A former 7th round pick out of Illinois, Fejedelem is not on the field too often on defense. That doesn’t mean he’s not making plays for the Bengals.
Entering his third season Clayton Fejedelem has a clearly established role on this Bengals team. A little-used player in his rookie season, Fejedelem had a mini-breakout last year, as he recorded 57 tackles and his first career interception. When Shawn Williams got hurt last season, Fejedelem stepped in and started five games.
As a safety, Fejedelem’s role is already pretty defined. Last season, the Bengals used him as a rotation guy, and was clearly the third safety on the depth chart. In the five games he started, he played over 60% of the snaps in four of them. In those starts, he made the most of his opportunity, making 15 tackles and snagging his one interception.
However, when both Williams and George Iloka were healthy, Fejedelem rarely saw the field. In over half the games he did not start, the Bengals played him fewer than 10% of defensive snaps. Though he’s a solid safety, Fejedelem doesn’t have positional versatility, so he couldn’t play while Iloka and Williams were healthy. His counterpart, Josh Shaw, played behind him at safety, but saw snaps at cornerback in dime packages.
Fejedelem doesn’t have value for the Bengals solely on defense, though. Over the last couple years, Fejedelem has been one of the best special teams players on the Bengals. A job that many players often hate doing, Fejedelem actually embraces. He plays almost every snap on special teams, even when he starts at safety.
Fejedelem played over 75% of special teams snaps in 13 of his 16 games last season, including his Week 9 start when he played 90% of the special teams snaps. He also records most of his tackles on special teams, notching about 2 tackles a game on special teams alone. He provides immense value to the Bengals as a special teams player alone.
This year, the Bengals drafted Jessie Bates II out of Wake Forest in the second round. Bates will likely take away a decent chunk of Fejedelem’s safety snaps, especially in three safety settings. However, Fejedelem should still rotate in at safety occasionally. Also, Fejedelem will certainly be on the field on special teams. No matter where the Bengals play him, Fejedelem will contribute to a winning effort.