The Bengals went big in the fourth round Saturday and stayed home during the last day of the NFL Draft.
For the first time in 52 drafts they traded up twice, both in the fourth round, and came out if it with their potential backup quarterback as well as two very large lineman on either side of the ball in Arizona State defensive tackle Renell Wren and Ohio State guard and long-time Bengals fan Michael Jordan. Add Jordan to the rapidly growing list of potential starters at guard and Wren is trying to shoot by some injured tackles to become the first guy off the bench to spell Geno Atkins and Andrew Billings.
If there's one thing that emerged in the first six picks of the Zac Taylor Era it's that size does matter. Early in the first round the Bengals looked off an undersized linebacker and targeted the offensive line to come up with the draft's top lineman with Alabama left tackle Jonah Williams. Then in the second they went with a 255-pound tight end known for his blocking in Washington's Drew Sample. In the third round they opted for a backer that fit their dimensions when they tapped 6-2, 240-pound Germaine Pratt of North Carolina State.
After they traded up six spots to grab Pratt's teammate with the second pick in the fourth round at No. 104, quarterback Ryan Finley, they stayed at No. 125 and took the 325-pound Wren, promptly re-named Mt. Wren by defensive line coach Nick Eason. Then they couldn't pass up the nearly 6-6, 312-pound Jordan, especially after the previous Buckeyes center, the Bengals' own Billy Price, recommended him to offensive line coach Jim Turner. So they went up to go get him.
"I love this pick," Turner said.
Why not? Here's a guy in Jordan that was the first true freshman to start on Ohio State's offensive line in 23 years, going all the way back to Orlando Pace, a Pro Football Hall of Famer. The scouting gurus question his balance and speed and project him as a right guard. But Turner says he can play all three inside spots and his height allows to play tackle in a pinch.
"One thing I love in players on the line is width. They have the body type to be a big mass inside. He's got that," Turner said. "The other big thing for him is intelligence. He's a smart player. He started his freshman and sophomore year at guard. When Billy Price got drafted here last year, there was a hole in the middle. They took him going into his junior year and made him the center. They don't do that often. They obviously respected his intelligence.
"That's a huge plus for us here. We have a player that we invested in with Billy that felt had all of the things necessary to rate a first round pick. And to have a guy like that in the building that can give Michael a character reference is great. He's been there with him in those battles. It's very helpful to us."
Taylor and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan are quietly building an offensive line that fits a certain scheme, particularly a running game borrowing from the Rams outside zone.
View the top images of defensive end Renell Wren from his collegiate career. Wren was selected by the Bengals in the fourth round.
"Speaking about the two we've drafted, the major traits that both have are athletic ability and running," Turner said. "As you've seen from the scheme, if you're a tackle, you have to be able to cut off on the backside. If you're a guard, you have to be able to run and get outside. They both have that. The size of Mike, he's close to 6-6, 310 pounds. He's a massive human being, but he has a 32-inch vertical jump. Athletically, they're explosive and can run. They can move big bodies. Those are critical pieces to our line. When you combine all of those things, they also have to be smart. You have to be smart to play and succeed in this offense."
Eason, the Bengals defensive line coach, played 117 games in the NFL, most of them in the AFC North. He knew exactly what he was looking for and it was guy like Wren. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo got a laugh when he introduced Eason as a new signing when they sat down for a news conference.
"You talk about character. When I played for a team I would not like to mention while sitting up here, it was on a very good defense," Eason said, referring to his Super Bowl champion Steelers. "That defensive line, including myself, was composed of fourth- and fifth-rounders — guys who played hard and played for each other. That's the culture we're going to establish here — just get a good group of guys with good character that's going to play hard and play for one another, and we're going to win a lot of football games."
The Bengals like their depth behind Atkins and Billings, but it is dinged. Ryan Glasgow and Josh Tupou are coming off injury and Wren gives them something they desperately need in the middle. Girth. At a 6-5ish, 318 pounds, Wren eats up ground. He's not only wide, but tall. And while he's a fifth-year senior, he started just one year but showed elite power at nose tackle and became a huge presence.
"He provides something that we don't have right now inside, and that's a guy with some size and some length," Anarumo said. "We've got shorter, stouter guys. Certainly Geno is Geno; he's in a different category — but what we're playing with, this guy will get us a different look out there, which we're excited about it."
Jordan is excited, too, because he's coming home. Before his family moved to Michigan when he was in high school, he grew up in the Cincinnati suburb of Fairfield and can tick off the favorite Bengals of his youth: Rudi Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chad Johnson, Carson Palmer.
"I liked those guys when I was a kid," he said.
A look at some of the top images from Ohio State offensive lineman Michael Jordan. Jordan was selected by the Bengals in the fourth round.
He also remembers meeting the Bengals greatest lineman of all around that time.
"It was amazing," Jordan said of Anthony Munoz. "It was a unique experience, and he gave me something to look up to, something to go chase after."
Before the wild fourth, the Bengals had only trade up four times in their history:
The Bengals traded up to get running back Ki-Jana Carter in the first round in 1995, tight end Matt Schobel in the third round in 2002, center Russell Bodine in the fourth round in 2014 and safety Brandon Wilson in the sixth round in 2017.