With the summer in full swing and NFL training camps less than two months away now, we gathered our Cincy Jungle staff to rank the top 25 Bengals of the 2020 season.
This ranking is simply who we believe are the 25 best Bengals heading into next season. It includes veterans and rookies alike, though it obviously is more favorable of players who’ve actually played snaps in the NFL, so don’t expect guys like Joe Burrow to be a top-five player right off the bat.
For a recap of the list, check out our stream here.
Maybe an outsider wouldn’t expect not one, but two offensive lineman to make a top 25 players list for the Cincinnati Bengals, but diehard fans know there are some bright spots in such a notorious and fluctuating group.
The inclusion of Jonah Williams was expected, and the higher listing of one of his teammates along the front five should have also been predictable. He’s the only offensive lineman with more than one year of starting experience under contract for the next three years. And aside from Williams, he’s the only one the fanbase can reasonably expect to be an asset in 2020.
No. 9: Trey Hopkins, center
1 minute's worth of evidence why trey hopkins was pff's best center this week. not always perfect off the snap, but the recovery on some of these plays is great.— john sheeran (@John__Sheeran) September 10, 2019
everything about the last clip is also beautiful. pic.twitter.com/kZySITQ0V3
It was no surprise that once Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler left Cincinnati after the 2016 season, Trey Hopkins found himself in the starting lineup. He had always been one of the team’s most talented blockers, but the number of openings along the starting line had been limited up until it took a turn for the worst. He should’ve been starting over Russell Bodine at center from the get-go, but that’s another conversation.
Hopkins didn’t get the opportunity to replace Bodine until Bodine’s original replacement, Billy Price, got injured early in his rookie season. Hopkins’ seven-game run at the position opened the eyes of everyone who glossed over him in the previous five preseasons, but Price eventually got his job back and did nothing with it.
It didn’t take long for rookie head coach Zac Taylor to set things straight. Hopkins was named the starter at center before the 2019 preseason concluded, and rookie fourth-round pick Michael Jordan was named the starter at left guard. Price, dealing with plantar fasciitis, was left to backup both spots.
The first three weeks of 2019 saw Hopkins as the highest-graded center in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. Things started to dissipate on the offensive line after the team’s colossal collapse agains the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4, and while he wasn’t the primary culprit, Hopkins shared some of the blame as well. Communication errors were prevalent with Hopkins and his guards, and they never improved past a marginal point as the season progressed.
In evaluating individual offensive linemen, their performances must be examined in a vacuum. Hopkins remains an effective pass blocker and versatile run blocker that can operate in a scheme-diverse offense. Center is the position where he earned his first big contract, but he can slide in at either guard spot and hold it down as well as most starters in the league.
At first, it was injuries holding him back, but he’s been uninhibited from ailments for a few years now. The more continuity and competence that surrounds Hopkins, the more his talents will be able to shine, and his appreciation will grow. Those are the reasons why he cracked the top 10 in our rankings; where would you put Hopkins? Let us know in the comments!