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Bengals kept zero undrafted rookies on initial 53-man roster

COVID-19 likely got in the way of evaluating of rookies that went undrafted.

NFL: AUG 30 Bengals Training Camp Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For the first time in years, the Cincinnati Bengals’ 53-man roster didn’t include any college free agent they added during the offseason.

Due to COVID-19, many draft prospects didn’t get pro days or private workouts with teams. In addition, the elimination of preseason games was another road block for undrafted rookies. There’s only so much that you can do in practices and two scrimmages.

Players like Trey Dishon, Josh Knipfel, and Marcel Spears Jr. might have had a shot at making the roster during a normal year, but couldn’t break through. Their best chance is landing on the practice squad and being called up at some point during the regular season.

A piece of good news for this years’ class is the modified practice squad rules. The expansion to 16 players bodes well for plenty of first-year players with hopes of sticking with the team and being elevated onto the active roster sometime during the season.

The Bengals usually keep one or two undrafted free agents, and it’s largely due to their performances during the preseason. Last year, Damion Willis and Jake Dolegala showed out and earned roster spots. Willis even got the nod as a starter for the first two weeks of the season. Dolegala managed to stay on the roster for the entire season.

Any undrafted free agents who didn’t make the roster shouldn’t worry, though. Trey Hopkins started on the practice squad before eventually becoming a starter years later. Hopkins may be the exception to the rule, but the journey is far from over for these players.

Interestingly, this is the first season since 2016 that the Bengals have kept all of their draft picks from the previous draft. The team had just seven draft picks that year as well. Again, because of the limited evaluation, they had little to make them change their minds after draft day.