The Bengals drafted for need on Thursday night when they drafted a center. Can we really rip them for taking their second favorite center in the draft?
I get the moans and groans about the Bengals reaching to select Billy Price with the 21st overall pick. Heck, I've said for weeks they wouldn't reach to get Price at 21. I thought he could fall to them in round two – he might've had they picked someone else.
Clearly, they felt comfortable enough passing on big-named prospects like Lamar Jackson, Harold Landry and Rashaan Evans. This team rarely drafts for need. They take pride in drafting the best player available. The Price pick was a need and that's okay.
I don't believe they think drafting Price at 21 was a reach. They've raved about his intangibles and described him as an "anchor." I understand why fans are worried about their decision. Price was the third best center in the draft according to the majority of draft analysts. Then, it sounded like Frank Ragnow from Arkansas was their guy. They preferred Ragnow over Price, but didn't get him at 21 because the Lions took at pick 20.
Now a lot of fans feel like they settled. I don't think they feel that way. They believe Price can be their center for the next decade. They like his versatility, his leadership and his durability – he had 55 consecutive starts at Ohio State. Yes, he is recovering from a partially torn pec, but he told us that he will be ready for training camp.
I could rip the Bengals for passing on James Daniels from Iowa. Most believe he will end up being the best center in this class. I could criticize them for reaching on Price when there's a 50/50 chance he would be there at 46. I'm not going to do that. Not because I'm a HUGE fan of the pick, but because I look at this with a little perspective.
The Bengals have done A LOT to turn the offensive line around this offseason. Their biggest weakness has been addressed time and time again. They brought in a new offensive line coach with a completely different approach (Frank Pollack), moved on from a below average center in Russell Bodine and basically traded the 12th pick in the draft for two day one starters on the offensive line. Cordy Glenn is a GIANT upgrade from Cedric Ogbuehi. Price is going to be a significant upgrade from Bodine. If I would've told you in January that the Bengals would turn the 12th pick into two upgrades – one at left tackle and the other at center, you would've jumped for joy.
I get the value of the Price pick bothering you. Sometimes it's worth overpaying for the piece of mind. The Bengals don't have to worry about a center falling to them tomorrow. They don't have to stay up all night wondering if they should trade up to land the center they love. Instead of worrying, they filled their biggest need with their first pick.
Before we call it a "blown pick" like this guy did, how about we look at this with a little perspective? Dave Lapham mentioned Price to me two months ago. This team has been eyeing him for months. It may be underwhelming, disappointing, feel like a reach, BUT the Bengals got better today and they believe they have got their center for the next decade.
"Billy Price is probably the most game-ready," Lapham told me earlier this week when discussing the top three centers. That had to play a role in the Bengals' ranking. They need a player who can step in and start right away. They thought Ragnow and Price could do that.
I am confident in saying Price will be a good NFL player. He may never be a pro bowler or an all pro, but he is going to be the best center they've had since Rich Braham. He won't be a whiff like Ogbuehi was. Price feels like the Sam Darnold of centers. Boring, doesn't have the highest ceiling, but he is a safe pick. Sometimes playing it safe is the right decision.
We talked with Billy Price after the Bengals drafted him.
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