After watching a raft of tight ends, some offensive linemen and even a punter and a kicker get selected before them in Saturday's fourth round, the Bengals went offense for the first time in the NFL Draft when they selected North Dakota State tackle Cordell Volson with the 136th pick.
The 6-6, 315-pound Volson, playing both right tackle and left tackle in 41 starts the last three season, projects to guard. He joins an offensive line room that has drafted three interior players in the previous two drafts. After the pick, Bengals offensive line coach Frank Pollack put Volson in the mix to start at left guard, his one vacancy. But he put everyone in the mix.
Usually, the Bengals like young players from big schools. Volson turns 24 the week before training camp and he comes from the FBS, but he hits so many other markers they like, such as individual experience, position versatility, experience with a pro scheme and team success.
Using the extra year brought by COVID-19 and North Dakota State's relentless postseason runs, Volson played in a school-record 65 career games and had 41 straight starts over his final three seasons while playing on five conference title teams and four national championships during his six-year career.
Last season he started all 15 games at right tackle after a 2020 season that saw him move to right guard for the two NCAA playoff games in wake of injuries. In 2019 he started all 16 games at right tackle.
But Pollack has no qualms about him moving to NFL guard.
"The toughness he plays with, the power he plays with. I think he'll have no problem going inside," Pollack said.
"(He's) the best offensive lineman available. There are a lot of guys that play tackle that I don't think can play inside. They don't have the power or the strength or the anchor to go down inside. Or I question it. If someone fell to us who was just a tackle, that would be a different conversation to have at that point. To me, the interior need was a little more glaring for lack of a better term for us."
Pollack said even though Volson went against small school competition, it may have been either to grade him because of the Bisons' offensive system.
"It was kind of fun watching North Dakota State in their pro-style offense. You see a lot of what we're going to ask him to do. That makes it a little bit easier.
Volson's older brother was a center and Rimington Award winner at North Dakota State in a stint that ended in 2018. He signed as an undrafted free agent and has yet to appear in an NFL game with two teams.