The 1994 draft was the first one of the modern era with a seven round draft, compensatory free agents, and the current format. Since drafts before this period operated in a different league model, we are looking at every draft since 1994, which gives us over two decades of history to mine for interesting draft trends for the Bengals.
Dating back to the 1994 NFL draft, the Bengals have made 92 selections within the first 75 picks of the draft. None of those have been used on a center.
With their total disregard for the center position, it should probably not come as a surprise to Bengals’ fans, that the Bengals have failed to draft a quality center since 1994.
Rod Payne, 1997 NFL Draft, drafted #76 overall: Payne Is the highest drafted center for the Bengals during this span, selected 76th overall, out of Michigan. His career lasted all of six games, and his last year in the league was only one year after being drafted.
Jonathan Luigs, 2009 NFL Draft, drafted #106 overall: Luigs fared even worse than Payne. He only lasted one year in the NFL, suiting up for eight NFL games.
Russell Bodine, 2014 NFL Draft, drafted #110 overall: Despite ranking as one of the worst centers in the league, Bodine has been a starter for all 32 of the Bengals games since being drafted. At least he’s actually playing, just not well.
Eric Ghiaciuc, 2005 NFL Draft, drafted #119 overall: Like Bodine, Ghiaciuc actually spent a few years as a starter for the Bengals. Unfortunately, he blocked as well as a turnstile, and was mercifully replaced by undrafted free agent Kyle Cook.
Reggie Stephens, 2010 NFL Draft, drafted 228 overall: Stephens never played in an NFL game, but did manage to hang around for four seasons drawing an NFL paycheck from several different teams
Dan Santucci, 2007 NFL Draft, drafted #230 overall: Santucci made it to the roster for two career games for his lone season in the NFL.
T.J. Johnson, 2013 NFL Draft, drafted #251 overall: Johnson has spent the last three seasons with the Bengals, and has appeared in 16 career games as a backup to Bodine and others along the offensive line.
Even Bruce Kozerski, the last quality center drafted by the Bengals, was a ninth round pick, when there were ninth round picks. And let’s not forget, he was selected 32 years ago. It’s been awhile since the Bengals managed to make a good pick at the center position.
For whatever reason, the Bengals just do not put any emphasis on the center position, totally ignoring it in the first few rounds of the draft, and the results are painfully obvious. Just like the Cleveland Browns with quarterbacks, the center position is one where the Bengals have continually failed to find quality players via the draft. At least, unlike the Browns, the Bengals aren’t using a high pick every other year on the position they struggle most with in the draft.