Clearly Tyler Eifert, Giovani Bernard, Margus Hunt, and Shawn Williams are locked into the 53-man roster. There's no disputing this. Eifert was rated as one of the best skill players in the 2013 NFL draft. Giovani Bernard is drawing comparisons to Darren Sproles with amazing gifts of versatility. Margus Hunt, though young in terms of football experience, is an athletic prototype not unlike Captain America that the Bengals have an opportunity to mold. Shawn Williams joins a position that's noticeably lacking in overall talent.
Where does that leave the remaining six draft picks?
SEAN PORTER, LB:
A young linebacker that's projected with an immediate special teams impact. Athletic that's capable of playing all three linebacker positions, Porter is solid in coverage and rushing the quarterback. However, like most rookies in the NFL, he's young and needs more development. But a solid starter is a believable future. Just not this year.
TANNER HAWKINSON, OL:
Hawkins has impressed the coaching staff with his versatility, playing four positions during rookie minicamp and anchoring offensive tackle during OTAs. And if Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander appreciates anything out of his young linemen, it's versatility.
REX BURKHEAD, RB:
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis really likes Burkhead, especially as a key special teams player. Following the team's rookie minicamp, Lewis' impressions were "just what I expected."
"Just the quickness in line, the ability to stick his foot in the ground and go from Point A to Point B," said Lewis following the second practice on Friday. "Just the things you saw from him on tape. His abilities as a receiver. I think he’ll be a guy also who will really uplift us on special teams and compete to be one of our core guys."
We're not locking Burkhead into the 53-man roster just yet, but we're more inclined to than not.
COBI HAMILTON, WR:
Hamilton has spent his time during Bengals camps, with offensive coordinator Jay Gruden reflecting positively on his impressions.
"Cobi's an exciting guy," said Gruden in late May. "He's bigger than I thought he was. He's taller. He's got good stride to him, he's got good hands, he's tough. In Arkansas he ran a lot of crossing routes so we knew he wasn't afraid to go across the middle. We like Cobi. We're impressed with what he's done so far."
"Cobi has not disappointed us at all," Lewis said the same day. "We really think he's going to make us better."
Hamilton could easily squeeze into the bottom half of the wide receiver roster, especially after glowing reports of his overall production during practices. Strong on the outside, fearless over the middle. It'll be a true (and interesting) camp battle.
REID FRAGEL, OT:
Size and history has nicknamed Fragel the Dennis Roland replacement. At least, ideally. Standing at six-foot-forever with collegiate experience at tight end not only makes Fragel an ideal player for jumbo packages, it expands the playbook by allowing Fragel to run routes. We can see Fragel making the squad, but only if he directly replaces Roland. That's his only path.
T.J. JOHNSON, C:
We're not exactly sure how Johnson makes the 53-man roster this year, competing against Kyle Cook and Trevor Robinson at center -- unless there's significant injury issues. Johnson has expanded outward with additional work along the offensive line, but we're thinking practice squad at best.