Bengals' 11-man draft class makes for heavy competition on 53-man roster

The Cincinnati Bengals open training camp on July 27 at Paul Brown Stadium. Here's a 53-man roster projection:

QUARTERBACKS (2): Andy Dalton, AJ McCarron

The Bengals kept three quarterbacks on the active roster last season, after claiming Jeff Driskel off waivers. That's going to be a hard task this year if the Bengals want to find space for 11 new draft picks.

The Bengals clearly like Driskel, a lot, but having three quarterbacks is considered a luxury on a 53-man roster. Driskel doesn't make the 53-man roster, for now, although it's certainly not out of the question to keep all three.

RUNNING BACKS (4): Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, Joe Mixon, Cedric Peerman

The Bengals re-signed Peerman after Rex Burkhead left in free agency, and they probably will keep him because of the role he plays on special teams. Hill, Bernard and Mixon all have their spots locked down on this roster.

WIDE RECEIVER (6): A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, John Ross, Josh Malone, Tyler Boyd, Cody Core

Do the Bengals keep Alex Erickson for his return prowess or risk losing Core on the practice squad? Core gets the initial nod here after coming on strong to end the 2016 season. Erickson could be vulnerable after the Bengals drafted several players who could double as returners. But considering Erickson was talented enough to knock off longtime returner Brandon Tate last year, it definitely wouldn't be an easy decision.

TIGHT END (4): Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah, Ryan Hewitt (H-back)

Unless seventh-rounder Mason Schreck has a stellar camp, there shouldn't be too many surprises here. The Bengals have carried the same tight end group since 2015. If Eifert is fully recovered from back surgery, he'll return as the No. 1 tight end, with Hewitt rounding out the group primarily as a blocker.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Clint Boling, Russell Bodine, Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Fisher, Andre Smith, T.J. Johnson, Eric Winston, Christian Westerman, Trey Hopkins

The Bengals tend to hang onto their draft picks for at least a season, so what do they do with fifth-rounder J.J. Dielman? With 11 total picks, this could be the year less of them make the roster. Hopkins makes this roster because of his versatility, and the last slot could come down to Westerman or Dielman.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9): Michael Johnson, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Andrew Billings, Jordan Willis, Ryan Glasgow, Will Clarke, Wallace Gilberry, Pat Sims

The two biggest questions at this position are Marcus Hardison and Brandon Thompson. Both spent 2016 on injured reserve, and both have a lot to prove if they want to make the roster in 2017. They're left off, for now, in favor of some veterans, but Gilberry isn't a lock to make the roster after being re-signed late last season. Draft picks Willis and Glasgow were automatically added.

LINEBACKER (7): Vontaze Burfict, Kevin Minter, Nick Vigil, Vincent Rey, Carl Lawson, Marquis Flowers, Jordan Evans

Burfict, Minter and Vigil project as the starters here, with Rey a key backup and special-teams player. Lawson joins the team as a rookie, but two spots are likely up for grabs.

Flowers played mostly special teams last season, but he could double as a backup. He could be fighting for a spot with P.J. Dawson, who was drafted in the third round in 2015 but placed on the practice squad last year. Dawson has a lot to prove in training camp.

CORNERBACK (5): Dre Kirkpatrick, William Jackson III, Darqueze Dennard, Josh Shaw, KeiVarae Russell

Unless he has a successful appeal, Adam Jones will spend the first week of the season on the reserve/suspended list after the league gave him a one-game suspension for violation of the personal conduct policy. That means the Bengals will carry an extra defensive back for at least a week.

The Bengals liked Russell enough to carry him on the roster all season even though he rarely played, so he'll get the nod here. A decent camp from former Panthers cornerback Bene Benwikere could provide some competition for that final spot.

SAFETY (4): George Iloka, Shawn Williams, Clayton Fejedelem, Derron Smith

The Bengals probably will go with their same group here, returning Iloka and Williams as starters and Fejedelem and Smith as backups. The Bengals also traded up to get defensive back Brandon Wilson, who is listed as a safety. They'll have to figure out what to do with him.

SPECIALISTS (3): Jake Elliott (K), Kevin Huber (P), Clark Harris (LS)

There's a slight chance veteran Randy Bullock could win the kicking job, but Elliott will be given every opportunity after the Bengals took him in the fifth round this year. The Bengals need a reliable kicker after Mike Nugent and Bullock (signed in December) lost them more than one game last season.