Billy Price can help Frank Pollack change culture up front.
The gag after the first round is what more could new Bengals offensive line coach Frank Pollack possibly want?
After all, the guy has been here for just four months and he's already received a starting left tackle via a trade and a first-round center everyone knows is going to start Opening Day. But the laugh may be on everybody else Friday as the Bengals eye the 14th pick in the second round with tackles like Louisville's Geron Christian and Texas' Connor Williams on the board.
"I got a heck of a deal. It's kind of nice," Pollack said as the Thursday night press conference announcing the first-round selection of Ohio State's Billy Price broke up.
Then he joked he'd have to get back to the draft room to see if anyone else was coming his way.
What is already coming his way is Price, an enormous favorite of the coaching staff during their visits with him at the NFL scouting combine and Paul Brown Stadium.
The Bengals were sold on both centers and it was going to take Herculean slides by Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey or top-rated defenders to move them off Price and Arkansas center Frank Ragnow. Clearly the pair from Alabama, linebacker Rasheen Evans and wide receiver Calvin Ridley, didn't register because they were available.
Price and Ragnow, graded pretty much evenly, appeared to be their two highest graded players at that point and there was no flustering when Ragnow went to the Lions the pick before at No. 20.
That's because the coaches love Price. His outgoing personality makes him the kind of guy who can help change the culture of a position, much like cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall when they arrived in back-to-back first rounds, as well as wide receiver A.J. Green and left tackle Andrew Whitworth did when they arrived in the first and second rounds, respectively. Green did it right away because he played right away. It evolved for Whitworth after right tackle Willie Anderson left and Whitworth became a starter in the ensuing shuffle.
That's what top picks can do with personality and performance and Price is clearly going to be starting right away.
"Every single exposure, whether on video or in person that I've had with Billy kept solidifying and raising the bar that this is the guy for us," said offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. "Whether it be the first time that I watched him on film, or meeting him at the Combine, when he walks out of that room everybody looks at each other and says, 'Wow, this is the guy you want to have on your team.' You have a chance as a whole offensive staff to study how he played, and then having him here on a visit, just every time he kept pushing higher and higher."
And for Pollack, a hardscrabble ex-player trying to send his own message as a new coach for a position that has had the same coach for a quarter century, Price's hard-driving style is a nice match.
"He's all business," Pollack said. "He came in (to college) as a D-lineman. He's got that kind of an attitude. There are a lot of good things about him. Those are definitely the top things that come to mind."
Lazor is also trying to establish a different way of doing things on an offense that grew stagnant in the last couple of years and there's nothing like a new voice on the line to do that.
The last time two centers went in the first round, 2009, Cleveland's Alex Mack and Buffalo's Eric Wood, became Pro Bowlers. When Pollack was the assistant line coach in Dallas, the Cowboys drafted four-time Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick in the first round.
There is something about centers.
"Veteran centers that are good players to me, it's not only their play, but it's a presence they have, an aura a little bit," Lazor said. "Each guy is unique, but there's just a sense when he walked in the room that he was in control of the room. When Coach Pollack sat him down and taught him some football and started quizzing him on it, he had a burning desire not to be wrong. I think that's a great quality to have with your center. He got (ticked) if he wasn't just exactly right, and you want that guy to be in charge. You want him to take pride in being right all the time, because like you said, the quarterback and the center are the play callers out there for us. I think he has those qualities."
Some national pundits weren't nearly excited as their coaches about the Price pick even though a team that has needed some ballast in the middle seemed to get the right guy at the right time. But ESPN thinks Iowa center James Daniels, still on the board, is better and CBS Sports.com also seemed to think Price went higher than its grades warranted even though the site inexplicably gave the Bengals a C-plus even though it said the pick made sense.
But NFL Network's Mike Mayock called Price "a great pick," because of the need and his ability to play all three inside spots.
The Bengals hope they can match need and talent like that again in the second round. Tackle? Safety? Linebacker? According to ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., of the 25 best remaining players there are a couple of safeties in Alabama's Ronnie Harrison and Wake Forest's Jessie Bates III, outside linebackers in Georgia's Lorenzo Carter (a school almost as popular as The Ohio State in Bengaldom) and UCLA's Uchenna Nwosu.
Cincinnati Bengals draft center Billy Price from Ohio State with 21st pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.