Cincinnati Bengals

Assessing Every Cincinnati Bengals' UDFA's Chance of Making the Final Roster

Andrew DunnCorrespondent IIMay 22, 2014

Assessing Every Cincinnati Bengals' UDFA's Chance of Making the Final Roster

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    USA TODAY Sports

    After a mostly successful NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals continued their offseason by signing quite a few undrafted free agents. This is the part of the offseason that is often overlooked...and with good reason.

    Let’s face it, most undrafted free agents just don’t work out.

    However, Kenbrell Thompkins had a decent season in New England last year after going undrafted, and we can all look to Antonio Gates and Wes Welker as examples of succeeding in the NFL despite going undrafted. Sometimes there are diamonds in the rough and all they need is an opportunity.

    While the Bengals appear to have successfully addressed holes in the draft, they definitely seemed determined to continue their improvements. For instance, they signed a couple of fullbacks from the undrafted list–that seems insignificant because the fullback is seemingly a dire position, but with Orson Charles’ run-in with the law earlier this year, who knows what’s to come of him.

    It’s these questions that this part of the NFL offseason could address. How many of these low-profile athletes could wind up finding their way onto the Bengals’ 53-man roster?

Alex Neutz, WR, Buffalo

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    At 6'3" tall, University of Buffalo receiver Alex Neutz will mainly have just his size on his side.  He doesn't have blazing speed, so he isn't going to outrun many defenders in the NFL. 

    You can't ignore his stats in college, though. Neutz caught over 60 passes, for more than 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns in each of his last two seasons.  Of course, the knock on Neutz (and likely Khalil Mack) is that he played at Buffalo, a school from the MAC conference, and therefore didn't get much quality competition.

    It's worth pointing out that Neutz did catch nine passes and a touchdown in an early-season matchup against the eventual BCS-bowl bound Ohio State Buckeyes.

    Neutz faces an uphill battle in Cincinnati.  The team has two solid tight ends, Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert, and adequate if not above-average backup receivers in Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. And this guy named A.J. Green is kinda good too.

    With his upside as a red-zone threat, Neutz is likely to make it deep into training camp, but I'd be stunned if he beats out Ryan Whalen or Cobi Hamilton for one of the final roster spots.

     

    Prediction: Practice Squad

Jimmy Bennett, OT, UCONN

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Jason Marcum discussed on Cincy Jungle that the Bengals may have been interested in drafting Jimmy Bennett.  Evidently, the team was calling him just before the draft ended.

    Bennett had some injury issues as a freshman and sophomore, but started every game at left tackle during his junior and senior seasons, even playing in the 2013 Medal of Honor Bowl.  At 6'9" and over 300 pounds, the gargantuan Bennett certainly has the size for the position.

    This is one of those UDFAs who has a feasible chance at making the final roster.  Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith are the clear starters at tackle, but Whitworth has proven to be a touch fragile over the last couple of years.  The only clear backup for now is Marshall Newhouse, a fourth-year player and former starter for the Green Bay Packers.

    That isn't exactly a quality resume, and the Bengals didn't draft a tackle.  Despite the apparent interest in Bennett, it would shock me to see the team keep him around to fill the void left by Anthony Collins.

     

    Prediction: 53-man roster

Nikita Whitlock, DL/FB, Wake Forest

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    Mike Groll/Associated Press

    What Nikita Whitlock has going for him is certainly his speed and not his size.  At Wake Forest's pro day, he recorded a 4.34-second 20-yard shuttle, which would have topped all defensive linemen and fullbacks at the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this year.

    In all likelihood, the 5'10" Whitlock just isn't big enough to be a defensive lineman in this league, but his aggressiveness and tenacity could make him a great fit at fullback.

    Still, even if he's able to translate that toughness and hunger to track down the football to the fullback position, he'll likely be used in spot duty only in Hue Jackson's offense.  It's more probable that he'll kept around just in case Orson Charles gets hurt or in trouble, but it's doubtful he'll see time on the active roster.

     

    Prediction: Practice Squad

Ryan Hewitt, FB, Stanford

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Ryan Hewitt possesses decent size for a fullback, but he really didn't get much opportunity to touch the football with the Cardinal, accounting for only five carries and nine receptions during the 2013 campaign.

    Hewitt most likely will be a special teams guy only, much like Cedric Peerman.  He's an intelligent player who will put forth the effort you ask of him, but he just isn't dynamic or skilled enough to make an impact on an NFL offense.

     

    Prediction: Cut

Trey Hopkins, G, Texas

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    Michael Thomas/Associated Press

    One big disadvantage for Trey Hopkins is that the Cincinnati Bengals have taken a guard in each of the last three NFL drafts.  Kevin Zeitler, a first-round pick in 2012, is the starting right guard, while Tanner Hawkinson and this year's draft selection Russell Bodine will backup Trevor Robinson and Clint Boling.

    Still, Hopkins will be worth a few looks in Cincinnati.  He's quite capable of standing his ground against defensive linemen, particularly in pass protection. But the former Texas Longhorn can sometimes display stiffness in pass-blocking, and he's prone to struggling against blitzing linebackers and safeties.

    With good size and the capabilities to to develop into a good blocker, Hopkins makes sense for the Bengals to take a flyer on him, hoping he can provide depth in the future.  For now, I wouldn't expect him to earn a roster spot unless an injury hits someone ahead of him on the depth chart.

     

    Prediction: Practice Squad

Colin Lockett, WR, San Diego State

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    Colin Lockett proved to be a versatile threat three seasons at San Diego State, playing both receiver and on special teams.

    Lockett's most productive season came in 2011, when he caught eight touchdowns and set a career high in receiving yards (970).  In the NFL, Lockett could prove to be a good slot man as the 6'0", 185-pound receiver lacks the size to be an outside receiver.

    He has good speed and can weave through defenders, hence his success as a special teams player.  There may be a team to find him useful in such a capacity, but it won't be Cincinnati.  They've got plenty of receivers and plenty of options to return kicks.

     

    Prediction: Cut

Isaiah Lewis, S, Michigan State

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    Al Goldis/Associated Press

    With the talent the Cincinnati Bengals have on their roster, the odds are long that any of these UDFAs will make the 53-man roster.  However, Isaiah Lewis may be the one with the best chance.

    And for a couple of reasons.

    First of all, the Bengals' strong safety position is in a bit of disarray.  Don't get me wrong, George Iloka deserves more just one season as a starter, and Danieal Manning is a seasoned veteran with loads of experience.  And then there's Taylor Mays. Enough said.

    Second, Lewis was a teammate of first-round pick Darqueze Dennard at Michigan State, which could earn him some leverage. Though, if Lewis can't play at the NFL level, Dennard's presence will be of no help to him at all.

    Lewis shows great athleticism and reaction when playing in zone. But he's wanting in man coverage, as receivers were consistently able to get separation against him, and he lacks recovery speed. 

    Lewis' biggest competition is going to be Taylor Mays and Shawn Williams.  It's an uphill battle for an undrafted free agent, but Lewis could be of use on special teams and develop into a very good strong safety if the team is patient with him.

     

    Prediction: 53-man roster

Dan France, OL, Michigan State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Dan France is a versatile lineman who played both left tackle and right guard while at Michigan State. 

    But that versatility is just about the only thing that France has working in his favor.  Yes, he's a player with the size to protect Andy Dalton, but he is a stiff lineman, and quick defenders are likely going to be able to get around him.

    As noted on an earlier slide, the team seems to have interest in UConn lineman Jimmy Bennett.  If one or the other is to make the roster, it's going to be Bennett.

     

    Prediction: Cut

Jeff Scott, RB, Ole Miss

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    USA TODAY Sports

    In limited time in 2013, Jeff Scott proved to be a reliable running back, averaging over seven yards per carry.  Granted, his best seasons came in the previous two years.

    At 5'7" and 162 pounds, Scott Darren Sproles-type running back, in that he has explosive speed and the ability to cut through the defense.  Like Gio Bernard (and Sproles, for that matter), he can also be used in the passing game.

    Unfortunately, he could be the victim of a crowded running back unit.  Bernard, Jeremy Hill, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and even James Wilder Jr. will all be holding down roster spots.

    I'm not sure how highly the team thinks about Scott, but he has the potential to blossom as an NFL contributor under Hue Jackson.  If given some time to develop, Scott could eventually showcase his talents in Cincinnati.

     

    Prediction: Practice Squad

Curtis Feigt, OT, West Virginia

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Like Dan France, Curtis Feigt could simply be a victim of circumstance.  The team seems to have an attachment already formed with UConn lineman Jimmy Bennett.

    It doesn't help that Feigt isn't as strong as you would like an offensive tackle to be, having put up only 18 reps on the bench press. 

    Something in Feigt's play will need to stick out in training camp in order for him to stick around.  He may show something in the coming weeks not predicted by his measurables, but as of now, there's no reason to believe he'll be on the roster.

     

    Prediction: Cut

James Davidson, DE, UTEP

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    USA TODAY Sports

    James Davidson possesses decent speed for a defensive lineman, which can work to his advantage coming off the edge.  However, he collected only four sacks during his senior season at UTEP.

    Don't get me wrong, his overall numbers indicate that he had a decent season. But a true NFL-ready prospect should have made a bigger impact playing against Conference USA competition.  While he has speed and decent size for the defensive end position, Davidson lacks the explosiveness to get by blockers.

    He plays his best when he can attack the tackle and beat him around the edge.  Against a slower, less athletic tackle (think Andre Smith), he may see some success. But most NFL tackles are mobile enough to keep a player like Davidson from doing much damage.

    Davidson could see time in Jacksonville or New York but not on a crowded, top-notch defensive line like that in Cincinnati.

     

    Prediction: Cut

James Wilder Jr., RB, Florida State

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    USA TODAY Sports

    James Wilder, Jr. has potentially the most upside of any guy on this list.  He's physically gifted enough to be a star in the NFL and with some development could complement Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill.

    Therein lies just one of the issues that Wilder is going to have making the main roster.  Cincinnati is going to start Bernard come Week 1 unless he gets hurt, and that's a prediction you can take to the bank.  The team used its second-round pick on LSU running back Jeremy Hill, so he'll see time.  That leaves BenJarvus Green-Ellis whose status with Cincinnati is up in the air.

    Past that, you still have Rex Burkhead and Cedric Peerman to consider.

    In addition to the crowded roster, Wilder has been arrested multiple times, so there are character concerns.  Plus, he has suffered from shoulder injuries and a concussion.

    If all of this can be avoided and Wilder makes the team, he could be on the road to stardom. His 7.0 yards per carry during his senior year simply can't be ignored.  But it's likely that if he manages to make the final roster, he won't get as much playing time as Bengal fans would want.

    Lots of talent exists here, but there already exists plenty in the Cincinnati backfield.  Wilder won't start the season with the first-string, but I feel confident in saying that you can expect the him to be in uniform on Sundays come the season's end.

     

    Prediction: Practice Squad

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