Andrew Billings watches tape of perennial Pro Bowl tackle Vince Wilfork and wore his number, too.
In the towering fourth round tradition of the Bengals defensive line, Cincinnati wowed the draftnicks with Saturday's selection of Baylor strongman Andrew Billings.
The 6-1, 310-pound Billings, a ridiculously strong defensive tackle who has squatted 805 pounds (a national high school record) and dead lifted 700 pounds as the strongest player in the draft, is seen as a backup to nose tackle Domata Peko who can contribute fairly quickly in the rotation as a run-stuffer.
The Bengals went on the other side of the line to take guard Chris Westerman in the fifth round, an Auburn transfer to Arizona State that started 26 of 27 games the past two seasons. As a rookie he's projected as a backup and they like to teach their young reserve guards how to play back-up center. Westerman is also a strong guy with a bench press of 225 pounds 41 times before his senior year. NFL.com draft guru called the pick "at that point in Round 5 is a great value."
Then after they mulled trading up for Ole Miss wide receiver Cody Core in the fifth, they got him in the sixth with the 199th pick, giving them a second receiver in the class to book-end second-rounder Tyler Boyd. The 6-3, 205-pound Core was the Ole Miss receiver that could run opposite first-rounder Laquon Treadwell. He finished second behind Treadwell with 644 yards on 37 catches with four TD catches and a 17.4-yard average. His 4.47 40-yard dash is a stark contrast to Treadwell's 4.65.
They finished up in the seventh round with Illinois safety Clayton Fejedelem, a 6-foot, 200-pounder who projects as a special teams demon.
Talk about value. The Bengals talked about Billings as early as the second round and ran to the podium after New Orleans passed to Minnesota, the pick before the Bengals. The Saints eventually got it in before Cincinnati so Billings had one more wait.
Billings admitted he was stunned he was on the board that long and said the snub will, "stay with me the rest of my life . . . I think it will be a good thing for me."
With the 122nd pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Bengals select Andrew Billings from Baylor
When he talked to his agent Friday night after the third round they consoled themselves with the story of Bengals Pro Bowler Geno Atkins, another shortish-type tackle who has gone to four Pro Bowls after getting drafted in the fourth round in 2010. Peko, heading into the last year of his deal, has been a staple for the last decade on and off the field after going in the fourth round in 2006. And Robert Geathers played all over the line for a decade after being selected in the fourth round in 2004.
Atkins is regarded as the strongest Bengal in the weight room, but he'll probably have to pass on that mantle. The question now is if Billings, a young 21, can transfer his strength as brilliantly as Atkins. Right now Billings is seen only as a run-down player, which may have hurt him, but the Bengals think he can do more than that.
"He doesn't play in a phone booth," said defensive line coach Jacob Burney. "He can make plays tackle to tackle."
A junior, Billings wrecked foes with 26.5 tackles for loss the past two seasons to go with 7.5 sacks. He said the only team that single-blocked him this year was TCU and he had a sack. "He's an anchor and he just turned 21," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. "We''re happy."
NFL Network loved the pick and said "it's time for the Bengals' personnel department to be mentioned among the best." When they got the pick in, the draft room exulted like it hasn't all weekend.
"He's a tough-minded individual," Burney said. "He's a leader."
Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham, a 10-year offensive lineman, agreed with the pundits and thought the Bengals got a steal. He only has to look at AFC North rival Brandon Williams, the Ravens' superb nose tackle, to see what an impact that could be for guy like Atkins to draw double teams.
"(Williams) is an explosive guy. He's got hip snap," Lapham said. "We have to see what (Billings) does, but the thing I like most about him is when said this will be a chip on his shoulder the rest f his life. That was great. That's great value for the Bengals. That's even more value to get a guy that big and strong motivated like that."