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Clayton Fejedelem should make Bengals’ 53-man roster with Jimmy Wilson cut

Clayton Fejedelem began his college career in the NAIA ranks, but now he’s an NFL player.

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NFL: Preseason-Cincinnati Bengals at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals will likely keep all of their 2016 draft picks on the 53-man roster this year. Of all the players selected in April's draft, Illinois' Clayton Fejedelem was viewed as the biggest long-shot to make the final roster.

That's typically the case with seventh-round draft picks, especially when they join a potion that's already a strength. Between Shawn Williams, George Iloka, Derron Smith, and Jimmy Wilson, this was going to be a tough fight for Fejedelem to claim a roster spot.

But after a fierce battle through training camp and into the preseason, it looks as though Fej will make the final roster. That became evident when the Bengals waived Wilson on Friday, a clear sign that Fej has earned a roster spot as the fourth safety.

Fejedelem still has to wait and see if the Bengals make any additions in the coming days that could jeopardize his spot, but in terms of what the team plans on doing, it's safe to think Fej earned a roster spot heading into the weekend.

Wilson didn’t have a bad camp or preseason, so beating out that veteran for a roster spot was by no means a given for Fej. We didn't get to see him in action much this preseason, more so because he was rarely tested in coverage, while runs against this defense typically didn't make it to the second and third levels this preseason.

Against the Colts, Fej had his best game of the preseason, so much so that Pro Football Focus gave him the third-highest grade of any player from this game.

Fej is the kind of big-hitter and enforcer Cincinnati loves to have in its secondary. Last year at Illinois, Fej led his team in tackles with 140 to go with 4.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and seven pass deflections. That came after his junior year in 2014 when he was a part-timer racking up 49 tackles and two pass deflections.

But that came after Fej began his college career at NAIA school St. Xavier State. He eventually earned a walk-on spot at Illinois, and worked his way up to becoming a full-time starter in 2015.

Now, Fej is set to join an NFL 53-man roster in his rookie season for a team contending for a championship.