The Cincinnati Bengals Achilles heal in 2017 was easily the play of the offensive line. They need to continue to add players to improve in 2018.
The Cincinnati Bengals offense was putrid in 2017 finishing last in the league in yards per game. There are plenty of areas to blame but the biggest area of need for upgrades in this draft is the offensive line. Cincinnati has already moved back to the 21st pick in the trade landing left tackle Cordy Glenn from the Buffalo Bills but there is still improvement needed.
Glenn, when healthy, is a top left tackle in the league which is a huge upgrade at the biggest need this offseason. The Bengals also signed New York Giants right tackle Bobby Hart who could possibly be seeing some under appreciation from fans. Hart was the starting right tackle when the Giants last went to the playoffs and was a good one at that. If the Bengals can’t land right tackle out of Notre Dame, Mike McGlinchey, I think it would be wise to focus more on center and guard.
Obviously, the center position is the biggest need along the offensive line right now with Russell Bodine leaving for the Buffalo Bills after not being happy with the offer he received from the Bengals. Bodine struggled during his four years with the Bengals but the only other player that knows how to play center is T.J. Johnson which is not someone I want lining up there. There are three prospects that are leading the way at the position in Ohio State Billy Price, Iowa James Daniels, and Arkansas Frank Ragnow.
Cincinnati should make it a point to land one of these three guys and I think they could do it in the second round barring some ridiculous interior line heavy draft. With the amount of deep positional groups, the Bengals will see players that slide to 21 that could possibly be a better overall prospect than these centers in other areas of need. With the possibility that one or two of these guys could be there in the second round, we might see them go elsewhere.
This leaves us with looking at offensive linemen that might not be taken until the second or third day. If the Bengals draft one of the top centers, already traded for Cordy Glenn and Bobby Hart is competing at right tackle, that leaves the right guard in question. Left guard is held down by Clint Boling and the team still has guys like Christian Westerman and Alex Redmond on the right side that looked good toward the end of the season.
With the unlikely chance that the Bengals take back to back offensive linemen in the first two rounds like they did in 2015, let’s take a look at some offensive linemen that could be in that second and third tier and still be contributors.
Austin Corbett out of Nevada
Austin Corbett stepped in at left tackle in 2014 to replace second-round draft pick Joel Bitonio for Nevada starting all 12 games. In 2015, Corbett was named a team captain and earned an honorable mention All-Mountain West honors. Starting every game again as a junior and earned second-team all-conference from league coaches.
While playing tackle in college, Corbett will likely play better as a guard or center in the pros like Bitonio is in Cleveland. Coaches say he has above average intelligence but his strength and length could be a concern. He will need to build some strength to take on some of the bigger interior linemen at the next level but his intelligence in his play is a reason for optimism as he makes the change.
The Bengals brought Corbett in for a workout so we know they have done their due diligence. He is rated as a second or third round pick and with center and guard being an area of need for the Bengals, it could be a good fit for Corbett. Here is how the experts feel about Corbett.
"While there will be several “adequates” on the checklist, teams may be looking for a more definitive strength to his game. Corbett is definitely sharp enough to move inside to guard or center and has good technique, but his average play strength and lack of length may be a concern. He has the size and talent to compete for a guard/center spot."
If Cincinnati can’t grab one of the top centers in this draft class, Corbett might be an option as he has the intelligence and technique to move inside to guard or center. Both positions are a need for the Bengals and let him build some strength and work with new offensive line coach Frank Pollack, Corbett could be a solid second-tier grab for Cincinnati.
Mason Cole out of Michigan
Mason Cole is another offensive lineman with versatility playing left tackle and center in his college career. Cole was the first ever freshman to start every game his freshman year and topped the most starts by an offensive lineman in Michigan history with 53. He started at left tackle his first two years before moving to center his junior season and then back to left tackle this past season.
Cole is another player that will likely move inside at the next level to either guard or center. His experience and play at center make him a desirable pick for a team needing multiple spots on the offensive line filled. The former Wolverine improved his draft stock at the combine during drills and competed with some of the top linemen in this year’s class during those drills according to Charley Casserly.
His reliability is another trait that should be looked at by teams as he played through injuries and illnesses not only in college but in high school as well. Just at Michigan, Cole started 53 consecutive games without missing one. That was one of the traits that the Bengals staff loved so much about Russell Bodine even though his play was nothing to be excited about. They could depend on him to be on the field.
Cole played best in the run game when playing under center in 2016. Even against top defensive lines like Ohio State, he was able to open up run lanes and position himself between the running back and defenders. He showed inconsistency blocking for the run game when at tackle which is another indication that he would play better on the interior. His stocky frame might give him better leverage on the inside. Even if the Bengals draft a top center it might not hurt to double down with Cole as he is projected as a day three pick.
Kolton Miller out of UCLA
Blocking for quarterback Josh Rosen at UCLA, Kolton Miller spent his time as an offensive tackle for the Bruins. Miller raised his stocks at the NFL combine with some outstanding workouts showing off his quickness and athleticism which is rare for his size at 6’8″ and 310 pounds. He is projected to go in the late first to early second round with the little competition in the tackle class outside of McGlinchey so the Bengals may have to bundle if he makes it to Friday.
I would not be opposed to Cincinnati bundling another late round pick to move up in the second round if Miller is still on the boards come Friday. In fact, I don’t think the Bengals drafting eleven players is the best move for the team when they can move up in earlier rounds instead to get better quality players. While Miller played left tackle in college, he would most likely be a better fit at right tackle which is exactly where the Bengals should be looking.
The fact that Miller is one of the prospects that is thought to be able to continue on the outside in the NFL shows how good he was compared to the rest of the tackle class. He has experience at right tackle in 2015 and 2016 but both seasons were cut short due to injuries. At left tackle in 2017, Miller allowed only 15 pressures (2 sacks, 8 hits, 5 hurries) on 544 pass-block snaps which ranked 10th best among tackles in college according to Pro Football Focus.
Miller has outstanding footwork and balance in both the run and passing game which is rare for his size. He struggled some against speed edge rushers in college which is something that might scare off teams with the talent on the edge in the NFL. I have faith that Frank Pollack could develop Miller into a solid right tackle for the Bengals and Miller would be another addition to help fans forget about last seasons trenches.