Cincinnati Bengals: Billy Price may be down but he’s not out

ORCHARD PARK, NY - AUGUST 26: Billy Price #53 of the Cincinnati Bengals comes set at the line during the first half of a preseason game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on August 26, 2018 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - AUGUST 26: Billy Price #53 of the Cincinnati Bengals comes set at the line during the first half of a preseason game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on August 26, 2018 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

With the news that Billy Price will be benched in favor of Trey Hopkins to start the season, Cincinnati Bengals fans are selling their stock in Price. However, things aren’t as grim for the 2018 first-round pick as they seem. 

When the Cincinnati Bengals selected Billy Price with the 21st pick of the 2018 draft they believed they found their center of the future. The team had finally moved on from Russell Bodine and Price looked ready to anchor the re-build of their offensive line.

However, as has been the case with most of Cincinnati’s first-round picks, injury struck. Price missed 6 games in his rookie year and struggled in the games he was healthy.

Coming into this pre-season, optimism around the Ohio State iron-man was renewed. After an entire off-season, he looked primed to live up to his draft billing.

Unfortunately, injury haunted him again. Price missed 10 vital training camp practices, causing him to fall behind in the new coaching scheme. Guys like Trey Hopkins and Michael Jordan were able to surpass him. At this point, all hope seems lost and many fans are chalking Price up as a bust. They shouldn’t be.

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Coming out of Ohio State, Price was touted for his strength and leadership. Both of those characteristics will help him get his career back to the place fans dreamed it would be.

From Ohio State to the Cincinnati Bengals

Before getting to his play on the field, let’s examine him off the field. At Ohio State, Price was a team captain and arguably the number one leader of the team. That is no small feat. He was on a team with a lot of alphas who were used to being the leader and came out on top.

If that weren’t enough, the former Buckeye handled the news of losing the starting job as well as anybody could expect. When questioned about the situation, he scoffed at the idea of being upset saying, “you can go get a bottle of whiskey and put yourself in a dark dirty hole or you can get out here and practice on the things you need to improve on… its about helping the team in whatever direction, whatever way, whatever facet I can.”  You would be hard-pressed to find any other former first-round pick responding to the situation in the way that he did.

He doesn’t only impress in interviews but the weight room as well. He was notorious for being the strongest guy at Ohio State. Again, on a team full of some of the best prospects in the nation, being the strongest is a huge accomplishment.

He’s got the strength, he’s got the correct attitude, he has the leadership, and, despite what fans and pundits are telling you, he’s got the talent. He simply hasn’t had enough time to gain his footing.

His best position is at guard. That much is evident from the graphic above from Pro Football Focus via Twitter. You can see in his last season playing guard he had a very good overall grade of 84.7. In his switch to center, his grade only dipped slightly, to 83.2. What is most intriguing though is seeing his decrease in pass protection due to his switch to center. He went from 80.3 to 67.1. These stats show he can run block at any interior position given his aforementioned strength. However, he is much better at protecting the quarterback when he’s moved out to guard.

Finding the best fit in Cincinnati

Upon being drafted, the Cincinnati Bengals had a huge hole to fill at the center position, so he stayed at the position. He hasn’t been able to translate his play to that next level as it looks to be an unnatural fit for him. Before such heavy judgment is passed down, he deserves reps at his premiere position.

After having an injury-free career in college, he has had a couple of freak injuries that have prevented him from getting used to the speed of the league. Missing 10 days of work in any profession would set a guy back. The consequences in today’s NFL are even greater for missing so much time. Mental reps can only get you so far.

Take into account that he lost out to Hopkins. Forget the fact that Hopkins went undrafted, his level of play doesn’t match his draft status. The 6’4″ 300-pound lineman has been with the team since 2014. He dealt with injuries of his own but he is still significantly more experienced than Price.

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Give Price the time he needs. His career hasn’t gotten off to the start anybody has hoped. However, with his mindset, it won’t be that way for long. The season will begin, Price will get healthy and slip out of headlines. He’ll get the reps he needs in practice. It might not be a few games in this season or in 2019 at all but Price will get his shot again. When it comes, don’t be surprised if he is more prepared, and fueled by the sting of this moment.