Last night was... interesting. There was some drama, there were some trades and a whole lot of defensive backs drafted. Former Bearcats were not among the 31 players drafted last night, but with rounds two and three tonight, Cincinnati has an outside shot of breaking their two-year hiatus from the NFL Draft.
The last Bearcat to hear his named call on draft day was Travis Kelce in 2013 with Cincinnati failing to have a player drafted over the past two seasons. Many believe this year should break that trend with wide receiver Chris Moore and offensive lineman Parker Ehinger given mid-late round draft grades. Throw in wild-card prospects like Mekale McKay and Johnny Holton Jr., and Bearcats fans could hear a couple familiar names over the rest of the draft weekend.
WR Chris Moore (6'1", 205 pounds)
We already previewed Moore as a prospect and he certainly fits the mold of a bigger receiver with good speed. As I mentioned in his draft profile, his 40-yard dash time from the combine (4.53 seconds) feels slower than he plays. He is more of a developmental prospect, but he certainly has the chance to hear his name called, even as early as tonight.
Once you get into the middle rounds, it's really about who a team falls in love with. Things aren't as clear cut from a prospect rankings perspective and it's more about finding the traits or qualities you want to take a chance on. If I had to guess, I feel like Moore is still a player for round five or later, but all it takes is one team to pull the trigger.
It's also worth mentioning that Moore plays a hot position at receiver. Teams in today's NFL can't have enough receivers when they enter fall camp. With seven defensive backs drafted in the first round alone, that "offense vs. defense arms race" will figure to push wide receiver selections tonight and tomorrow, benefitting someone like Moore, who has some of those intriguing traits (size, speed, big-play potential) that are worth a flier.
OL Parker Ehinger (6'6", 310 pounds)
Ehinger is the type of player that could latch onto a team and stick around for a long time. He is experienced and versatile, which are both valuable qualities for an offensive lineman prospect come the middle rounds.
NFL teams are always looking for starters, but in the middle-to-late rounds, they will gladly take someone with some upside that can step in and fill out a roster. Many draft pundits feel that Ehinger's athleticism limits his upside, but with experience playing at right tackle, guard and left tackle, he's the type of player that can help fill out a roster and potentially develop into a quality guard at the next level.
Ehinger also seems to have a wide range on his perceived value. He should go on day three, based on the conversation surrounding him, but I do get the sense that he is being undervalued. Like Moore, he plays a position that teams can't seem to have enough of.
WR Johnny Holton Jr. (6'1", 190 pounds)
Holton is widely projected as an undrafted free agent. He has good size and has great straight-line speed, but has had trouble with injuries over his Cincinnati career. Holton also isn't particularly shifty, making some wonder how effective he could be in the NFL in terms of route-running. Holton has also been impacted throughout the draft process by his relatively low statistical output last season (eight games, 17 catches, 461 receiving yards, five touchdowns) in Cincinnati's high-powered offense.
I personally have always liked Holton as a player and believe he should get a chance as an undrafted free agent at the very least. He could slip in at the end of the draft because of his return ability, but I believe he will be looking to sign with a team as a free agent when it's all said and done.
WR Mekale McKay (6'4", 207 pounds)
McKay was arguably the most "NFL-worthy" Bearcat entering his senior year, but it just didn't pan out. He has great size for the position and does a great job fighting for 50-50 throws, but questions about his speed (after poor 40 times in the 4.55 range) and his hands have him likely joining the UFA pool at the draft's conclusion although a late-round selection isn't completely out of reach.
McKay is a prospect that has an NFL receiver frame and did have a lot of hype surrounding him heading into last season, so he should at least be invited to a training camp, but, like Holton, it's unlikely he joins Moore or Ehinger amongst the 2016 draft picks.