Each player on the Cincinnati Bengals’ 90-man roster is fighting to finish the offseason as one of 53 players who will make it through final cuts to stick around on the roster. Many of those 53 players have their spots locked in as starters, but others are fighting hard for a roster spot. In this series, we are ranking each player into categories, based on their importance to the roster in 2017.
This particular group of players, ranked 41 to 50, should be expected to make it through final cuts, earning one of the coveted roster spots. Then again, the NFL world is a fluid one, so any of these players could end up on the outside looking in if they are not careful.
So far, we’ve ranked the #51-90 players on the Bengals’ roster:
#81-90, the little chance group
Next, we move on to the players ranked 41-50, in no particular order:
Cedric Peerman, running back
Peerman is the quintessential example of a player who sticks around on the roster due to reliable special teams work, despite rarely making much of an impact at his primary position. As a running back, he has recorded 70 carries for 349 yards and a touchdown on the ground in addition to 13 catches for 123 yards in the air in his eight year career.
For the most part, he has ridden the third and fourth string roles for the Bengals, only recording one start in 2012. However, he has established himself as a great special teams player, earning the title of captain of the unit and a Pro Bowl selection for his efforts in 2015 (2014 season).
As a running back, he could easily be unseated by any of the young players fighting for a roster spot, although it will be hard for the Bengals’ to part with his proficiency on special teams.
Tyler Kroft, tight end
Kroft was supplanted by C.J. Uzomah on the depth chart at times in 2016. Granted, injuries set him back early on in the season, but the former third round pick will have to make strides to maintain his role as the No. 2 tight end on the team.
He’s very likely to make the team, purely because of his talent and development so far, but, a solid preseason from Uzomah and a rough one from Kroft could see the depth structure shift at the position.
T.J. Johnson, center
Although he recently signed a contract extension with the Bengals, Johnson’s status with the team is not set in stone. The former seventh round pick out of South Carolina could see some stiff competition for his backup center role with fifth round pick J.J. Dielman waiting for his shot.
At the moment, Johnson’s experience at the position should be enough to keep him solidly in the pole position for the backup center spot, but that could change, depending on how Dielman performs this summer.
Cody Core, wide receiver
The Bengals coaches absolutely love Core. In addition to possessing enviable size for the wide receiver position (6’3”, 214 pounds), he is a hard worker and extremely competitive. The Bengals brought in a bunch of talent at wide receiver this offseason, yet he has managed to generate tons of buzz.
The Bengals have discussed their desire to roster seven receivers this year, likely because they can’t bare the idea of parting with a player with so much raw talent and determination.
Derron Smith, safety
It was difficult to make this pick as Smith has been such a consistent insurance policy at safety. He is likely the best backup safety the Bengals have but he won’t be challenging George Iloka or Shawn Williams for the starting roles any time soon. He has quietly found his way onto the roster for the last two years, giving the Bengals a solid backup option at an important position. The Bengals have been lucky to have so few issues at the safety position in recent years, making it difficult for Smith to show his development on the field. But, sometimes the best thing to hear from backups is nothing at all. It suggests reliability and consistency on the practice field, despite little opportunity to prove either in the spotlight.
Marcus Hardison, defensive end
The Bengals’ defensive end position seems to be in a state of flux, which could be even more fluid if Hardison has a good summer. He has yet to see any active time on the Bengals’ roster due to back-to-back preseason injuries in his first two seasons. But, heading into his third year, it seems like do-or-die time for the 25-year-old former fourth round pick.
It is hard to see enough young defensive ends beating him on the depth chart for him to miss the final roster completely, although he will need to show something this offseason to prove he is still on track to being the player the Bengals thought he could be.
Jordan Evans, linebacker
Sixth round draft picks aren’t often safe picks to make the final roster, but Evans appears to have a more well-rounded package than your average sixth round pick. He likely fell in the draft due to a worrying lack of physicality, which can be troublesome as a linebacker, as well as some concerns with his technique.
But, he seems to have the mental and athletic side of playing the position down pat. In fact, when playing coverage, he gave up a QB rating of 64.3 in his final year at Oklahoma. He struggles as a run stopper, but most of his issues are ones that can be coached. He could easily become a consistent contributor for the Bengals, if not a starter down the line. It seems he is in a comfortable position to make the final roster this year.
Andrew Billings, defensive tackle
Heralded as one of the biggest steals of the 2016 NFL Draft, Billings enters his second season with the Bengals as an expected starter. Yet, he’s still an unknown after tearing his meniscus and losing his entire rookie season as a result. However, he is still the massively powerful player the Bengals grabbed in Round 4 after many mock drafts had him going to the team in Round 1.
If he can overcome his motor and technique issues, he could become the Bengals’ long-awaited answer to a solid starting complement to Geno Atkins. But, he will need to earn that role with solid play this summer and throughout the season.
Clayton Fejedelem, safety
The Bengals’ other backup safety doesn’t quite have the pedigree of Smith, but his determination, work ethic, and proficiency in the box, which have helped him make it this far. Chances are, if one of the younger safeties were to make enough of an impression to beat someone out for a final roster spot, Fejedelem would be the one to get the axe. But, even that seems unlikely at the moment.
Jake Elliott, kicker
Without a doubt, the kicker with the most potential on the team, Elliott has to be considered the favorite to win the Bengals’ kicking competition. It is hard to put him much higher in this series due to his lack of experience playing in the NFL, but you can’t argue with his accuracy and confidence.
The major criticism against him is his lack of power and, therefore, distance on kickoffs and field goals. But, the ability to sink long field goals certainly isn’t beyond him. Expect him to come out on top this offseason.