Following the 2014 NFL Draft, the Bengals signed an offensive guard with a passion for Gospel music and reading the Bible. That was Trey Hopkins who grew up in Texas and named Andre Gurode, a five time Pro Bowl guard for the Dallas Cowboys, as one of his sports heroes. It would obviously be a huge benefit for the Bengals if the former Texas Longhorn could emulate Gurode’s on-field accolades.
Hopkins played all four seasons at Texas, starting at right tackle as a sophomore, before moving to left guard as a junior and senior. After his junior season he was named Second Team All Big 12, and was named First Team All Big 12 as a senior. Additionally, he won the Bevo Beast award as a senior, annually given to the top offensive lineman on the Longhorn’s roster.
As an undrafted rookie in 2014, Hopkins impressed coaches and fans in training camp and the preseason before a leg injury ended his season, and sent him to Injured Reserve. In 2015 he impressed enough to merit a spot on the practice squad, where he spent the entire season. The Bengals offensive line looks set as far as the starters go this year, but Hopkins will be fighting for one of the backup spots. So, let's take a look at the third year lineman.
Experience: Entering his third year
Weight: 300 pounds
Why he might improve in 2016
Hopkins now has two full seasons of experience being on an NFL roster and having worked on the his strength and conditioning at the NFL level. Plus, after spending all of 2015 on the practice squad, his skills should be far more refined than when he entered the NFL. He is also now two years removed from his injury, so if there was ever a year to show off what he can do, this would be it.
Why he might regress in 2016
Hopkins has never really played poorly in training camp or the preseason. His first year he was hit with a major injury, and last year was recovering from the injury. Another injury could cause a regression, but he seems on track to play at an equal or better level than we saw in the preseason last year. There's no real reason to think Hopkins would take a step back in 2016.
Odds of making the roster
It’s probably a pretty safe assumption that seven of the Bengals roster spots will be consumed by Andrew Whitworth, Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Fisher, Kevin Zeitler, Clint Boling, Christian Westerman, and Russell Bodine. Hopkins’ roster chances will likely depend on how many additional linemen the team keeps on the roster.
The top competitors for roster spots will likely come from Eric Winston at tackle, and T.J. Johnson at center. Hopkins also faces rookie competition at backup guard from Alex Cooper, Alex Redmond and Trip Thurman.
I’m going to assume Hopkins can fend off Cooper, Redmond and Thurman, and emerge as a competitor with Westerman for the title of top backup guard behind Zeitler and Boling. If the Bengals feel Hopkins can play more than just left guard, that versatility would go a long way to boosting his roster chances. Since Whitworth and Winston are likely at the end of their careers, and Zeitler is no guarantee to return in 2017, it would be in the team’s best interest to have good, young linemen on the roster ready to step in. Therefore I’m going to be optimistic, and put his odds of making the roster equal to his jersey number: 66 percent.