The Bengals must have had Texas A&M left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi graded quite high Thursday night before the NFL Draft began.
We know that because three top 10-type pass rushers were on the board when the Bengals went to pick at No. 21, including Kentucky defensive end Bud Dupree, nabbed by the Steelers at No. 22.
"We were going to pick the next-best player, the next highest player we had graded in our order," said head coach Marvin Lewis.
Plus, with at least one club rattling around looking to trade up at that point, the Bengals held firm even though Oregon tackle Jake Fisher and Florida tackle D.J. Humphries were also available when they picked.
And we really know they had a high value on Ogbuehi because they took him even though he probably won't work in his first NFL practice until October as he rehabs from a torn ACL suffered in the late December Liberty Bowl.
As head coach Marvin Lewis punched the phone to dial up Ogbuehi in the draft room, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson got up from his table to fist bump Lewis and offensive line coach Paul Alexander and after he handed the phone to Jackson, Lewis exhaled, "Good."
"I have no (reservations). Zero. Ask as many questions as you want," said a beaming Alexander a few minutes later in the press room. "I've got zero reservations on this guy."
It looks like they got the man they wanted all along and The Grade won again in the Mike Brown-Marvin Lewis-Duke Tobin draft room. A guy who can rehab his knee while sitting behind three veterans and a guy, by all accounts, would have gone in the top ten if he didn't get hurt.
"Maybe top five,' said Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham.
(Here's another reason why Ogbuehi fits. All signs are that his rehab is probably going to put him on the physically unable to perform list, shelving him for all of training camp and the first six weeks of the regular season. But the Bengals have a bye on the first week he could theoretically practice and, thanks to a Thursday night game, his first three games would be over 29 days.)
When he's ready, Alexander says he'll be the extra tight end in their big package they run on goal-line and short-yardage.
"I don't think we're necessarily surprised he was going to be there," Alexander said. "Because there's not that many teams in the league that have the luxury of having their starting (offensive) line back that (they) can work a guy in, you know what I mean? I couldn't really imagine who would have taken him ahead of us if we didn't. Now, at this point in the draft, it would make sense for just about anyone to take him. So I guess we felt pretty good he'd be there, but it only takes one team (to draft a guy ahead of you)."
They may have zero reservations but they've got millions invested in his future at a tackle position that has a rich heritage under Alexander as he heads into his 21st season coaching here.
Since then, two first-round picks, Willie Anderson and Andre Smith, have played right tackle all but two seasons and in one of them (2008) Stacy Andrews earned the richest right tackle deal ever when he left in free agency.
Since 2002, Levi Jones, a first-rounder, and incumbent Andrew Whitworth, a second-rounder, have manned left tackle much better than the one Pro Bowl they have to show for it. Whitworth, 33, and Smith, 28, are heading into the last year of their deals, but the Bengals' options are even wider than they were when they began the draft because Alexander believes Ogbuehi can play all five line spots.
"We've had some pretty good tackles," mused Alexander as hhe opped, skipped, and jumped out of Paul Brown Stadium at the end of Thursday night. "I think he's got the same skill set as those other guys. They're all different. Some are bigger, stronger, some are more athletic. This guy, when all is said and done, has 'it.' Great reach, exceptional arm length. And he has rare feet that only a couple of men in the league have. He's smart. He takes good angles. He's a good blocker. He's productive."
This gallery features the Bengals 21st pick Cedric Ogbuehi OT - Texas A&M
One of the storyline is already set. Whitworth has already dared the team to draft a left tackle when he said last week he's going to put a rookie left tackle on the bench. Ogbuehi says his best position is left tackle, but maybe he'll have to play another spot for a while.
Who knows? All Lapham knows is that once University of Miami tackle Ereck Flowers went No. 9 to the Giants, his pick was Ogbuehi because "if you're going to pick a tackle, which they wanted to do , he's definitely the most athletic."
Lapham, the former Bengals guard who once played all five line spots in the same game, was in his element as he welcomed another lineman to the Who-Dey fold. It got him a bit nostalgic.
Now, he's not saying that Ogbuehi is Anthony Munoz, the Bengals' Hall-of-Famer considered the greatest left tackle who ever lived. But he has seen a rookie tackle and a teammate rebound from this injury. It will be recalled that Munoz only played in the Rose Bowl his senior year at USC after a torn ACL. But the Bengals still made him the No. 3 pick in 1980.
"The last time they picked a tackle who had a knee problem was Anthony Munoz," Lapham said. "I'm not saying he's Munoz, and it's different. He came back to play, so they saw him before he was drafted. But, if (Ogbuehi) was that good before the surgery and if it's just an ACL pop these days, I'd roll that dice. Even if he loses a little bit of his athleticism. Yeah, I like the pick."
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said that Ogbuehi has a back issue and that the Bengals have to put him in a different lifting regimen, but he called it minor and said he still has Pro Bowl potential. Alexander shrugged when he heard that, probably because Ogbuehi has been one of the most examined men in America the past month with the injury re-checks in Indianapolis and one in his pre-draft visit to PBS a few weeks ago.
It was there that Alexander outlined the recent history of Bengals tackles for Ogbuehi. It was his second meeting with him because the Bengals had a formal 15-minute interview with him at the NFL scouting combine in February.
"I went through it with him," Alexander said. "I said, 'All right, Cedric. My first tackle was Willie Anderson — All-Pro. My next tackle was Levi Jones, knocking on the door of the Pro Bowl. Then Stacy Andrews was the highest paid right tackle in the history of football when he left here. Then we got Andrew Whitworth and he's been to the Pro Bowl, and also Andre Smith, and he's knocking on the door (of the Pro Bowl). Those are my tackles. Those are the tackles that have played for me, all right?' And I said, 'I expect you to be just like them.' He got all fired up.
"You don't get a shot at tackles very often. And when you've got a shot at tackles, you've got to take them."
A combination of solid tackles and solid cornerbacks have been a major factor in the Bengals' drive to five playoffs in the last six seasons. Certainly in the AFC North. With the drafting of Ogbuehi, they've now taken four cornerbacks and two tackles in the first round since 2006 and they have to.
Look what happened in the division Thursday night. Cleveland added a monstrous defensive tackle in Washington's Danny Shelton and the Steelers drafted a guy some think can end up being the best pass rusher in this draft, Dupree. You need first-rounders to block them.
"If I think (Ogbuehi,) could block that big man that Cleveland just drafted, then he can run block at right tackle," Alexander said.
The Bengals plan to hold a 5 p.m. press conference Friday at PBS and it's believed he's bringing a pretty good-sized contingent that includes his parents.
"He's a unique guy. Both of his parents — he was raised in a Nigerian household and his parents are both nurses that do consulting work now," Alexander said. "His parents were very strict and very hard on him, and demanding in his academic work. His parents weren't real excited about him playing football, but he convinced them that's what he wanted to do. So he's been raised of the right stuff, and I think he has a very positive profile."
As Alexander began to leave PBS for the night, he bumped into Lapham and they got into an animated discussion about Ogbuehi's jack-hammer feet and his ridiculous wing span with arms nearly 36 inches long. Vines, one draftnick called them. If its one thing Alexander feels a good NFL left tackle has to have, it's long arms.
And he disagrees with Mayock about Ogbuehi being a reminder of Jets left tackle D'Brickawshaw Ferguson, the fourth pick in the 2006 draft and a three-time Pro Bowler.
"He's different. More compact," Alexander said of Ogbuehi. "He's not as linear. He's got bigger legs and hips. I don't like to compare him to players. I hope he has as good a career as D'Brickashaw has, but I don't see that comparison at all."
Lapham had something else in mind.
"They talk about catching radius, this guy has a huge radius," Lapham said. "It's like trying to get around an octopus."
But for yet another draft, the Bengals didn't reach.