The Cincinnati Bengals have a glaring hole at center, even if Russell Bodine would have stayed, and they need to address it early.
With the NFL Draft less than a week away, the Cincinnati Bengals are working on their draft boards after all of their top 30 visits with college prospects. Out of the three top centers in this draft class, the Bengals have met with James Daniels out of Iowa and Frank Ragnow out of Arkansas. Cincinnati met with Ohio State center Billy Price following the combine but due to his torn pec, he was not able to come for a visit and workout with the team.
There has been plenty of talks that at least one of the three top centers will be there when the Bengals pick in the second round. If Cincinnati can grab another offensive lineman in the first round like Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey who they have shown high interest in, a position not nearly as deep as the interior linemen, and then grab one of these guys in the second it would be a huge upgrade for the front trenches.
With Russell Bodine leaving for Buffalo in free agency, there is only one player on the roster with experience in practice taking snaps at center and that is T.J. Johnson. The Bengals need to find a starter at the position early in the draft or the middle of the line could be a major issue in the 2018 season. Even if new offensive line coach Frank Pollack doesn’t want to start them out at center right away, a couple of these players have experience at guard as well.
Frank Ragnow played his entire sophomore year at right guard before switching to center the following season. Even after the switch, Arkansas was able to move him back over when needed against strong defensive fronts like his showing against Alabama. Ragnow played extremely well at both positions and graded with very little difference from Pro Football Focus.
During his senior season before his injury, Ragnow led all Football Bowl Subdivision offensive linemen with a 93.7 overall grade. He led the centers with a 92.4 grade in the run game and 88.3 in pass protection only allowing a single pressure in eight games. Arkansas ran behind Ragnow for over 200 yards in three of their first four games in 2017. He earned at least an 85 percent game grade in five different games as well.
Daniels out of Iowa is another player that could come in and play either guard or center. He had experience playing left guard for a couple of games at Iowa and comes from a school known for producing good offensive linemen with their head coach being a former lineman himself. Both Daniels and Ragnow showed excellent abilities to swing outside and lead the way for running backs.
Billy Price is expected to be medically cleared in June, one month before training camps, but it’s all a matter of how team’s feelings about the injury suffered at the combine. Will he missing this time make it more difficult to start week one like the Bengals need? This is something the Bengals have to worry about if they are looking to draft Price, especially if it were in the first round.
Cincinnati has to find some talent for their center position in the first two rounds of the draft. It would be great if they can find one of these guys in the second round after drafting a guy like McGlinchey in the first to really take charge and repair this broken line. The offense depends on this offensive line being better in 2018 and that starts with the center. They can’t afford another season of quick pressure right up the middle.