Some would tell you that there are only three football games left this season. There’s actually six (and no, the Pro Bowl isn’t one of them).
In the next two weeks, some of most talented and unheralded college football players will be competing in the three major collegiate all-star games: the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, the East-West Shrine Game, and of course the Senior Bowl.
The NFLPA Bowl and the Shrine Game will each take place this upcoming Saturday, with the Senior Bowl happening the following Saturday. One of the best aspects about this circuit of games is seeing players from the NFLPA Bowl and the Shrine Game getting late invitations to compete in the Senior Bowl, due to their inspiring performances. And while the Senior Bowl has the most clout behind it, you can count on a couple players from first two all-star games making an impact early in their NFL careers.
Browns edge defender Genard Avery was a participant in last year’s NFLPA Bowl and went on to be drafted in the fourth round of the NFL Draft and have a solid rookie campaign. Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay was a shrine game stud that went undrafted and became arguably the steal of last year’s class. Seahawks defensive tackle Poona Ford and Bears defensive tackle Bilal Nichols impressed enough during Shrine Game practices were each called up to the Senior Bowl. Both got drafted fairly late and became positive contributors for their teams.
Focusing on Saturday’s Shrine Game, it would be wise for the Bengals to have a good presence at the game to get an eye on guys who could be big surprises in the draft. Let’s take a look at some possible Bengals targets from the game.
1. Ty Johnson, Maryland RB
The Bengals don’t really need a running back, which is why it is good that Johnson is more than that. Johnson also returns kickoffs very well and will likely be an impact special teamer early on in his career using his athleticism. He has breakaway speed and was one of the best big-play backs in college football during his career at Maryland. The all-purpose back also has a knack for receiving out of the backfield and has the potential to develop into a rotational-back in his first few seasons in the league.
2. Michael Jackson, Miami (FL) CB
Jackson is one of the more surprising players at the Shrine Game, not because he shouldn’t have gotten an invite, but because he probably should’ve been invited to the Senior Bowl. Jackson was one of the more hyped cornerbacks in the country going into 2018. While he didn’t take the necessary steps forward to live up to the hype, he was still a solid player who could end up being a better pro than college player. Depending on how free agency unfolds, the Bengals may need depth at cornerback with starter potential and that player very well could be Jackson.
3. Tyree St. Louis, Miami OT
The Bengals desperately need help at the right tackle position as Bobby Hart simply was not good enough in 2018. St. Louis may not project as an immediate contributor, but he has potential and all the necessary tools to develop into a starter in the league. A short-term investment in a veteran right tackle would suffice for Cincinnati and allow them to draft a developmental player who can takeover for him in a couple years. St. Louis would be a good fit for a role like that.
4. Brian Wallace, Arkansas OT
Wallace has experience with both right tackle and right guard, which just happens to be two of the Bengals biggest needs on the team. The Bengals could finally give Christian Westerman a fair shake at the right guard spot (like they should), but even if Wallace doesn’t start, he would provide valuable depth at two of the Bengals’ weakest spots with the potential of becoming more than that. The Bengals love versatility in their backup offensive linemen and Wallace is the perfect example of the kind of player they normally look for when filling out their roster.
5. Daniel Wise, Kansas DT
The Bengals pass rush suffered the most when Carl Lawson tore his ACL in Week 8, but Ryan Glasgow’s ACL tear also noticeably impacted the Bengals’ front four. Glasgow’s pass-rushing development was evident to start the season and his skills as a run defender did not dip. After his injury, Cincinnati brought in a number of adequate defensive tackles to compensate for their loss, but injuries kept depleting the position.
If the Bengals want to address defensive tackle in the draft, they’ll have a plethora of options at the top with how outstanding this class is. If they want to wait, Wise would be the the perfect choice to fill what they need and lost when Glasgow went down. Kansas is not known for their football, but Wise’s production is amongst the very best in this year’s class, and he should not be judged by the school he played for.
The Senior Bowl is not the only all-star game to look for talent. This year’s Shrine Game features these talented players and many more that can help the Bengals in 2019.