Not since the Detroit Lions selected defensive tackle Bob Bell in 1971 has the University of Cincinnati developed a first round draft pick. They came close last year with defensive end Connor Barwin, but he fell to the second round and was selected by the Houston Texans. There have been plenty of lean years in regards to NFL prospects coming from Cincinnati, but the Bearcats have undergone a rebirth over the last five years and are now a program on the rise after being crowned Big East Champions in 2008.
This season, Cincinnati has two prospects on offense, wide receiver Mardy Gilyard and quarterback Tony Pike, that are receiving plenty of interest from NFL scouts, and Scout.com has confirmed that representatives from the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, San Diego Chargers and Detroit Lions attended practice this week.
Gilyard is one of the premiere offensive threats in the nation, and Pike is an intelligent signal caller who continues to climb draft boards as a potential Day One selection.
At 6-foot, 187 pounds, Gilyard has a lanky build and isn’t a physical receiver, but he’s an exciting playmaker that is most effective in space. He’s quick off the line, uses his hands well to fight off a jam and will challenge a defender over the middle and downfield. He has good hands and vision, and consistently finds openings within a defense. He sets up defenders nicely after the catch and is elusive in the open field. He shows good awareness after the catch and follows his blockers to pick up positive yards. Even though he’s not a physically imposing player, he demonstrates plenty of desire by being able to make tough catches in a crowd. He has a knack for the acrobatic and makes highlight reel plays. He’s a tremendous return specialist who can take it the distance anytime the ball is in his hands. As thrilling as Gilyard can be as a receiver, he has some flaws in his game. He has to improve his route running; he rounds off too many of his routes. And he has to get stronger and become a better blocker downfield. Overall, he’s a gifted player who’s overcome a lot in his life and has the motivation to become a big time threat at the next level. Gilyard is currently the 2nd rated wide receiver (19th overall) in Scout.com’s 2010 NFL Draft Rankings.
Entering his second year as the starting quarterback for the Bearcats, Pike displayed his leadership qualities and ability to make crucial throws in tough spots in ‘08. At 6-foot-6, 212 pounds, Pike has prototypical size and a strong arm. He’s patient in the pocket and has the athleticism to buy time with his feet as he waits for a receiver to get open. He has a great understanding of how to read a defense and identifies the blitz consistently at the line of scrimmage. He goes through his progressions well and doesn’t just lock in on one receiver. He tends to force throws into coverage, but usually takes the safe route if his primary receiver isn’t open. He benefits from taking most of his snaps out of the shotgun, but it could be a detriment to him at the next level. Pike is currently the 8th rated quarterback (140th overall) in Scout.com’s 2010 NFL Draft Rankings.It’s believed that the Jets, Buccaneers, Chiefs, Falcons, Colts, Bears, Chargers and Lions were observing Gilyard closely, while the Saints, Seahawks, Jaguars, Redskins, 49ers, Cardinals and Vikings were watching Pike, but also had an interest in Gilyard.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber’s features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.