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Big expectations for big Andrew Billings in Year 3

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Andrew Billings has a couple of seasons under his belt now, but he hasn’t really shown us that he is the steal we thought he’d be yet. What are the odds that changes in 2018?

NFL: Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, Andrew Billings flashed moments of dominance that made him look like the draft steal that many Bengals fans thought he’d be when he fell to Round 4 of the 2016 NFL Draft.

However, he also flashed moments that reinforced the reality that he is still very young and raw as an NFL player. When the 2018 NFL season kicks off, which will be Billings third season, he will only be 23 years old.

Billings missed the entirety of his rookie season after sustaining a knee injury in a preseason scrimmage with the Minnesota Vikings. He underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus and subsequently spent the entire season on injured reserve.

Following the missed rookie year, Billings saw only brief moments on the field as his second season began. Billings only played 12 percent of the Bengals defensive snaps in their first seven games of the 2017 season, but saw his playing time increase to 45 percent of the defensive snaps in the team’s final nine game. In the final three games, he averaged over 50 percent of the defensive snaps.

What are his chances of making the roster, and where does he currently stand in the pecking order at his position?

Andrew Billings

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 325 pounds

College: Baylor

Hometown: Waco, TX

Experience: Third-Year Player

Cap Status

Billings is entering the third year of his four year rookie contract, worth $2.88M. His base salary is $630,000 this season, and $720,000 next season. Following the 2019 season he is set to become a free agent, according to Spotrac.

Background

To say that Billings is a big, strong dude would be something of an understatement. The former 4-star recruit from Waco, Texas set a state record by powerlifting 2,010 pounds. As a true freshman at Baylor in 2013, he played in 11 games with 29 tackles.

As a sophomore he started all 13 games with 37 tackles and two sacks, and he was named First-Team All-Big 12. He followed that up with another First Team All Big 12 selection in his third and final year at Baylor which included 5.5 sacks and 14 tackles for a loss from the nose tackle position.

He impressed with almost 30 percent of his tackles going for a loss in college. As a prospect, he impressed with a combine run in the 40-yard dash of under five seconds, despite weighing in at over 300 pounds.

There was some debate whether Billings would only be a two-down run stopper on the defensive line, or if his power would translate into a three-down defender who could contribute with a pass rush. This speculation slid his draft stock a bit, and many were surprised when he didn’t get drafted by the end of the first round.

Many more were surprised to see he didn’t get drafted in the second round. In fact, he fell all the way into the fourth round before finally being selected by the Bengals.

Roster Odds

When Andrew Billings was drafted in Round 4, it looked like the Bengals had found a long-term solution at nose tackle to play next to Geno Atkins. Two years later, he is still fighting for playing time, though for most of training camp and the preseason, he’s been the starting nose tackle.

Looking at the Bengals defensive tackles, Geno Atkins is a 3-technique, and it’s possible that backup Ryan Glasgow is view that way too. Both are more penetrators than space eaters, and may not have a lot of bearing on Billings roster status, unless the Bengals continue to go a little unconventional with their defensive line rotation, using more ends and edge guys in tackle spots on pass rushing downs.

Billings’ main competition is likely Chris Baker, who was signed to a $3 million one-year contract back in March. Both men are in the 320 pound range and would presumably line up as a classic nose tackle in the Bengals defense.

Baker had some success in 2015 and 2016 with the Redskins, but was a bust last year with the Buccaneers. Outside of Baker, there is an outside chance that Josh Tupou or Chris Okoye could push Billings.

But given Billings’ upside, it would be hard to see an undrafted guy push Billings completely off the roster.

Roster Odds: 95 percent.