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Bengals have dinner with NFL Draft hopeful Nathan Shepherd

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The Bengals met with an intriguing Division II lineman that’s getting some pre-draft buzz.

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

fgWhile free agency begins this week, NFL Draft season is also in full swing.

The Bengals are now traveling the nation to scout NFL hopefuls who could wind up in Cincinnati at some point. That includes a trip to Kansas to meet with a Division II prospect who is getting some serious pre-draft interest from NFL clubs.

According to NFL reporter Tom Pelissero, Fort Hays State defensive lineman Nathan Shepherd had dinner with the Bengals on Sunday, ahead of his Pro Day on Monday.

While you may have never heard of Fort Hays State, Shepherd’s is a name you need to know this draft season. The 6’5”, 315-pound defensive tackle was at one time a 205-pound linebacker, but he grew exponentially before becoming a force in the Division II ranks.

Last season, Shepherd racked up 38 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. NFL.com has him graded as a Round 4-5 project:

Shepherd is a project, but he could be well worth a team’s time thanks to his NFL-caliber traits and his flashes as a pass rusher. Shepherd lined up inside in college, but may be better suited as a 4i or five-technique in a 3-4 front. While he won’t be ready early on, he has the ability to become a productive NFL defensive lineman with improved strength and better technique

Shepherd was even invited to the NFL Combine, which says a lot since the event saw 326 players invited. It’s hard for Division II prospects to get NFL buzz, but it looks like Shepherd has done just that.

With 11 picks in this year’s draft, the Bengals should be doing their due diligence on all relevant NFL hopefuls. They also could use some more depth on the defensive line, so Shepherd could be a name to watch for in Day 3 of the draft.