A starting right guard for the Bengals in 2017, Trey Hopkins has the ability to step in at both guard and center – something this team needs badly.
Trey Hopkins seems like the offensive lineman that no one has noticed on the Bengals in camp so far. He doesn’t have quite the hype around him that guys like Jake Fisher or Christian Westerman do, since he didn’t have their draft pedigree.
However, Hopkins has proven himself more so than either of those players have to this point, especially in his starts from last season. Looking at 2018, Hopkins may have inherent value to this Bengals team because he provides versatility along the line that no other lineman has.
Coming out of college, Hopkins had already had experience at multiple positions along the offensive line. At Texas, he played both right tackle and left guard, although played better at guard. Although he lacked speed, his measurables were solid heading into the draft – he did 28 reps on the bench press, notably. He still went undrafted, but the Bengals signed him and eventually placed him on IR.
After bouncing back and forth between the practice squad and the active roster, Hopkins finally became the starting right guard last season. He started the first 12 games of the season before dealing with a knee injury. The Bengals line struggled last season, to say the least, but Hopkins was not the primary issue with the line. He performed adequately in the games he played, grading out as “below average” on PFF.
Comparing Hopkins to the other two guards on the roster last season – Westerman and Alex Redmond – the metrics preferred Hopkins to both. Westerman and Redmond both graded worse on PFF, and definitely did not acquit themselves with the eye test last season either. Westerman, to be fair, did have some strong play at the end of the season, but Hopkins was more consistent than Westerman.
Looking forward, Hopkins shoudl get a fair crack at the right guard spot. He seems squarely in the mix, but he may pick up some duties at center. Hopkins has taken some reps for the Bengals at center, especially with Billy Price struggling with the snap counts. His strength and length on run blocking gives him similar blocking equity to Price, so Hopkins could theoretically get the starting center job as well.
Overall, I don’t believe Hopkins will start in 2018 for the Bengals, but I do think he can be a valuable rotation lineman. He can fill in at guard or center, and he’ll provide low-end starter blocking. For a line that was almost worst in the NFL last season, having a guy like Hopkins as the backup isn’t a bad thing at all.