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Bengals attend Youngstown State Pro Day; 2 sleeper DE prospects impressed

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Youngstown State has two pass-rushers the Bengals are keeping tabs on.

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals will have 11 picks in this year’s NFL Draft.

Having that many chances to draft new talent should be even more reason to look under every rock imaginable for potential NFL stars. That includes the small-school ranks, such as Youngstown State, where defensive line coach Jacob Burney visited for the school’s Pro Day on Tuesday, according to Tony Pauline.

But while this school rarely produces NFL talent, they’ve got a big one this year that could fill a major need for the Bengals. It comes in the form of defensive end Derek Rivers, who is quietly one of the better pass-rushing prospects in this year’s draft.

That’s why seeing Burney, the Bengals defensive line coach, at the event, should be no surprise with his team looking to upgrade their pass rush. Rivers would certainly add to that after he racked up 36 sacks over the last three seasons.

Given, a lot of that came against FCS competition, but that’s still an absurd number that has him on every NFL team’s radar. CBS actually have ranked 84th overall and grades him as a Round 2-3 prospect.

Rivers is probably a name to watch for with the 73rd pick in Round 3, but anything before that would be a reach, not to mention other pass-rushers will be on the board in Rounds 1-2. The Bengals have also been a team that rarely spends draft picks on small-school/FCS prospects, but Rivers looks like the kind of guy you break that trend for.

Youngstown State actually has another pass-rusher worthy of a draft pick this year. Rivers’ running mate, defensive end Avery Moss, is also someone the Bengals likely are keeping their eyes on heading toward the draft.

In 15 games this past season, Moss had 59 total tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles. NFL Draft Scout ranks him as the 329th-best prospect, but NFL.com gives him a 5.49 grade, which is actually higher than Rivers, who got a 5.48 grade.

It’s good to see the Bengals are keeping tabs on two of the better pass-rushing prospects from their home state. We’ll probably see multiple picks spent on defensive ends in this draft, so watch out for Rivers and/or Moss in the latter rounds.