It's no secret that tackle has the most value of any spot on the line. You routinely see guards and centers taken in the later rounds and developed into quality starters. The same doesn't hold true at tackle, and the Bengals are a prime example of this. Since 2001, Richmond Webb, Willie Anderson, Levi Jones, Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith have been full-time starters at tackle at one point with the Bengals. All but Whitworth were taken in the first round of their respective drafts (Whit was a second-round pick in 2006).
The 21st-overall pick of the 2015 draft and Cincinnati's first-round selection was Texas A&M's Cedric Ogbuehi. Despite him having torn his ACL during Texas A&M's win over West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 29, Ogbuehi was still taken in the first round of the draft. That's how talented the 6-5, 306-pound tackle is -- he still was targeted by the Bengals in the late first round. Ogbuehi is also progressing well in his rehab, so much so that it’s possible he could play this year, but he’ll still likely open training camp on the PUP list.
As for his college career, Ogbuehi played significant snaps for A&M almost since the day he arrived on campus. As a freshman in 2011, he started six of 10 games at guard. As a sophomore in 2012, he started all 13 games at right guard. As a junior in 2013, he was moved to right tackle as the full-time starter. This past year, Ogbuehi started all 13 games for A&M — 11 at left tackle and two at right — and earned first-team All-SEC and third-team AP All-American honors. Ogbuehi is used to playing with top talent. During his time at Texas A&M he played opposite Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews on the offensive line, which contributed to him being shuffled around.
If Ogbuehi does open 2015 on PUP, he will be ineligible to play in the first six games of the season as he works his way back from an injury that has an 8-10-month recovery period. That's why there should be little-to-no expectations for Ced to contribute to this year's team. Players simply don't go from ending their college career with a major injury to spending the entire offseason of their rookie NFL season rehabbing, and then go on to make a positive impact on an NFL team after opening the year on PUP.
While not ideal, the Bengals would prefer he not play at all in his rookie season, at least in a starting role. They're already set at all five spots on the line, which means if Ogbuehi were to play significant snaps this year, it would likely be because someone was injured.
As for 2016, Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith and Eric Winston will become unrestricted free agents -- and Whitworth will turn 34-years-old this year. It's possible Ogbuehi earns a starting role as early as next year, but for now, will likely sit on the bench and learn during his rookie season. When/if Ced does make it onto the 53-man roster later this year, he'll likely be used as a backup tackle and guard. He was a starting guard for A&M his sophomore year before moving to right tackle in 2013 and left tackle in 2014. That kind of versatility could lead to him being a key backup heading down the stretch of the regular season and (hopefully) into the postseason.
Ogbuehi may have been drafted in Round 1, but there's no question Cincinnati's second-round pick will get more playing time between the two. That's Jake Fisher, the No. 53 overall pick out of Oregon who the Bengals were very high on coming into the draft.
Fisher started 13 games at left tackle during his final season in college and helped Oregon reach the College Football Playoff National Championship game, losing to Ohio State. In Fisher's two missed games, both due to a leg injury, the Ducks gave up 12 of their season total of 31 sacks allowed. Fisher was named a first-team All-American last season by the Football Writers Association of America, and he played in 51 games in his Oregon career.
Offensive line coach Paul Alexander spent time in Eugene during Oregon's pro day in March to scout Fisher. Cincinnati also hosted to him for a visit in April, and it was clear there was interest in the All-American tackle as the draft inched closer. SI's Peter King wrote prior to the draft, the Bengals "loved Fisher" and "ace line coach Paul Alexander could mold the quick-footed Fisher into a long-term left tackle".
Even after taking a tackle with their first pick, Cincinnati's coaches simply couldn't pass on Fisher, who they believed would have been long gone at this point, and for good reason. Fisher is the first tackle the Bengals used a second-round pick on since Andrew Whitworth in 2006. Ironically, Fisher is the early favorite to replace Whit next year if the long-time left tackle leaves in free agency. Ogbuehi looks more suited for right tackle or even guard, even if he was the higher selected player of the two.
As mentioned earlier, Whitworth and Smith are set to enter free agency next year after being the full-time bookend tackles since 2011. Fisher could be the first backup at tackle and guard as a rookie, but don’t tell him that. He wants to play now.
In the end, Fisher won't be starting his rookie year unless one of the starters gets injured. Kevin Zeitler and Clint Boling are both quality guards and Whit and Smith are one of the best tackle tandems in football. Unless the Bengals want to move Fisher to center and push Russell Bodine for his job (highly unlikely), there's going to have to be an injury for Fisher to see the field much in 2015. The same holds true for Ogbuehi.
Both players were drafted with the future in mind, so don't look down on these two rookies if they don't play a lot this season. They're simply being groomed for a much bigger role that could come as early as next year. And, there’s talk of Fisher being able to lineup at tight end, so look for the occasional chance that happens, too.