For the past three years, Cincy Jungle has attended the NFLPA Bowl with the ranks of the credentialed media. In that time, we've seen this young scouting event for the league sprout into one of the biggest of the the slew of events preceding the draft, with players getting nabbed up in the draft or as college free agents, as well as the NFLPA getting high-profile names as coaches for the squads.
In last year's week-long event, the Bengals tabbed a bunch of some of the better performers from the event, with some seeing regular season action. Cornerback Troy Hill, defensive tackles DeShawn Williams and Kalafitoni Pole, wide receivers Jake Kumerow and Mario Alford, safety Erick Dargan and NFLPA Bowl MVP Terrell Watson, who just signed with the Browns, were all players in the game and spent some time with Cincinnati either as undrafted free agents during training camp or on the 53-man roster. So, you can understand our interest in the event when covering the Bengals for SB Nation.
Given some of the Bengals' needs going into 2016, here are some of the names to look for as the game kicks off on Saturday at 6 p.m. EST on ESPN2.
Donte Deayon, Cornerback, Boise State: Deayon is an exciting player with a lot of speed and athleticism. It was on display at Wednesday morning's practice when he made a diving interception on a deep ball in 7-on-7 drills. The downside? He's a bit small at 5'9" and 160 pounds. Still, he was a 2015 second-team All-Mountain West Conference player and is fifth in school history in interceptions with 17. Those interceptions have been pretty evenly distributed over his career, with his grabbing of six in both 2013 and 2014, and five last year. He also adds a bit of punt return ability, with an 8.4-yards per return average in his BSU career, along with a touchdown from just 30 total returns.
Mike Thomas, Wide Receiver, Southern Mississippi: There are two wide receivers named Michael Thomas who will be entering this year's draft, the other goes by Mike, and is a big-name product out of Ohio State. The one from Southern Miss, who's participating in the NFLPA Bowl, isn't too shabby either. He's got good size at 6'1", 200 pounds and had a ton of production last season. My colleague who is accompanying me to the game, Cody Tewmey, brought me up to speed on Thomas, noting his huge-play capability along with some inconsistency. He finished 2015 with 71 catches, 1,391 yards, 14 touchdowns and a whopping 19.6 yards per carry average.
Travis Greene, Running Back, Bowling Green: With Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard on the roster, it might not seem like the running back position is much of a need, but just this week alone, the Bengals lost two promising backs in Watson and James Wilder, Jr. Greene impressed me at Wednesday's practice, showcasing his versatility as a runner and receiver. On more than one instance in 11-on-11 drills, Greene made a linebacker look silly in the open field with his shiftiness. He was very productive at BGSU in 2015, notching 1,299 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns and had a 5.8 yards per carry average. He also added 234 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver.
Kyle Peko, Defensive Line, Oregon State: Does the last name sound familiar? It should because Kyle is Bengals' defensive tackle Domata Peko's cousin. Like his older relative, Peko played defensive tackle for the Beavers, but also dabbled at end too. He was a junior college transfer to OSU and played only one season there. Still, he was an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention, recording 45 tackles with 4.5 for a loss and two sacks. His versatility and size (6'1", 305 pounds) make him an intriguing prospect.
Antwaun Woods, Defensive Tackle, USC: Any player recently coming out of USC has had to endure a lot. Coaching changes, sanctions and other issues have plagued the team, but they still manage to win quite a few games and pump out some quality players. Woods is a big guy in the middle at 6'1", 320 pounds and knows how to get into the backfield. He finished the 2015 season with three sacks and 38 tackles, with six for losses.
Ian Seau, OLB/DE, Nevada: Ian's is another name that should resonate as he is the late Junior Seau's nephew. Ian plays the same position as his uncle did, and as Nevada linebackers often are, he is very athletic, but undersized for the NFL level. Seau is 6'3", 250 pounds and has some impressive stats from his time at Nevada. He finished 2015 with 18.5 tackles for loss with 10 of those being sacks, to go along with five forced fumbles and a recovery.