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Ridiculously early Bengals 2018 53-man roster projection and depth chart

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The Bengals haven’t even announced their official list of undrafted signings, but that’s not stopping us from releasing an absurdly early roster prediction for the 2018 NFL season.

NFL: Preseason-Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

There are four months until the start of the 2018 NFL season.

The Bengals haven’t even announce their list of undrafted players the team is signing.

Training camp is still months away.

OTAs aren’t even over.

But when has that ever stopped us from making way-too-early predictions?

It’s time for our first Bengals 53-man roster projection of 2018.

With the NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, we’re taking a look at the Bengals’ 2018 offseason roster and analyzing how the roster is going to take shape over the next few months. Who will remain on the 53-man roster in 2018 and who is going to get the cut? After the draft and prior to the team announcing its college free agent signings, there are 79 players on the Bengals’ roster. That means the team could sign 11 more players for the offseason roster.

I’m also listing the players in the order in which I envision them currently on the depth chart. Expect a lot to change...

QUARTERBACK (3)

Andy Dalton, Matt Barkley, Logan Woodside

The Bengals watched AJ McCarron walk away in free agency and added Matt Barkley as his replacement. Barkley would be fine at holding the clipboard, but he’s not someone you’d really want to rely on if Andy Dalton went down. The Bengals then drafted Logan Woodside who will need to some time to develop at the NFL level. He’s probably not ready to be Dalton’s primary backup, but also isn’t likely to be someone the Bengals want to risk losing before they get to develop him. With Woodside in, Jeff Driskel is likely out.

CUT: Jeff Driskel (1)

RUNNING BACK/H-BACK (4)

Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Ryan Hewitt, Mark Walton

The Bengals lost Jeremy Hill in free agency and added a new running back in the fourth round of the draft. That addition (Mark Walton) is bad news for Brian Hill, Tra Carson and Jarveon Williams who will be fighting for their roster lives this summer. There’s just about no hope for any of them, outside of injuries to Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard and Walton. Ryan Hewitt will likely continue his role as the team’s fullback, though with how minimally they’ve used him in the last two years, you have to wonder if he’s fighting for his roster life this summer, too.

Cut: Brian Hill, Tra Carson, Jarveon Williams, Cethan Carter (4)

WIDE RECEIVER (6)

A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Josh Malone, Auden Tate

The Bengals’ wide receiver position is once again crowded with young talent. The team added Auden Tate in the seventh round of the draft but lost no players from the 2017 squad. It’s hard to see the Bengals going with seven receivers again this year though, so the top talent at the position is going to need to rise to the occasion this summer. I think some of the drafted players at other positions will compete for returner duties and I don’t currently see Alex Erickson making the team this year after a lackluster season in 2017 as a returner. The same goes for Cody Core who the Bengals have awarded opportunities to with diminishing returns. He had zero catches in 2017 and may be on the outside looking in if Tate does well in training camp. Look for undrafted players to make waves at the wide receiver spot, too.

Cut: Alex Erickson, Kermit Whitfield, Cody Core (3)

TIGHT END (3)

Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah

Imagine a world with a healthy Tyler Eifert! That’s the dream world I’m living in where I refuse to think about anything outside of that fantasy. If Eifert and 2015 draft picks Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah stay healthy through the lead up to the season, I’d expect the team to go with the three of them at the position. Both Mason Schreck and Scott Orndoff have practice squad eligibility.

Cut: Mason Schreck, Scott Orndoff (2)

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

Offensive tackles: Cordy Glenn, Jake Fisher, Cedric Ogbuehi

Offensive guards: Clint Boling, Trey Hopkins, Christian Westerman, Alex Redmond

Centers: Billy Price, T.J. Johnson

The offensive line is an area of the team that’s hard to predict because though there are a lot of positions that are easy to predict, there are a few where there will be real competition this summer and the losers of those competitions will be cut. At offensive tackle, it’s easy to pencil in Cordy Glenn, Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher. Fisher is likely the front-runner at the right tackle spot but he’ll compete with Bobby Hart, among others for the job. Ogbuehi is likely to be the backup to Glenn. Though, maybe Ogbuehi will get a chance at the right tackle job, too. Regardless, all three are nearly locks to make the roster. You’d have to imagine Christian Westerman, Alex Redmond and Trey Hopkins will compete for the right guard spot and maybe one of them will be cut, but it’s also not hard to see the team keeping all three. If seventh round pick Rod Taylor impresses, he could make it over one of those guys. If Taylor fails to shine, the team will likely try to develop him on the practice squad.

Cut: Bobby Hart, Justin Murray, Kent Perkins, Javarius Leamon, Oni Omoile, Rod Taylor (6)

Total players on offense: 25

Total offensive players cut: 16

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

Defensive ends: Carlos Dunlap, Jordan Willis, Michael Johnson, Sam Hubbard

Defensive tackles: Geno Atkins, Chris Baker, Andrew Billings, Ryan Glasgow, Andrew Brown

The defensive line has less competition than you’d think. Sam Hubbard and Andrew Brown were brought in via the draft and Chris Baker was added in free agency. But the Bengals also lost Chris Smith in free agency and the team is listing Carl Lawson at linebacker, though he’ll likely play at defensive end, too. Assuming the Bengals go with nine guys combined at the defensive line spots, Josh Tupou may be the only guy cut. There will be undrafted players added though, and maybe one (or more) will impress and make the competition tougher.

Cut: Josh Tupou (1)

LINEBACKERS (6*)

Vontaze Burfict*, Preston Brown, Nick Vigil, Carl Lawson, Vincent Rey, Jordan Evans, Malik Jefferson

The Bengals added Preston Brown in free agency and Malik Jefferson in the draft. They’ll join a group that was injured for much of the 2017 season. Vontaze Burfict is suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season, so the Bengals could go with six linebackers to start the year (which I have them doing here). It’s also possible someone in the cut category below — or an undrafted player yet to be officially signed by the team — could make the team during Burfict’s suspension. Once Burfict joins the roster on the Monday before Week 5, someone will need to be cut, but it could come from a different position group. There are seven linebacker names above, but don’t really count Burfict as he’ll start the year suspended*.

Cut: Hardy Nickerson Jr., Brandon Bell (2)

DEFENSIVE BACKS (10)

Safeties: George Iloka, Shawn Williams, Jessie Bates III, Clayton Fejedelem

Cornerbacks: William Jackson, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard, Josh Shaw, Darius Phillips, Davontae Harris

There won’t be too many tough cuts here, despite the number of players getting knocked off the roster being relatively high. Brandon Wilson was drafted by the Bengals in 2017 but was injured for the whole offseason, up until Week 3 of the preseason. He spent most of the year on the practice squad and some of the year on the 53-man roster not playing. He’ll need to prove a lot on special teams, potentially as a return man in 2018 to make the team after the additions of Jessie Bates, Davontae Harris and Darius Phillips. Phillips will also compete as a returner after scoring six touchdowns as a kick and punt returner in four years at Western Michigan. He had at least one special teams touchdown in each year of college. As fifth round picks, both Phillips and Harris are likely to make the roster in their rookie year. Those cornerback additions will also make it hard for KeiVarae Russell to make the roster. He’s been on the team for the last two years but his only play of note was an interception on the final play of the 2016 season, which just happened to be his first play on defense that season. He has a rough road to the roster in 2018.

Cut: Brandon Wilson, Robenson Therezie, KeiVarae Russell, Tony McRae, Sojourn Shelton (5)

Total players on defense: 25

Total defensive players cut: 8

SPECIAL TEAMS (3)

Kicker: Randy Bullock

Punter: Kevin Huber

Long-snapper: Clark Harris

No changes here, especially since no kicker was brought in during or following the draft. The Bengals haven’t released the list of undrafted players they’ve signed, but there’s not expected to be a kicker on the list once it’s made public.

Cut: Jon Brown

Total players on special teams: 3

Total special teams players cut: 1

Some notes:

  • I only have one rookie draft pick getting cut. Is that realistic?
  • Will the Bengals trust a new face at kick returner and cut Erickson?
  • Obviously no undrafted 2018 free agents are included here, which will shake things up as only 79 guys are on the current roster and the team will likely get to the 90 man max prior to August.
  • Burfict is suspended to start the 2018 season and someone will need to be cut when he returns in Week 5.

What are your thoughts? What do I have wrong in this way-too-early 2018 Bengals roster prediction?