Power rankings are always a tricky proposition, especially when it comes to players on the same team. What criteria should be used? How do you compare offensive and defensive players? How do you a rank a rookie who has yet to step on a professional field?
I have tried to answer those questions and more when ranking the roster of the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s not an exact science by any means, but really more of a gut feeling on who the best players on the team are at this very moment in time.
Since it was impossible to determine who will actually be on the Bengals’ 53-man roster come September, I decided to concentrate on the top 65 players on my list, those guys who will be fighting it out for spots.
Take a look at the list in ascending order:
Second-year player Zac Robinson spent last season on practice squad.
Rookie tight end Reid Fragel from Ohio State could emerge as a late-round steal.
DeQuin Evans is one of several defensive ends who gives the Bengals a strong line presence.
Cobi Hamilton is a rookie wide receiver hoping to make a mark on special teams.
Guard Travelle Wharton is another versatile lineman who provides quality depth.
Clark Harris, the nearly anonymous long snapper, is one of the best in the business.
Injury-plagued corner Brandon Ghee could emerge as a viable backup option.
Rookie Tanner Hawkinson from Kansas has shown nice versatility in a number of line positions.
Undrafted free agent Chris Lewis-Harris played well enough last year to stick to the practice squad roster.
Linebacker Dontay Moch was highly thought of last year, but suspensions and injuries ruined his season.
Jeromy Miles is special teams standout who is a part of the open competition at safety.
Josh Johnson is another veteran quarterback who is vying for the backup spot behind Andy Dalton.
Punter is never the sexiest of positions, but Kevin Huber rarely put the Bengals in a bad position last season.
Trevor Robinson stepped in for the injured Kyle Cook and played very well last season.
Robert Sands is one of many players vying for a spot in a wide-open safety field.
Daniel Herron rushed for just five yards during his rookie season.
Andrew Luck’s former go-to guy, Ryan Whalen, had a nice rookie season with seven receptions last season.
George Iloka did not record a tackle during his rookie season but is in the mix to start this season.
Former Penn State standout Devon Still found playing time hard to come by during his rookie season.
Vincent Rey had 22 tackles and a sack last season and got more playing time as the season wore on.
Former first-rounder Aaron Maybin joins the Bengals this season and is trying to erase his bust status.
Veteran end Jamaal Anderson missed most of the season with a torn biceps but could provide key depth in the Bengals’ line rotation.
Highly touted end Brandon Thompson had just one tackle in limited playing time as a rookie a year ago.
Despite some fits and starts a couple of years ago, Dennis Roland had developed into a very capable backup.
Brandon Tate started last season as a starter and ended up with just 13 receptions and 211 yards.
Taylor Mays has never lived up to his first-round status and appears to be running out of chances.
Chris Pressley isn’t flashy, but the Bengals’ running attack always appears to be better with him on the field.
Cedric Peerman rushed for just 258 yards last season but was one of the best special teams players for the Bengals.
John Skelton was a starter for Arizona a year ago and could provide the Bengals with a veteran backup to Andy Dalton.
Anthony Collins is one of several offensive linemen on the roster who is capable of stepping in at a variety of different positions.
Running back Bernard Scott has gone from draft sleeper to guy fighting for a roster spot thanks to the addition of Giovani Bernard.
Physically, Margus Hunt appears to be a star in the making. But the rookie is still considered a project and could take some time to develop.
Tight end Orson Charles has gone from being a potential third-round sleeper to a guy who will have to fight for his job.
The veteran Alex Smith was signed to give the Bengals depth at tight end and now finds himself in a roster fight.
Clint Boling is not flashy, but he seems to be able to fill in anywhere the Bengals need him.
Linebacker Emmanuel Lamur had only 19 tackles a year ago, but he has turned heads in minicamps so far this year.
Mike Nugent ended the season injured but still hit 23-of-27 on field goals. The Bengals thought enough of Nugent to bring the free agent back this season.
Marvin Jones came on late in the season and emerged as a nice second option to A.J. Green. Still, Jones only had 18 receptions for 201 yards and a score and will need to up his game.
Cornerback Adam Jones appears to have turned his life around, and it has reflected in his play on the field. But he remains injury prone, and his calf injury this week is just the latest to plague him.
The Bengals need a safety and they selected Shawn Williams in the third round of the draft this year to fill that void. Whether he plays himself into a starting position is yet to be seen.
A competent center remains one of the most underrated positions in football, and the Bengals have a good one. Kyle Cook was injured a year ago, and the Bengals suffered at times because of it.
Linebacker Rey Maualuga finished second on the team in tackles with 122, but it was the missed tackles that haunted Bengals fans. He still needs to get better at reading the play, rather than just reacting.
No player was as surprising last season as Andrew Hawkins, who caught 51 passes for 533 yards and four touchdowns, third on the team in all categories.
Not a lot was expected from Terence Newman when he was signed as a free agent last year, but the veteran corner responded with two interceptions and 72 tackles in a solid, all-around season.
The Bengals drafted Dre Kirkpatrick in the first round last year to shore up a weak secondary. Unfortunately for both the player and the team, injuries ruined that plan. But a healthy Kirkpatrick could easily fly up these ratings.
This may be too low of a spot for BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who rushed for a career-high 1,094 yards last season and scored six touchdowns. But it just shows how deep the Bengals have become over the past several years.
The Bengals plucked Wallace Gilberry off the street last season, and he rewarded them with 6.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. The Bengals gave Gilberry a new deal in the offseason and for good reason. He's one of the best backup ends in the league.
Like Domata Peko, Robert Geathers has been somewhat overshadowed on the defensive line. But Geathers is still capable of getting after the quarterback and had three sacks a year ago.
Before he got injured last season, Mohamed Sanu was turning into a legitimate offensive weapon. While he caught only 16 passes, he did score four touchdowns, and the Bengals appear very pleased with his progress.
While line mates Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap get all of the attention, Peko still has a place as one of the best nose tackles in the league. Peko had 53 tackles and two sacks last year.
A first-round draft pick a year ago, Kevin Zeitler was brought in to improve the Bengals offensive line. He did that and more, starting all 17 games and combining with Andrew Whitworth to lock down the left side.
The Bengals drafted Tyler Eifert in the first round this year to give Andy Dalton another playmaker in the passing game. After catching 50 passes for 685 yards and four touchdowns at Notre Dame last season, the Bengals hope Eifert will fit that bill.
Reggie Nelson had three interceptions and 85 tackles a year ago and helped solidify a defensive backfield that had been in flux for years. The Bengals still need a second starter but appear to be set with Nelson in the lineup.
James Harrison brings a healthy dose of swagger to the Bengals, but what the team really needs is production. Harrison suffered several injuries last season but still had 70 tackles and six sacks for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Andre Smith remains somewhat of a mystery to Bengals fans. Is he the overweight, injury-prone player of his first two years, or is he the lockdown right tackle of last year?
After signing Smith to a three-year extension, the Bengals certainly hope that it is the latter.
Vontaze Burfict went from undrafted college free agent to starting linebacker and ended up leading the team in tackles with 127 and also had a sack. Burfict still has some room for improvement, but he is already one of his team's best defenders.
Jermaine Gresham reached his second Pro Bowl in 2012 after a season that saw him catch 64 passes, second on the team to only A.J. Green, for 737 yards and five scores. Still, it feels as if Gresham has more in the tank and could be even more of a weapon in the passing game than he already is.
When healthy, Leon Hall is one of the best cover corners in the league. He had only two interceptions last season but returned one of those for a touchdown. He also had 38 tackles and is a key component in the run defense.
The rap on Dunlap when he was coming out of Florida was that he had "motivation" issues, which is a nice way of saying that he was lazy. But Dunlap has been anything but in Cincinnati.
He had only six sacks and 40 tackles last season, but he also had four fumble recoveries and has become a key playmaker on the Bengals defense.
Andrew Whitworth started his career at guard, but since moving to tackle, he has emerged as one of the best players in the league at his position. Whitworth protects Dalton's weak side and also plays a major role in the Bengals' strong running game.
Dalton's career is at a crossroads in 2013. The former second-round pick has led the Bengals to back-to-back playoff berths, but he still has to prove that he is one of the NFL's best quarterbacks.
That's not to say that Dalton hasn't been good. He completed 62.3 percent of his passes in 2012 and had 27 touchdowns to just 16 interceptions. Those numbers alone make Dalton one of the Bengals' best players.
Michael Johnson busted through with his best season as a pro in 2012 with 11.5 sacks and 52 tackles while facing double-teams from the edge.
The big season earned Johnson the franchise tag from the Bengals and should make him a very rich man in the coming months. He is also an indispensable member of Cincinnati’s very strong defensive unit.
Unlike A.J. Green, Geno Atkins was not projected to be a superstar, but that’s exactly what he has become.
Atkins had 12.5 sacks, 53 tackles and four fumble recoveries, and he is quickly becoming one of the best tackles in the game.
Green had the look of a superstar before he ever left the University of Georgia and has lived up to the advanced hype with two great seasons in the NFL.
Last season, Green caught 97 passes for 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns despite being the focus of every defense he faced. In just two years, he is already one of the best wide receivers in the league.