In the first month of each year, the NFL scouting process really ramps up in the form of a handful of bowl games filled with collegiate stars. The East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl are among the well-known bowl games, but a new kid on the block in the form of another college all star game, the NFLPA Bowl, has been showcasing players who have been drafted by many teams in recent years.
Players like Chiefs receiver Chris Conley, as well as former Bengals receiver Mario Alford and running back Terrell Watson have all played in the game, and while this year’s roster doesn’t have many household names, there are plenty of solid players the Bengals could look at to fill out their roster for what seems like a partial rebuild in 2017. Based on some of the positional needs going into this offseason, here are some of the players to keep an eye on this weekend. The game can be watched on FS1 at 4:15 p.m. EST on Saturday, January 21.
T.J. Logan, Running Back, North Carolina (National Team): Logan didn’t have eye-popping stats as a Tar Heel (650 rushing yards, seven touchdowns), but he did make the most of his touches, getting 5.4 yards per carry and 8.4 yards per catch as a senior. Given the rest of the National team’s running back crew, Logan could get the bulk of the carries for his team.
De’Angelo Henderson, Running Back, Coastal Carolina (American Team): Like many other players to come out of this smaller school, Henderson put up gaudy numbers with the Chanticleers. He had 16 rushing touchdowns and two return touchdowns in 2016, so his versatility could be utilized by many NFL teams. Unfortunately, playing at a small school and his 5’8” stature might cause him to be lower on boards.
Algernon “Algie” Brown, Fullback, BYU (American Team): The Cougars use their running backs in a variety of ways. Remember Fui Vakapuna? He was a big runner for BYU and Brown has been both featured as a runner and a blocker. After gaining 11 touchdowns and 709 rushing yards in 2015, Brown had just 16 carries for 43 yards in 2016, while being used more as a blocker.
Jhajuan Seales, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State (American Team): The Bengals undoubtedly want speed and a deep threat to add to their wide receiver corps and Seales brings it. He had six games with a per-catch average over 16 yards in 2016, while adding decent size at 6’1” and 205 pounds.
Keon Hatcher, Wide Receiver, Arkansas (National Team): Even though the Razorbacks are often competitive, they get lost in the SEC shuffle to the powerhouses of Alabama, LSU, Florida and Georgia. Hatcher grabbed 44 passes for 743 yards (16.9 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns. He can also provide a stretch-the-field aspect to an NFL offense, so he might be someone to keep an eye on, even though passing can be tough sledding in this game with these limited practice sessions together.
Nate Iese, Tight End, UCLA (National Team): After a nice renaissance under Jim Mora, Jr. in recent seasons, the Bruins fell on tough times in 2016 after phenom quarterback Josh Rosen was injured for a chunk of the year. Even with the quarterback issues, Iese had 25 catches for 400 yards and four touchdowns and could be a niche pass-catcher in creative NFL offenses.
Josh Boutte, Offensive Guard, LSU (National Team): Depending on what happens with the Bengals’ free agent offensive linemen this year, they could be in the market for more interior linemen. Boutte is one of those giant maulers (6’5”, 340 pounds) Cincinnati usually covets, as he helped paved way for great performances by Leonard Fournette. He’s slated to be a late-round pick, but could improve his stock at the NFLPA Bowl.
Anthony McMeans, Center, New Mexico State (American Team): Centers aren’t usually highly-coveted in the draft, but McMeans is one of the more solid prospects this year. He’s a bit shorter and stockier than others (6’1”, 320 pounds), but is a heady player with a mean streak.
Keion Adams, Defensive End, Western Michigan (American Team): Many draftniks have Adams slated as a day three pick, as he had a productive year as a senior with 18 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. He is also getting looks as an outside linebacker with rushing ability, as he stands at 6’2” and 245 pounds.
Grover Stewart, Defensive Tackle Albany State (American Team): Stewart has a future as a rotational defensive tackle in the NFL and is one of the better, albeit unknown prospects in the NFLPA Bowl. He had 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 2016, as an active interior linemen with good size (6’4”, 295 pounds).
Riley Bullough, Linebacker, Michigan State (American Team): Some of the knocks on Bullough revolve around him being more of a chase-and-tackle guy, but a lot of his play and activity remind me of Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware. He’s an inside linebacker, so he won’t be as highly coveted as the rangy outside guys and/or those with pass-rush ability, but he should be a day two or day three pick for an NFL team.
Tashawn Bower, Linebacker, LSU (National Team): While there are some small school guys to watch in this game, the big schools are being well-represented in Los Angeles. Bower is another guy who is slated as a mid-to-late-round guy, and was productive in 2016 even though he missed a couple of games. He had four sacks last year and has ample size at 6’5” and 240 pounds.
Desmond Lawrence, Cornerback, North Carolina (National Team): Depending on how he tests in speed and agility drills, Lawrence could have a future as a slot corner. At 6’0” and 185 pounds, he has the size to keep up with pro receivers and could really help his current day three status this weekend.
Rigoberto Sanchez, Kicker, Hawaii (American Team): Though the Rainbow Warriors’ kicker had limited opportunities (13 field goal attempts, 50 extra point tries), he nailed absolutely everything except one extra point in 2016, including a 55-yard field goal. The Bengals let go of Mike Nugent in the middle of the 2016 season and Randy Bullock is far from the entrenched starter (especially as he’s set to be a free agent), so Sanchez could be an intriguing prospect for Cincinnati.