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How Rex Burkhead at WR impacts Bengals roster

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How does a move to WR help Rex Burkhead's odds and affect the rest of the Bengals final 53-man roster?

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

From the day Rex Burkhead was drafted by the Bengals, it's been a challenge for him to not only find playing time, but to just hold onto a roster spot.

It's in no way an indicator of the third-year running back's ability, but more so the depth of the position at which he plays. Jeremy Hill established himself as one of the best backs in football last year, one year after Giovani Bernard emerged as one of the league's most versatile backs.

Then there's Cedric Peerman, now in his sixth year as one of the Bengals' special teams aces. He's not too shabby as a runner either, with a 5.2 yard-per-carry average for his career, but that number did dip to 2.9 with 43 carries last year.

And don't forget about BenJarvus Green-Ellis being in Cincinnati for Burkhead's first two NFL seasons. That forced Burkhead to beat out Dan Herron for a roster spot. Herron is coming off a 2014 season in which he was the Colts' starter and averaged 8 all-purpose yards per game during his final nine games into Indy's run to the AFC Championship

That's how crowded the backfield has been during Burkhead's time in Cincinnati, and it's not getting any better for him. Hill, Gio and Peerman are back to go with practice squad back James Wilder Jr. Also joining the team is promising undrafted free agent Terrell Watson out of Azusa Pacific. There's also UDFA Mark Weisman, an intriguing fullback from Iowa who seems similar to Brian Leonard when he came out of Rutgers. He also ran for 32 touchdowns in his three-year Iowa career.

Instead of focusing solely on a position which will again be tough to earn a roster spot at, Burkhead did some work at wide receiver in OTAs. There are 11 receivers currently on the roster who are fighting for six or seven spots. Given there's nine backs (if you count h-back Ryan Hewitt) trying to earn five spots, it's certainly easier for Burkhead to earn a spot as a WR than a RB.

If Burkhead does focus more on WR in training camp, there's only Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu and A.J. Green that are assured roster spots. After them, James Wright,Mario Alford, and Denarius Moore will be given every chance to earn those next three positions on the roster. Brandon Tate will try and steal a spot once again with his return ability, and some, including Inside the Jungle’s Nick Seuberling are banking on it.

Cobi Hamilton Jake Kumerow and Tevin Reese are on the outside looking in, and Burkhead's value as a RB, WR and special teams contributor makes him an easy pick over them.

Burkhead's potential move to WR may also help determine the roster fate of several other Bengals. If Burkhead can be a capable WR, that makes it easier to keep one less true WR like Moore, Tate or Alford. Maybe the Bengals feel confident with five true WRs and Burkhead being the sixth WR in theory.

That in turn opens a roster spot up for a player at another position. There's a strong battle for one of the final LB spots between Marquis Flowers, Nico Johnson and Jayson DiManche. While Burkhead at WR could end up costing someone like Moore or Alford a roster spot, it in turn could help DiManche or Johnson end up earning a spot.

That's a lot on the line for something as simple as an RB playing WR. Such is life in the NFL when trying to construct a roster of the 53 best players available to you. Whatever happens, Burkhead will be one of those 53. Hopefully, this move helps determine who the other 52 will be.