A look at the Bengals' six college free agents they signed after the draft, a group that takes the field Friday morning in Paul Brown Stadium with the 10 draft picks for a one day rookie minicamp.
P DRUE CHRISMAN 6-3 209 OHIO STATE
Local all the way … Grew up half-hour from Paul Brown Stadium in Indiana … punted, quarterbacked, played defense at Cincinnati's LaSalle High School … Hyperextended elbow requiring Tommy John surgery ended throwing career … Mustered enough to complete 21-yard pass on fake punt in 2019 Big Ten title game … Four-time academic all-Big Ten … three-time all-Big Ten Conference … second-team all-conference 2020 …Two-time semifinalist for Ray Guy Award for top punter in nation … Averaged personal-best 45 yards per punt in 2020 … Averaged 44 yards per punt over career to rank fourth in school history … 83 punts downed inside the opponents' 20 … Already has made huge kick in city on 41-yard field goal with 10 seconds left as LaSalle beat Colerain, 39-36, in one of those mega Friday Night Lights games … Consensus No. 1 punter in 2016 recruiting class after helping LaSalle win back-to-back Division II Ohio championships … Proposed to wife during halftime of 2019 Ohio State spring game as he held for her in field-goal contest … BORN: 6/30/97 … HOMETOWN: Lawrenceburg, IN
SCOUT's TAKE: "Big leg and he's athletic," says Bengals area scout Andrew Johnson. "We'll see if he hangs it up long enough and directionally punt consistently. But he has the leg strength."
LB DARIUS HODGE 6-1 248 MARSHALL
High-motor junior… undersized but put up large numbers … Making move from primarily edge rusher in college to pro backer … Last season in 10 starts led Thundering Herd in tackles for loss, including 6.5 sacks … First team All-Conference USA … Honorable mention in 2019 … led team with 8.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 12 starts … 4.5 sacks came against Old Dominion … As freshman backup in 11 games in 2018 had three tackles for loss, two sacks, fumble recovery and blocked kick …Reported nice pro day numbers of 38.6-inch vertical leap, 10-7 standing broad jump, 26 reps on bench press … As senior at Wake Forest High School won North Carolina Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year … Voted 4AA state championship MVP when he led team to title with 17 tackles and two blocked punts … BORN: 7/3/98 … Hometown: Wake Forest, NC
SCOUT's TAKE: "He was a productive sacker with 15.5 over the last three years," Johnson says. "He's got long arms, 34 3/8. Tested well at his pro day. Really built up. Muscular. Tough. Physical, quick. He can blitz because that's what he did in college." Johnson says Bengals linebackers coach Al Golden, "likes those guys long."
WR RILEY LEES 6-0 192 NORTHWESTERN
Sounds a little Alex Erickson-ish, another undrafted Big Ten slot receiver/punt returner who starred as dual threat high school QB … Committed to Miami of Ohio as QB before staying home … Three-year starter, four-year heavy contributor as reliable receiver and returner with 111 career catches (9.8 yards per), 53 punt returns (7.1), 26 kick returns (20.8) … Added 43 yards on 21 carries … Last season finished off streak of a catch in 14 straight games … Also became first Northwestern receiver in five years to catch TD in four straight … Had 3.2 GPA in learning & organizational change major … Rang up 4,437 yards and 68 touchdowns rushing, 2,989 yards and 38 touchdowns passing, 750 receiving yards and three touchdown catches, along with a kick return leading suburban Chicago Libertyville to Class 7A state semifinal as junior and title game as senior in 2015 ... BORN: 6/2/98 … HOMETOWN: Libertyville, IL
SCOUT's TAKE: "For us, having a safe punt return guy is important," says area scout Christian Sarkisian. "He practiced three blocks away from Lake Michigan for four years. He can operate split out, but he's more natural in the slot. He's deceptively quick, fast with a 4.48 40."
Check out the College Free Agents that the Bengals signed after the 2021 NFL Draft.
CB ANTONIO PHILLIPS 5-11 193 BALL STATE
Capped off productive 35-game college career helping lead wins over undefeated Buffalo for Ball State's first MAC championship in 24 years and San Jose State in Arizona Bowl for program's first ever bowl win …Ignited bowl win to start the scoring on 53-yard pick-six … eight interceptions and 26 pass breakups across four seasons … Also had 76 tackles …March back surgery sidelined him for pro day ... Not first time he had big hand in program firsts .. Led Kirkwood High School to first Missouri state championship as senior … father played football at Illinois …. Cousin of NFL linebacker Markus Golden … received the Black Achievement Academic Award … BORN: 12/9/98 … HOMETOWN: St. Louis, MO
SCOUT'S TAKE: "He got hurt during the pro day process and he wasn't able to work out," Johnson says. "But he's a good player. Instinctive, productive, good ball skills."
TE PRO WELLS 6-3 249 TCU
After transferring from Northwest Mississippi, had eight TD catches in 16 games for TCU … Led team with three TDs last season on 13 catches that included TDs for 24 and 46 for only two catches against Kansas … Career long 47-yarder came in Oklahoma game also had 11-yard TD catch … Left Northwest ranked as No. 4 JUCO tight end in country ... Named to Florida's Pinellas County Athletic Conference and all-county basketball teams while at Dixie Hollins High School … BORN: 7/20/98… HOMETOWN: St. Petersburg, FL
SCOUT's TAKE: "He grew up more as a basketball player," Sarkisian says. "Started playing football as a senior in high school. We like him for his athleticism and his hands. Very natural handed. Pass catcher. Big catch radius. Good high point ability. Gives good effort in the run."
RB POOKA WILLIAMS 5-9 175 KANSAS
Despite size, flashed enough for the Jayhawks that the Bengals want to take look him as a returner and third-down back … Averaged 24.6 yards per career kick return with 92-yard touchdown last year at West Virginia …No punt returns and will be learning from special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons, an old Kansas punter … During three seasons scored 17 TDs rushing, receiving, returning … Ran with legends when broke Gale Sayers' school record rushing for more than 1,000 yards freshman and sophomore years on six yards per carry … Opted out four games into last season as mother battled health issues … Ran 4.38 seconds in 40 at pro day, where also scorched short shuttle in 4.01 seconds, and three-cone in 6.87 seconds … Showed reliable hands with 66 career catches …New Orleans Metro Player of the Year and Louisiana Mr. Football in 2017 after rushing for 3,118 yards and 37 touchdowns senior year at Hahnville High School… Real name Anthony…Nicknamed by grandmother as child ... Born: 6/19/99. Hometown: New Orleans, LA
SCOUT's TAKE: "He's a dynamic ball carrier who has natural hands out of the backfield," Sarkisian says, "and enough polish on running routes to split out in the slot. He's a shifty, fast quick athlete who tested really well at his pro day. He's got the second highest missed tackle rate of all the backs in this year's draft class."