If you're wondering why the Bengals traded up 12 spots in the fourth round Saturday to select North Carolina center Russell Bodine, the answer can be found by looking at defensive depth charts in the AFC North.
"The center requirements are different in our division than any other division in football," said offensive line coach Paul Alexander.
The Ravens, Steelers, and Browns all play 3-4 defenses anchored by behemoths at nose tackle in Baltimore's Haloti Ngata (6-4, 340 pounds), Pittsburgh's Steve McLendon (6-4, 320 pounds), and Cleveland's Phil Taylor (6-4, 355 pounds). Bodine is 6-3 and 310 pounds and was the only player to bench press 225 pounds over 40 times (42) at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"I think he can block the big nose guards," said Alexander. "He was really the only big center in the draft."
For just the third time in their history the Bengals traded up in the draft and they selected a center some believe can be a decade-long starter in the NFL. The Bengals gave their first of two six-rounders to Seattle to move from No. 123 to No. 111 and grabbed Bodine, a two-year starter that declared for the draft as a junior.
Bodine has a take-charge reputation as a locker-room leader as well as a mauler persona on the field. He comes out of the same quick-paced shotgun offense that produced Bengals running back Giovani Bernard, but has snapped to the quarterback in goal-line situations.
"He's a big, strong man and tough – which we need to have to compete and win against the people we play in our division," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "We think he has those attributes."
"I think that to some degree that my nastiness is my strength," said Bodine. "As an interior lineman, you've got to have a little bit of a mean streak. You've got to go out there and enjoy the competition, and it's going to be a competition on every snap. There's nowhere to hide in there. You're going to hit somebody on every play so you have to enjoy that."
After releasing veteran starter Kyle Cook in March, the Bengals have an obvious opening at center. Trevor Robinson started seven games as a rookie in 2012 and Mike Pollak was a starting center in college before spending most of his six NFL seasons at guard.
"I'm thinking (Bodine's) going to compete right away," said Alexander. "He's going to compete to be the starting center."
"I want to come in and compete and give everything I can to the team," said Bodine. I have high expectations for myself, so obviously it will take a lot of work to transition and any starting spot will take just as much work to earn that. I'm definitely looking forward to getting in there and giving it my best and seeing what happens."
The Bengals met with Bodine at the NFL scouting combine and Alexander attended his pro day at North Carolina, so the former Tar Heel figured that Cincinnati was a candidate to select him. But he wasn't exactly glued to coverage of the draft.
"To be honest, I wasn't even watching the TV," said Bodine. "I couldn't sit there and watch and drive myself crazy. Obviously, I'm excited about the opportunity and I can't wait to get there and get started."
Shortly after learning about the selection in a phone call from Lewis, Bodine received a text from Bernard.
"Gio is a great guy," said Bodine. "I can't wait to get up there and hopefully have him make me look good again. He sure did that when he was at UNC."
The last time the Bengals traded up in the draft was in the 2002 third round, when they traded with Detroit to go up from No. 73 to No. 67 for Texas Christian tight end Matt Schobel. That came seven years after they went up from No. 5 to No. 1 in a trade with Carolina that gave them Penn State running back Ki-Jana Carter.
"A physical player who enjoys playing the game," according to Ourlads Scouting Services. "Not a finesse player. Players with attitude and effort…Plays with head on the swivel. Square in pass protection. Will get push in the running game."