines), Athletic, solid ball skills and footwork, good change of direction movement.

Ezekiel “Zeek” Bigger (East Carolina), Quick, explosive, decent ball skill, solid footwork.

Offensive Tackle

Mathu Gibson Jr. (Wingate), Smart, fast, light on feet, excellent hands and footwork.

John Smith (Howard), Athletic, powerful, explosive, great hands and footwork.

Ryan Bubulka (Upper Iowa), Nasty, a complete monster, powerful, agile, great hands and footwork, moves on toes.


Terran Vaughn (Stephen F. Austin), Big, mobile, explosive, uses hands well, great footwork.

Byron Williams (Stephen F. Austin), Extremely mobile, fast, strong, powerful upper body.

Dominick Richards (James Madison), Athletic, physical, powerful lower and higher body, good footwork.

CLEVELAND BROWNS (Current RC Players – None)

Jatavis Brown/

2015 record (3-13), .188

What more can be said about – the Browns? Well, in one word – genesis.

There is no rebirth, reemergence or anything that can be translated to a refreshing because the Browns has nothing to launch from regarding excellence since their returned to the NFL in 1999.

A new coaching staff has been established. The front office has new leadership with credibility.

This is probably the best time to be a Brown as the franchise finally commence their ground breaking ceremony this offseason. Let’s see this empire manifest before the football world’s eyes – with help from the RC, of course.

Needs: Quarterback, Wide Receiver, Offensive Tackle, Linebacker, Defensive Tackle


Phillip Ely (Todelo), Strong arm, decent speed, throws well on the run, solid footwork.

Stephen Rivers (Northwestern, LA), Towering, strong arm, good footwork.

James Harris (California, PA), Sharp, soft touch, solid arm, great footwork, mobile.

Wide Receiver

Daniel DuHart (Alabama State), Good awareness, strong hands, great ball skills, decent route runner.

Antonio Agurs (Ferris State), Solid speed, decent hands, move fluently, physical.

Damond Lampkin (Glenville State), Cut on a dime, solid hands, great route runner, burst, strong for size.

Jairockeis Jones (Florida A&M), Can fly, decent hands, physical.

Offensive Tackle

John Weidenaar (Montana), Huge, light on feet, strong hands.

Brian Berzanski (Univ. of Central Missouri), Active, light on feet, moves well, good hand usage, strong.

Isaac Sampson (Alcorn State), Powerful, uses hands well, solid footwork.


DeAnthony Cloyd (Lynchburg, VA), Decent speed and ball skills, strong, flexible, moves well.

Justin Owen (Stephen F. Austin), Good balance and control, moves well, strong, decent ball skills.

Jatavis Brown (Akron), Compact build, good speed with ball skills, solid footwork.

Defensive Tackle 

Jake Ceresna (Cortland State), Big, strong edge rusher, moves well, decent speed and ball skills.

Justin Zimmer (Ferris State), Crazy strong, powerful, agile, decent hands and speed.

Roger Stewart (Hillsdale College), Runs hard, moves well, strong, athletic.

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