At the very least, roster predictions tend to have a lesser crapshoot value than the NFL draft. Many will accurately predict the entire roster... largely because 35-40 players were locks even before training camp. The remaining list of players is a composition of preseason observations and obsession on the fluid depth chart. If you accurately predict the 2014 roster, congratulations (if you did it before training camp, then that means you're good). If you accurately predict the 2014 roster before teams gorge through the waiver wire, then respect.
So... what's going on?
WHERE ARE WE (DEADLINE AND CUTS NEEDED)
The Bengals have until 4 p.m. on Saturday to reduce their roster to a maximum 53 players. Following Friday's cuts (RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, LB Brandon Joiner, QB Tyler Wilson, and DT LaKendrick Ross), the Bengals presently have 71 players on their roster. That means they have to dump 18 players from their active roster.
ROSTER MAY CHANGE SUNDAY
Once teams release/waive/IR their players, the Bengals, like every team in the NFL, will obsess over the NFL's waiver wire. They're looking/researching/scouting guys that were released from other teams. The Bengals used the wire extensively in 2011 to acquire wide receiver Brandon Tate, interior lineman Mike McGlynn and tight end Mickey Shuler. Cincinnati is 21st on the waiver wire.
QUARTERBACK: There's little reason to believe it, but will the Bengals keep A.J. McCarron on the 53-man roster fearing that another team will sweep him up through waivers? No. I don't buy it either. Probable is the word for McCarron's eventual placement on the team's PUP list, leaving Andy Dalton and Jason Campbell as the one-two on Cincinnati's depth chart.
RUNNING BACK: If we're including fullbacks (or hybrid tight ends that play fullback), the Bengals usually keep five running backs on staff. Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill, and Cedric Peerman, to me, are locks. Rex Burkhead is well liked for his versatility and infectious work ethic while Ryan Hewitt has made every convincing argument to stick with the team. Where does that leave James Wilder Jr., Orson Charles and Nikita Whitlock? Cincinnati doesn't have to keep a fullback and could go with a roster full of running backs, but we doubt Hue Jackson would quietly concede that decision.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Six or seven. If it's six, will the team keep Cobi Hamilton, James Wright or Colin Lockett? The surprise cut? Brandon Tate. Yep. I think he's finally on the outside looking in. And I think Hamilton slides in on the back end. Will they go with seven? My primarily reason for saying no would be that they don't have Ryan Whalen any longer. Long story.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Each of the past three seasons, the Bengals have entered the regular season with nine offensive linemen. They have 13 on their roster right now. It's believed that Trey Hopkins is going on Injured Reserve, leaving three to cut. Would we be out of line saying goodbye to Dan France, T.J. Johnson and Trevor Robinson? Is that too much of a sacrifice at center... or does that hit you too hard at guard? Even if Clint Boling or Kevin Zeitler get hurt, Mike Pollak (who can also backup center) would join Tanner Hawkinson, who can also backup tackle, as primary backups.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Things are bit tighter on the defensive line. The team usually keeps eight but have taken nine defensive linemen in the past. There's 13. My biggest question... does Devon Still make the team? Let's also scratch out Sam Montgomery and David King. What about Robert Geathers? This will be interesting.
LINEBACKERS: They actually might have to make another cut here. There's seven players here and, if health doesn't become an issue (talk to the draft and roster experts to predict future injury issues), this could be one of the more athletic linebacker rosters that Cincinnati has ever had. If they go with six, then Sean Porter would likely be the odd man out.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Ten players. That's a traditional number for the number of defensive backs that Cincinnati staffs heading into the regular season. It's also the current number of players -- well, nine if we factor Chris Lewis-Harris' upcoming suspension. It wouldn't be surprising if Cincinnati releases a player or two and adds some talent through waivers on Sunday.