In the 2016 NFL season, 58 players played for the Cincinnati Bengals during the course of the year. 38 were drafted by the team, 10 were drafted by other teams, and 10 weren’t drafted at all. For the 10 undrafted players, six have been with the Bengals since at least 2014. Five of them remain under contract with the team; they are (in order of length with the team) Vincent Rey, Vontaze Burfict, Wallace Gilberry, Ryan Hewitt, and Trey Hopkins.
Hopkins is the only one whose talent at his position is the primary reason he has been around for this long, rather than on-field production. He’s taken 15 total snaps in his three years, and all of them were last year, in the last game of the season. Let’s review who he is, and his chances of sticking around for another year.
Weight: 310 pounds
Position: Offensive guard
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Experience: Second year
Draft Status: Undrafted, 2014
Hopkins is currently signed to a two-year, $1,020,000 contract and is slated to become a free agent following the 2018 NFL season. This year, he will carry a cap hit of $465,000 with no dead money this year or next.
As far as college profiles go, Hopkins’ is very clean. Starting 42 games at a power five school while playing extended time at left guard and right tackle is impressive, but the perception of Texas football was dwindling while he was on the roster. The program accomplished a record of 30-21 during Hopkins’s four years from 2010-2013. Texas was 45-8 the four previous years. Hopkins was a fine prospect as an individual player and his draft stock was weighed down heavily by the team he played for, combined with mediocre athleticism. On a more successful and prominent team, his caliber of talent and experience likely would have gotten him drafted on day three before the seventh round.
Hopkins joined the Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 2014. In his third preseason game, he suffered a leg injury that caused him to be sidelined for his entire rookie year, which he spent on Injured Reserve. That injury kept him out of the first two preseason games in 2015, and may have cost him a roster spot in the process. He spent all of that year on the practice squad, waiting for his time.
In 2016, finally having a healthy preseason, Hopkins made the initial 53 man roster but was inactive his first week. He was then waived and subsequently re-signed to the practice squad, before getting the call back to the roster in Week 17. He finally made the field in that game against the Baltimore Ravens. Here he is at left guard:
Opportunity in the NFL can come and go in an instant, and for most, it’s completely dependent on timing. Hopkins turned 25-years-old on July 6, he’s in his fourth year in the NFL and has his best chance yet of making the Bengals 53 man roster and being one of the active offensive linemen on game days. With the potential catastrophe that currently is the Bengals starting offensive line, it can be argued that Hopkins is one of the five most naturally talented lineman on the team and has earned a chance to compete for a starting position. This writer certainly believes that to be true.
During OTAs this offseason, Hopkins reportedly took some first team reps at right guard and second team reps at left tackle. Offensive line coach Paul Alexander claimed him to be the “tool” who can play all five spots on the line. The team lost its two best members of last year’s unit and they can use all the versatility they have.
Hopkins has made it this far and is still seeking playing time. After three years filled with injury and waiting, he may finally relish being a key component of the unit that can make or break the Bengals’ 2017 season.
Odds: 85 percent.