With free agency and the draft completed, and OTAs and minicamps scheduled for the next month and a half, here’s a closer look at the projected depth chart for the Cincinnati Bengals. These are subject to change based on performances in OTAs and training camp. With 11 draft picks and the possibility of an undrafted free agent or two cracking the roster, this will be a work in progress throughout the summer (Starters in bold.):
The Bengals would ideally like to carry only two quarterbacks, but that will depend on how the numbers shake out after training camp due to injuries and some unexpected players making the team. That doesn't mean there isn't a chance for Jeff Driskel or Logan Woodside to make the team as a developmental quarterback. The Bengals liked Driskel enough to carry him on the active roster for two seasons, but for now, proceed as if they'll keep only two quarterbacks.
No surprises here. Mixon and Bernard will share time as the starters, with Mixon getting the bulk of the carries, and Walton will serve as a backup and special-teams player.
It's hard to predict whether the Bengals would carry seven receivers again, but would they really get rid of kick returner Alex Erickson or Cody Core? The Bengals have touted Core's promise, but he didn't have a single catch last season and he's clearly expendable as a receiver. If it comes down to it, Erickson's kick-return skills would help him make the team again.
If Eifert stays healthy, expect the same lineup as last year, with Ryan Hewitt staying on in his H-back role. Cethan Carter was a surprise addition to the 53-man roster, but that doesn't mean he's a lock to make the team this year.
It could be a competition for the last spot between Kent Perkins, Hart and Rod Taylor. The veteran Hart gets the nod here since it's unlikely they go into the season with three tackles after the struggles last year, but it's going to be an open competition for that spot. For now, assume Fisher is the starter even though he didn't finish last season due to a heart condition.
The real competition here is at right guard. Christian Westerman showed some promise last season and could have the edge, but it will be a camp competition. Hopkins can play multiple spots, which could keep him on the team. Westerman and Redmond both had nice ends to their seasons after filling in for injured players, so for now it's assumed they'll both make the team. Don't count out Rod Taylor either, as he can play both tackle and guard.
The Bengals didn't draft Price in the first round without the intention of starting him right away, but T.J. Johnson, who can also play guard, will work at center as his backup. Johnson could also play guard if needed, but they'll likely work him here in case Price isn't ready to go by the start of the season.
The two draft picks are making the roster for now since the Bengals rarely cut their picks. Kirkpatrick and Jackson III will start in base, while Dennard will start as the nickel corner. Penciling in Shaw for now because he can double as an extra safety, but Brandon Wilson can't be counted out after not getting a shot last year due to injury.
George Iloka and Shawn Williams will return as starters, but Jessie Bates will find some sort of role, even if it's as the third safety on the field. Clayton Fejedelem has been reliable when called on, but don't count out Brandon Wilson, who never got his shot last year due to injuries. Wilson is off the roster for now, but that could change once he gets his time in camp.
Lawson is listed as a linebacker, so he'll stay in this group for now, although he usually lines up as a defensive end in nickel. Burfict, Vigil and Brown will start in base and Rey will fill in for Burfict. Jefferson and Evans are backups for now, but Burfict's four-game suspension to start the season throws off the numbers a bit here.
Penciling in Jordan Willis and Andrew Billings as the starters in base defense for now, although that's certainly not a given, and everyone will end up seeing playing time in the rotation.
Punter (1): Kevin Huber
The Bengals managed to get a deal done during free agency week, holding off the Bears to extend Huber through 2020. They clearly value Huber and don't plan on letting go of him anytime soon.
Kicker (1): Randy Bullock
The Bengals were satisfied enough with Bullock to hold off from drafting a kicker again this year. They'll bring in a camp body so he won't have to kick as much in training camp, but that will be the extent of the competition this year unless Bullock gets injured.
Long-snapper (1): Clark Harris
The Bengals extended Harris though the 2018 season last October, and for good reason. He's never had an unplayable snap in his nine seasons with the team.
Kick returner (1): Darius Phillips
If Phillips makes the team, there's a great chance he also gets the kick returner spot after running back five kickoffs (and one punt) for a touchdown at Western Michigan. His 3,145 career kickoff return yards ranks sixth in FBS history.
Punt returner (1): Alex Erickson
There's going to be competition here, but Erickson is the reigning punt returner so there's no reason to take him from this spot until someone else shows something at training camp.