The Cincinnati Bengals have a knack for attracting quality undrafted college free agents because they have a history of giving those players a legitimate shot at making the 53-man roster.
Last year there were two rookie UFAs who made the initial 53-man roster in tight end Cethan Carter and linebacker Hardy Nickerson. Additionally, there were four other players who entered the league as UFAs on the 53 in offensive linemen Trey Hopkins and Alex Redmond, wide receiver Alex Erickson and linebacker Vincent Rey. And that list doesn’t include linebacker Vontaze Burfict, a 2013 UFA who was suspended for the start of the 2017 season, and will be again for the first four games in 2018.
That’s seven of the top 54 players (13 percent of the roster) who went undrafted as rookies.
The current roster construction heading into Phase III of OTAs next week features 13 undrafted rookies.
Here’s a look at the five with best chance to survive the final cuts to make the 53-man roster:
Quinton Flowers, RB, South Florida
Plenty was written during last weekend’s rookie camp about Flowers switching from quarterback to running back, but his value goes well beyond that. He took turns fielding punts and serving as the personal protector on special teams as well as taking snaps and both running and passing out of the wildcat formation.
Chris Worley, LB, Ohio State
There is no other position where the Bengals have as much success mining undrafted talent than linebacker, and with Burfict suspended the first four games there is an opening for Worley to become the latest longshot to be on the field opening weekend, especially after drawing the praise of position coach Jim Haslett after his performance at rookie camp.
Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, DE, Arkansas State
A team can never have enough edge rushers, and Rolland-Jones is an intriguing prospect. The 2016 Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year logged 26.5 sacks in his final two seasons and the conference’s career leader with 43.5. At 6-foot-2 and 253 pounds he’s undersized as an edge rusher, but if he can use his quickness and continue to get into the backfield against NFL linemen, he could add value to the Bengals defense.
Ka’Raun White, WR, West Virginia
Wide receiver probably will be the hardest position group for a UFA to crack, but White has genetics on his side with two older brothers in the NFL in Chicago Bears wide receiver Kevin White and San Diego Chargers safety Kyzir White.
Trayvon Henderson, S, Hawaii
It probably would take an injury to one of the other safeties for Henderson to be one of the four the team is expected to keep, but it’s a position the coaches have talked most about upgrading this offseason and Henderson was projected to be a fifth- or sixth-round pick by many analysts.