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Bengals attended pro days at UT-Martin and Middle Tennessee

The Bengals could find depth from a couple of small school prospects.

Marshall v Middle Tennessee Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Bengals will be making their ways to the big name pro days as the NFL Draft approaches, but they recently visited two smaller schools who only have a few draftable players. The Bengals visited Middle Tennessee and Tennessee-Martin this week. At Middle Tennessee the Bengals interviewed receiver and return specialist Richie James. They may also have been looking at cornerback Charvarius Ward. At Tennessee-Martin is was also a defensive back who the Bengals were likely checking out in Joseph Este.

The Bengals lost Derron Smith last season because they inexplicably cut him and put him on the practice squad. He was quickly picked up by the Browns. The Bengals were forced to get by with Clayton Fejedelem and Josh Shaw behind George Iloka and Shawn Williams. Fejedelem showed the capability to be a quality backup, but it appears the Bengals really value him more as a special teamer, which says just how good he is on special teams. He was actually voted as a Pro Bowl alternate as a special teamer.

The Bengals are armed with plenty of late round selections via compensatory picks. That means one of those selections could be used to address the depth behind their starters at cornerback, safety and receiver. Let’s take a look at some of the players the Bengals were likely taking a look at as the team attended Middle Tennessee and Tennessee-Martin’s pro days.

Richie James, WR/KR/PR, Middle Tennessee

James’ final collegiate season ended early due to a broken collarbone but his first two years at Middle Tennessee were impressive. He had more than 100 catches in both his first two years and leaves college having played 31 games during which he racked up 243 receptions for 3,249 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also added 61 rushing attempts for 554 yards (9.1 yards per carry) and 5 rushing touchdowns. As a punt returner he had 24 returns on which he averaged 6.9 yards and 3 kick returns on which he average 20.3 yards.

Per Draft Analyst, the Bengals interviewed James while in Murfreesboro, Tennesse.

Receiver and return specialist Richie James stood on his combine numbers but was put through pass-catching drills and fielded both punts and kicks. He looked good, especially in special-teams drills.

James interviewed with the Bengals, Titans, San Francisco 49ers and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Charvarius Ward, CB, Middle Tennessee

Ward is a 6’1”, 195 pound player who looks to be either a late round prospect or even an undrafted free agent. Either way, Ward put on quite the show during his pro day. He posted personal bests in the bench press (12 reps), 40-yard dash (4.47 seconds) and three-cone drill. Ward is getting attention because he is such a good player in coverage and looks to have the tools to develop into a quality NFL player.

In college, Ward had 74 tackles (3.0 for loss), 2 interceptions, 1 sack, 13 passes defended and 1 fumble recovery in two seasons (24 games).

Joseph Este, DB, Tennessee-Martin

Este has experience playing corner, nickel and safety. He is roughly 5’11”, 200 pounds and could be a versatile guy the Bengals consider in undrafted free agency. He seems to be the kind of new age player who can lineup as safety one play and nickel the next but it’s hard to see him really making it in the NFL based on his lacking exprience. Este would have the ability to sit behind Iloka and Williams and develop without much pressure to play early. This would be important for him considering he hasn’t seen the kind of talent a typical draft prospect has seen as he played for such a small school.

Este racked up 62 tackles, 9 passes defended and 1 interception in 2017. The season prior he recorded 40 tackles, 8 passes defended and 2 interceptions.

If he doesn’t make it in the NFL, he plans to enroll in medical school.