Mickey Mentzer and I spent some time last week at the NFLPA Bowl festivities and came away with some solid impressions of the invitees. Some of the guys who we viewed as the top players could end up being on the radar for the Bengals in early May when they look to round out their roster with the nation's top collegiate players.
Roy Finch, Running Back, Oklahoma: I remembered Finch from the Sugar Bowl when the Sooners upset Alabama a few weeks ago. The little speedster flashed his receiving and return skills in that game and continued the trend out in Los Angeles. At Thursday's practice, Mickey and I kept talking about the speed of Finch and how he looked like a player in the mold of Darren Sproles or Trindon Holliday. He probably won't get looked at early because of his small stature (5'7", 165 pounds), but could be a valuable return man and as a back who can run and catch. He was the leading rusher in the game with 14 carries for 60 yards (4.3 yards per carry), had two catches for eight yards and added a 51-yard kickoff return. It's safe to say that Finch a favorite of Mickey and I this week.
Sean Schroeder, Quarterback, Hawaii: Full disclosure, I like this kid partially because he is from my hometown of Laguna Niguel, California and went to one of my high schools in Dana Hills High. Another part of me enjoys the gunslinging nature of Hawaii quarterbacks, even if they rarely work out in the NFL. Schroeder was the most accurate passer on the day, completing 13 of 17 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown. He finished the 2013 season with the Rainbow Warriors with 28 touchdowns against 14 interceptions, 2,960 yards and a 62% completion rate.
Jeremiah George, Inside Linebacker, Iowa State: George is one of those players who falls into the unfortunate situation of being undervalued because of his size. The Cyclones' middle linebacker is only listed at 5'11" and 220 pounds, but plays bigger than that and proved it throughout the week. He was especially intense throughout practice and was a defensive leader on the American roster. He was a tackling machine throughout 2013 by recording 133 total tackles, including nine double-digit performances. He also had 2.5 sacks and two interceptions on the season.
Franklyn Quiteh, Running Back, Bloomsburg: The NCAA Division II Player of the Year shined in the NFLPA Bowl game. The 5'9", 210 pound back had ten rushes for 48 yards and a rushing touchdown. At Bloomsburg, Quiteh put up a ridiculous 2,195 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns--including six games of over 200 rushing yards and ten with more than two touchdowns. Let that sink in for a minute.
Trey Watts, Running Back, Tulsa: Another back who had over five yards per carry on the day, Watts was solid with ten carries for 56 yards. He carried over the regular season momentum to a good performance on Saturday. In 2013, Watts had 1,329 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns all on a 5.0 yards per carry average. He has good size as well at 5'11" and 190 pounds.
Isaiah Burse, Wide Receiver, Fresno State: The senior was the top receiver, in terms of yardage, for the national squad. He finished Saturday with four catches for 50 yards, including an incredibly acrobatic 33-yarder. Burse had 99 catches for 1,029 yards and six touchdowns in 2013 as one of Derek Carr's top targets.