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2016 NFL Draft Profile: Alabama center Ryan Kelly

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Drafting a high-end center could be a smart move for the Bengals. Alabama's Ryan Kelly has all of the qualities to work out as a huge upgrade for the position.

Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

For all of the important positions that the Bengals need to worry about in the draft, one position that is getting much less buzz than it probably should is center. As of right now, the position is occupied by 2014 fourth round pick Russell Bodine and 2013 seventh round pick, T.J. Johnson. The team seems to be fairly comfortable with this setup, but it would probably be a good idea to upgrade if the right player is available.

Ryan Kelly could be exactly the kind of player to get the Bengals to pull the trigger. He's a local kid from West Chester, playing his high school football at Lakota West. He's also one of the most gifted offensive linemen available this year, with the kind of talent and intelligence to put Russell Bodine's job in jeopardy within a year or less.

Ryan Kelly

Height/weight: 6'4", 311 lbs

Arm Length: 33 5/8"

3-Cone drill: 7.58 sec

Bench Reps: 26

Broad Jump: 103.0"

20-yard shuttle: 4.59 sec

NFL Comparisons: Brian Stork (NFL.com), Nick Mangold (Walter Football)

Kelly became the starting center for the Alabama Crimson Tide after Barrett Jones left for the draft in 2013. Jones was widely considered to be the best center in the nation when he left, so Kelly had some high expectations to live up to. Those expectations fit him like a glove as he went on to win the Rimington Trophy for his outstanding All-American performance in 2015. He was arguably the best offensive player on the Crimson Tide roster, winning the team's offensive player of the week award on two separate occasions. His ability to keep quarterback Jake Coker off the ground and open up holes for Heisman trophy winner Derrick Henry has got plenty of teams licking their chops.

If the Bengals are looking to take a center, he's good enough that they could probably justify taking him with pick No. 24. But, they will probably have other higher ranked prospects ideas at that point and could try to hold out for him until Round 2. Whatever the case, he would be a massive upgrade to the team's lackluster center position.

Strengths: Kelly has the football intelligence to dissect a defense, the toughness to hold off a scrappy pass rusher, the kind of explosive power combined with refined technique to be effective on every snap, and a history of success at every level of the game so far. He's an elite run blocker who will part a defensive line like the Red Sea, but also has the ability to read and react quickly to various pass rushing strategies. He's practiced and patient enough to almost never be penalized and has the kind of leadership to be able to keep his fellow linemen in check as well.

Weaknesses: As smart and athletic as he is, he's a bit undersized for the position. It can cause him to get knocked back sometimes, and also makes it tough for him to drive defenders back with consistency. As tough as he is, his functional strength is a bit up to question. As intelligent as he is, his vision after the snap could use some improvement. Highly intelligent linebackers and highly strong defensive tackles are likely to get the better of him until he improves in these areas.

Bottom Line: He's probably the best center available in the draft, and would be in the discussion for best offensive lineman if he had a bit more muscle on his frame. 26 bench reps at the combine certainly isn't bad, but he wasn't one of the top performers either; and the Bengals love strong offensive lineman. Teams in need of a starting center will likely have him on their radar in the second or even late first round, but he doesn't really have that "can't miss" vibe. However, as unimpressive as his various offseason workouts have been, his success on the field is undeniable. He can eyeball a blitz with the best of them and open up holes in any run blocking scheme. He would be a huge upgrade for the Bengals' current center position.

Projected round: 2