However, one player who Lewis did have success with was safety Nedu Ndukwe in 2007. He had a productive career in Cincinnati before knee injuries ended his career after his rookie contract expired. Since then, few players have made an impact after being drafted in the final round, but the Bengals may have found another late-round safety who’s turning into a solid defender.
In 2016, the Bengals took Clayton Fejedelem out of Illinois with the 245th overall pick of the 2016 Draft. Not only did Fejedelem make the Bengals’ final roster, he also shined in the limited playing time he received in the preseason and regular season. Fejedelem also joined third-round linebacker Nick Vigil and second-round receiver Tyler Boyd as the only Bengals draft picks to appear in all 16 games last past season.
That’s because Fejedelem became a mainstay on special teams, though he did earn occasional defensive snaps throughout the year. He finished the year with 10 total tackles, seven of which came on special teams.
From the limited snaps we did see of Fejedelem, his game was somewhat similar to that of Taylor Mays, when he was on the Bengals’ roster: a hard-hitting safety who could play linebacker on passing downs and was almost always lined up in the box. But, his limited coverage abilities kept him from ever having a bigger role.
It sounds like Fejedelem is already making a push for a bigger role by what he’s shown in offseason workouts. ESPN just picked their under-the-radar names to know for every NFL team after OTAs, and Fejedelem was the Bengals’ pick for this honor:
Cincinnati Bengals - Clayton Fejedelem, safety
After playing mostly on special teams as a rookie, Fejedelem, a seventh-round pick in 2016, has caught some eyes on defense during OTAs. He made several pass breakups during the practices open to the media. Plays like that could go a long way to securing a roster spot in Year 2. -- Katherine Terrell
Even though Fejedelem rarely saw any defensive snaps as a rookie, he’s still capable of playing the type of role that can spell future success for players in Cincinnati. And with the Bengals only adding one defensive back in the draft this year, Fejedelem is in decent position to make the final roster again next season (sixth-round rookie Brandon Wilson may be listed a safety, but he could play cornerback and even running back).
Even if Fejedelem makes the final roster, he still won’t get many defensive snaps with Shawn Williams, George Iloka and Derron Smith on the roster. Then again, just one injury to that group could propel him into a bigger role, and it sounds like he’s working toward it based on his performance in offseason workouts.
It’s going to be a tough battle for Fejedelem to get on the field for Cincinnati this year, so he’ll need to keep his strong offseason going into training camp and the preseason.