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Bengals roster breakdown, 90-in-90: J.J. Dielman

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The rookie center was a depth pick in the recent Draft and will hope his athleticism and versatility can get him in the mix for a job amid a struggling unit

NCAA Football: California at Utah Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

With their fifth-round compensatory pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals grabbed utility interior lineman J.J. Dielman, a player most pundits weren’t in love with heading into the draft. The former Utah Utes captain is a good athlete for the center position but only played five games there before going down with a season-ending injury last year. He offers versatility but in a unit full of question marks a depth player with nearly no chance to start in 2017 wasn’t the best call as the only offensive lineman drafted by the Bengals this year. And despite being a rookie draft pick, his roster spot isn’t totally guaranteed.

J.J. Dielman

Position: Center/Guard

Height: 6’5”

Weight: 309 pounds

College: Utah

Hometown: Ahwatukee, Arizona

Experience: First-year player

Draft status: 5th-round pick, 176th overall in 2017

Cap status

Jeffrey Joseph Dielman signed a four-year contract worth $2,601,948 with the Bengals with only a $201,948 signing bonus in guaranteed money, according to Over the Cap. If released Cincinnati would only be on the hook for $50,487 each year for the next four years.

Background

After spending the first three seasons of his career in Utah playing right tackle, Dielman moved inside to man the center position in his redshirt senior year, but unfortunately a foot injury five games into the campaign sidelined him through the NFL Draft and OTAs.

Dielman was part of a formidable offensive line at Utah that sent four of its members to the NFL in this year’s Draft, but not many scouts or pundits were high on him. In a week offensive line class, the former second-team All-Pac 12 selection in 2015 had to wait until Day 3 to hear his name called, and for good reasons.

Nobody questions his athleticism, but short arms and lack of upper core strength means he’s got a long way ahead to make it in the pros. He did have a ton of reps on the bench press, something offensive line coach Paul Alexander loves, but that is easily the least translatable figure on the football field. Just ask fellow center Russell Bodine.

Dielman brings versatility to the mix, and has actually played some center in college, whereas last season’s fifth-round pick Christian Westerman never did. That could open up a role for him with Bodine set to become a free agent at the end of the year.

With 11 draft picks the Bengals could afford to take some risks with a few of them, and Dielman fits the mold. He gives the team depth, but with a unit already starting multiple question marks, many think the Dielman pick wasn’t enough to address their shortcomings.

Roster chances

Despite his status as a recent draftee, Dielman’s inclusion in the final 53-man squad is far from being a sure thing. The Bengals have a lot of young guys, even if some are still struggling, like Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher, and then there’s former undrafted free agent Trey Hopkins, who is making a push for a starting spot.

The team will probably only carry nine linemen, considering they have many other positions where they can use an extra guy. Veterans like T.J. Johnson and Eric Winston could also be fighting for their jobs, and Westerman has failed to make an impact with the clock ticking.

Dielman has an edge as the Bengals rarely cut their draft picks in their rookie year, but Alexander is looking for improvements within his struggling unit and Dielman shouldn’t feel safe. He’ll need to impress through the rest of the preseason and show why the Bengals drafted him.

Roster odds: 50 percent.