1 - Price is Right
The Bengals love their Buckeyes, but for the first time since they took Dan Wilkinson No. 1 overall 24 years ago they took one in the first round Thursday night when they snapped up Ohio State center Billy Price with the 21st pick.
The 6-3, 305-pound Price also became the first center taken by Cincinnati No. 1 since Nebraska’s Dave Rimington in 1983, which works out just right since they’re look to spearhead the overhaul of their offensive line with the winner of the Rimington Award as the nation’s best center.
“In his history at Nebraska he set the tone for that era of football,” said Price, who saw highlights at the award presentation. “Dude just played nasty just finishing guys. He’s a highly respected player to this day. That’s awesome the connection. I had no idea about that.”
2 – Defensive Stand
The Bengals took six defensive players in the first eight picks. And with the three picks on Friday night, the team addressed their biggest defensive concerns all in a row.
Jessie Bates arrives with coverage skills they want to upgrade at safety while Sam Hubbard gives depth to an aging edge. The man picked right behind him, Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson, offers speed and the ability to back up all three spots for a corps missing WILL backer Vontaze Burfict for the first month of the season.
The Bengals kept going for defense Saturday with a sweep of the three in the fifth round that included maybe the two most intriguing picks of the 11. Darius Phillips and Davontae Harris are both 4.4 speed guys that can press and while the 5-11, 205-pound Harris has the dimensions and toughness to play in the slot, the 5-10, 193-pound Phillips quietly set the FBS career record in Kalamazoo with 12 return touchdowns.
3 – Home is Sweet for Hubbard
Sam Hubbard was an all-state safety and lacrosse standout at Moeller who arrived in Columbus as a linebacker and tight end before gaining size and strength and moving to the defensive line. He thrived up front in three seasons with the Buckeyes as Hubbard had 17 sacks and 29.5 tackles-for-loss before bypassing his final season of eligibility to turn pro.
The 22-year-old helped lead Moeller to consecutive Division I state titles as a junior and senior and was a red-shirt during Ohio State’s 2014 national championship season.
There’s an obvious goal remaining.
“The last thing I need is a Super Bowl and I'm committed to doing everything I can to make sure that happens here in Cincinnati,” he said.
4 – Best Player Available
The Bengals clearly went best player available in the fourth round Saturday when they opted for a scatback at running back in Miami’s Mark Walton. For the second straight year the Bengals got their top-rated player heading into the last four rounds of the draft.
The 5-9, 202-pound Walton is a junior who was limited to 63 touches last season with an ankle injury that required surgery, but he proved hard to tackle in all three seasons and his coaches and the Bengals say he's more than a scatback. He bolted for 7.6 yards per carry in 2017 while averaging 13 yards per his seven catches with what Ourlads Scouting Services call “wide receiver caliber,” hands. He comes in as a backup for Giovani Bernard and a potential returner but certainly as some kind of special teams staple.
Walton currently projects to playing behind Bernard and starter Joe Mixon and being active on game day because of those special teams qualities. Not only did he chip in on returns, he was also a gunner and the Miami coaches considered him their special teams MVP the last two seasons.
5 – Competition Opens on O-line
With the Bengals adding just one offensive lineman after taking Billy Price in the first round in the trade that brought them left tackle Cordy Glenn, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor basically opened up the offensive line jobs to competition by calling the line jockeying for jobs, well, a competition.
He wouldn’t say who his starter is at right tackle, incumbent Jake Fisher or newcomer Bobby Hart. But competition is winning out so far. He counts five guards on his roster that started games last year (Clint Boling, Trey Hopkins, T.J. Johnson, Alex Redmond, Christian Westerman) and he's adamant that he expects good play from some of them this year.
“When you change the position coach it’s going to happen anyway,” said Lazor Saturday, moments after the draft ended. “When you trade for a veteran tackle and draft a player in the first round, you expect certain things to play out. We’ll just try to play it out for the other spots and see what happens. It will be the right thing.”