Victor Hampton has signed with the Bengals. This is a quality investment for the team as the depth within their secondary is still in flux. There’s room for adjustment on the defense now that they are nearly at full health. The versatility of players will be key and the Bengals’ roster is crowded with talent both new and old. Hampton will be amongst a battle with CB Onterio McCalebb, CB Lavelle Westbrooks, LB/S Taylor Mays, and S Isaiah Lewis; this assuming the team carries ten players in the secondary.
Hampton was a team leader for the Gamecocks. He’s vocal and plays with inspiration. His production within SEC competition was substantial and he’s a willing tackler with an aggressive nature. His combine showing was positive towards proving his strength and some quickness, but he showed his lack of speed and an inability to out jump taller players (Hampton stands about 5’9″ and had a vertical of 33.5″). He makes up for the lack of speed with good instincts and football IQ. Several off-field incidents concerned teams, but football seems to have been a sanctuary for him. When participating in community-based team activities, Hampton has shown positive character traits. He participated in reading programs for youth while at SC and spoke at local schools. Many of Hampton’s issues stem from his past, so a change of scenery in Cincinnati, far from his southern roots, may be of help to him. He will have role models from once troubled but now successful players within the team such as Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones. Veteran presences in the secondary will also help the young player as he transitions from his familiar roots to a new and hopeful beginning. Danieal Manning can even mentor him in learning about his new secondary coach, Vance Joseph. It’s this variety of successful veterans who may be able to help bring out the best in a talented Hampton.
When it comes to the battle for a final roster spot in the secondary, Hampton’s versatility will have to be his biggest strength. Hampton would have difficulty playing on the outside in the NFL as he lacks the height, speed, and leaping ability to contend with NFL receivers. He may be able to prove his value when defending in the slot; he would be a reserve behind Leon Hall in this role. With his physicality and instincts, Hampton could also project as a safety. He’s shown and ability in run support, which is important in the AFC North. His football IQ and leadership qualities will also help in this role. Like many young reserves, he will need to prove an ability on special teams if he is to stick though.
It’s because of these traits that Hampton stacks up well amongst his competition. Fellow Bengal Lavelle Westbrooks is much like Hampton with his versatility, having been a former safety and transitioned to corner while at Georgia Southern. Where Westbrooks falls short is his experience against quality competition in college. Hampton may have an advantage here after playing in the SEC. Isaiah Lewis has shown to be a quality addition to the Bengals, but is exclusively a safety. He, like Hampton, isn’t big, but plays with an aggressive nature and make stick as depth within the safety position. Onterio McCalebb offers great speed and quickness. He has been training to play in the slot and offers kick returning and gunner ability on ST. This gives him an advantage within the group. Veteran Taylor Mays may have taken the biggest hit in the group. He hasn’t been able to figure out the safety position since joining the NFL in 2010. He played well as a nickel LB last year, but with Emmanuel Lamur and Sean Porter returning from injury, he may be pushed off the roster.
Hampton will have to prove his maturity and a willingness to move on from the negatives of his past. He will have to display value when playing special teams and a humbleness in doing so. If he can, then he has a good shot to stick on the roster or make the PS. He has the talent to become the next significant UDFA addition to this team following in the footsteps of Vontaze Burfict, Emmanuel Lamur, and Jayson DiManche. After being projected as a solid mid-round pick, Hampton fell out of the draft. He has since sat without an opportunity from an NFL team. As the old saying goes, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Maybe some time away from the game he loves is exactly what Hampton needed to truly focus on what may be his last opportunity.