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Bengals roster breakdown, 90 in 90: Karel Hamilton

Hamilton was a superstar in the FCS ranks. Will that translate into NFL success?

NCAA Football: Samford at Mississippi State Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Not long after the 2017 NFL Draft ended, Samford wide receiver Karel Hamilton agreed to a deal with the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent.

Where does Hamilton stand on the depth chart, and can he crack the final roster at this loaded position?

Karel Hamilton

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 199 pounds

College: Samford

Position: Wide receiver

Hometown: Valrico, Fla.

Experience: Rookie

Cap Status

Hamilton is signed to a 3-year, $1,665,000 contract, including an average annual salary of $555,000. In 2017, Hamilton will carry a cap hit of $465,000 if he makes the final roster, according to Spotrac.


Hamilton finished his college career having set five school records, including career catches (279), career receiving yards (3,803) and career touchdown receptions (31). He finished with 111 catches as a senior — leading the FCS with an average 10.1 catches per game — for 1,389 yards and 14 touchdowns.

That earned Hamilton first-team FCS All-America honors. He also ranked second in the nation in receiving yards per game (126.3) and fourth in total receiving yards. Hamilton graduated this spring with a sports administration degree.

Even with great production, being an FCS player is automatically going to make it hard to be drafted into the NFL. That’s why it wasn’t a surprise to see Hamilton in virtually none of the draft projections, though’s Lance Zierlein did do a nice writeup of the FCS star.

STRENGTHS: Dips shoulder to sink under redirect attempts early in the route. Uses frame to create space at the top of his routes. Does a nice job of shielding cornerbacks from the throw and is able to secure contested catches. Works back to his quarterback. Generally a hands-catcher but will body it in traffic. Athletic in mid-air with ability to make difficult adjustments to the throw. Plus ball tracking skills. Finds the ball early and can adjust path to the ball accordingly.

WEAKNESSES: Shows tendency to wait on deep balls rather than attacking at high points. Play speed is below average. Marginal speed into his routes and cornerbacks can squat on his underneath work. Herky-jerky into his breaks with flailing arms and busy lower body. Below average separation quickness out of routes. Hard to find his burst gear on tape. Lack of release quickness is likely to get him hung up by press corners on next level. Average after the catch.

Watching Hamilton’s highlights, it’s easy to see NFL potential, but it’s at a position the Bengals are stacked at heading into next season.

Roster Odds

Hamilton is competing for a roster spot in what’s become one of the NFL’s most talented and deep receiving units. He has a tough challenge ahead of him with John Ross, A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Cody Core, Tyler Boyd, Josh Malone and Alex Hamilton likely locked into their roster spots. The Bengals do plan on keeping seven receivers, but Core and Erickson already appear to be locks for those final two spots.

Hamilton may be able to win one of the 1-2 spots on the practice squad the Bengals will use on receivers, especially now that Jake Kumerow is out for the year. Alonzo Russell has also shined in training camp and the preseason, so Hamilton is probably the second receiver on the practice squad, if the Bengals even keep that many.

However, Hamilton has done nothing in the preseason to suggest he’s even a practice squad candidate. He’s rarely seen the field and has yet to catch a pass. Unless there’s an onslaught of injuries, Hamilton has virtually no shot at the 53-man roster or practice squad.

Odds: 3 percent.