Will Chris Worley be the latest undrafted player to become a key contributor for the Cincinnati Bengals?
Worley comes to the Bengals after a standout career at Ohio State, where he actually played with first-round pick Billy Price. While they played on opposite sides of the ball, Price has great admiration for Worley.
“Tough. Hard-nosed. High motor,” Price told Bengals.com. “Smaller guy. Especially when you look at linebackers, but a guy who gives you his all. One of these pesky linebackers who just keeps coming back. I’m glad he’s on my side.”
Bengals linebackers coach Jim Haslett is also a fan of Worley.
“Tough. Physical. Took over from day one,” said Haslett after a rookie minicamp session. “I like him.”
Haslett is actually someone Worley looks up to and is happy to now be working under.
“Coach Haslett talked to me through the whole process. I came down here for a visit. He came up there for pro day,” Worley said. “It came down to needs. It came down to scheme of things. Like how they run some of the same things as Ohio State.
“I thought this was a better fit for me personally. I love the coaching they have here. Coach Haslett was a big deciding factor.”
One thing that’s helping Worley is his versatility, as he played both inside and outside linebacker while playing in Columbus. While his numbers in college don’t jump off the table, he frequently played in a loaded defense full of NFL talent, which lessened his chances to make more plays in games.
Over his four years at Ohio State, Worley recorded 153 tackles, one interception, and forced three fumbles. As a senior in 2017, he had 56 tackles, five tackles for loss, one sack and one forced fumble.
Worley could be a great fit for the Bengals, who have a nice history of developing undrafted free agents into contributors under Marvin Lewis. That’s especially true at linebacker with guys like Vontaze Burfict, Vincent Rey, Brandon Bell and Hardy Nickerson all going undrafted before joining the Bengals.
Speaking of Burfict, he’s suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season, so that means a different linebacker will be occupying his 53-man roster spot for at least four games. Worley figures to be one of the guys in contention for that spot, along with Evans, Bell and Nickerson.
It’s safe to think Rey, Nick Vigil, Malik Jefferson and Preston Brown will all be on the final roster, so there’s only 2-3 more spots open for Worley to win (Carl Lawson is still listed as a linebacker, though he mostly plays a defensive end).
However, it wasn’t a lock that the Bengals were going to take Jefferson in Round 3 of the draft, and had they not, they may have ended up drafting Worley later on, according to Geoff Hobson.
When the last day of the draft rolled around, Worley’s name frequently surfaced, and if they hadn’t grabbed Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson in the third round, they probably would have pulled the trigger as early as the fifth.
As it turned out, the Bengals got both Jefferson and Worley to help upgrade a think linebacking group heading into 2018.