Looking down the long list of my favorite players in history, or some of the top fan favorites over the years, how many of those players were un-drafted or drafted in a later round? They had to show up to OTAs and training camp and work harder than they ever have.
Not that your star players don’t work hard, but these C players need heart. Talent can only take you so far. After that, you need perseverance, confidence, and heart. You need these attributes to make it the distance and show their coaches and teammates they’re there to stay and make a difference on the team.
I’m sure you have heard of most of these guys already, but the few that you probably have not heard of will make some kind of impact this year that will make you give them a nod of respect.
- DJ Ivey- The Bengals' seventh-round pick in this year's draft. He has already impressed the coaches around him. This Miami (FL) alum, made an impressive final campaign as a Hurricane, and he is going to pick up right where he left off as a Bengal.
5. I’m intrigued by cornerback DJ Ivey, a 7th-round pick out of the U of Miami who is 6 feet tall with the wingspan of a pterodactyl and 4.46 speed.— Dan Hoard (@Dan_Hoard) June 14, 2023
“I love DJ Ivey,” said cornerbacks coach Chuck Burks. “I think he has the traits you need to play that position at a high level.” pic.twitter.com/BP83dPt55B
- Joseph Ossai - Entering his junior year in the league, he is looking to win back the hearts of some Bengals fans. After he was involved with a controversial roughing the passer call on Patrick Mahomes to solidify the Bengals' loss in last year's AFC Championship game, he has been focusing on his mindset entering next season.
Bengals’ Joseph Ossai gifts Chiefs Super Bowl 2023 berth with late hit on Patrick Mahomes pic.twitter.com/jjY7Myd5Ge— Off The Deck Sports (@OTDSports_) January 30, 2023
- Brad Robbins - Drafted in the sixth round out of Michigan, he is going to help bring consistency back to special teams. After Kevin Huber punted for the Bengals for more than a decade, they brought in Drue Chrisman. With a lot of optimism, Chrisman had a lot of inconsistency, to say the least. Robbins brings a lot of upside to Cincinnati, including his accuracy and hang time.
2. When the #Bengals drafted punter Brad Robbins we heard about his hang time and directional kicking ability…well, here you go. Nearly 5 seconds of hang time on my stopwatch with the ball coming down in bounds close to the sideline pic.twitter.com/pxaW9irkYv— Dan Hoard (@Dan_Hoard) May 23, 2023
- Jonah Williams - The offensive tackle has had a very controversial offseason. After the Bengals snagged Orlando Brown Jr from the Chiefs, Williams immediately requested a trade. After months of wondering if the Bengals will work a trade for Williams, he decided to join the competition for right tackle.
Five observations from #Bengals practice today:— Dan Hoard (@Dan_Hoard) June 14, 2023
1. Jonah Williams looks good after knee surgery and has accepted the switch to right tackle:
“There are 64 tackle spots in the league and to have any of them is a crazy, amazing opportunity that I am super grateful for the chance.” pic.twitter.com/aPoIqcoqN2
- Joe Bachie - The linebacker signed a one-year deal at the beginning of the year. He hasn’t seen much playing time, sitting behind Logan Wilson, but he provides depth on the roster. I still don’t expect him to get much playing time but don’t overlook depth. Expect him to see the field if an injury occurs or the team is resting Wilson or Pratt. But when he sees the field, expect him to bring speed and tight coverage.
- Andrei Iosivas - Another sixth-round pick by the Bengals in this year's draft. He brings a lot of versatility to the team. He led the Ivy League in receiving yards and TDs. With the Bengals having a ton of receiving depth, I can see them testing out Iosivas as a returner. Don’t sleep on Iosivas. I expect to find him in the end zone a couple of times next season. He has been tabbed by some as the Bengals’ best draft pick this season.
- Shedrick Jackson - Nephew of one of the greatest athletes of all time, Bo Jackson, Shedrick was one of a dozen plus undrafted free agents the Bengals signed after this year's draft. CB DJ Turner had the fastest recorded 40-yard dash time of the combine with a 4.26. Jackson supposedly ran a 4.25 at Auburn’s pro day. To say Jackson if fast is an understatement. As long as he can continue to impress coaches and manage to stay on the roster for next season, he could be used in a variety of ways, especially with Brian Callahan’s wide range of plays.
4. One of this year’s undrafted rookie wide receivers is Bo Jackson’s nephew Shedrick, who reportedly ran a 4.25 40-yard dash at his Auburn pro day— Dan Hoard (@Dan_Hoard) June 14, 2023
When I noted that his uncle was arguably the greatest athlete of all-time time, he smiled and joked, “Second-greatest behind me.” pic.twitter.com/VC58tXsECW
- Jaxson Kirkland - He could potentially provide incredible depth on the offensive line, which has been lacking for the last decade. As long as the line can stay healthy, this could be the Bengals' first solid line in years. Coming out of Washington, this 6’7” 310 lbs lineman provides serious protection. He has long arms and is stealthy on his feet.
Jaxson Kirkland might make some noise this summer for the Bengals as an UDFA pic.twitter.com/5d2OWLBCgI— Chris Roling (@Chris_Roling) May 1, 2023
Like I said, you have probably heard the names of some of these guys, or the flip side and have never heard of them. Either way, expect to hear some of these names next season. I love the underdog story. I love seeing guys show up and working. Being able to prove themselves to their team. Showing their coaches and teammates they’re here to stay.
There could be other players step up in a big way as well, but these names pop off the page to me, and I expect them to surprise some people.