The Bengals are having a great Day 3 of the NFL Draft. After absolutely stealing Baylor defensive tackle and projected first round pick Andrew Billings in the fourth round, they stole Arizona State offensive guard and projected second or third round pick Christian Westerman, in the fifth round.
At first glance, guard doesn't exactly seem to be one of the more pressing areas of need for the Bengals in this year's draft. But, when taking a more in-depth look, there's a lot of potential for the team with this pick.
What Westerman brings to the Bengals
Elite athleticism: Athleticism isn't usually the first quality you think of when scouting an offensive guard. But, when you really think about it, that could be an extremely useful talent to pair with some of the more obvious traits. Westerman is known to be extremely quick off the snap and already set in his block before most defensive tackles know what is going on. With his kind of athleticism, you'd feel good about him bailing out a tackle who just got beaten on the edge.
Versatility: Offensive guard isn't exactly the most open position on the team right now. Kevin Zeitler and Clint Boling are two of the better starting guards in the league, so it seems like Westerman is being picked to be a backup. However, at 6'3", 298 pounds, and with 33 1/2" arms you could realistically see him moving inside to center if needed. For what it's worth, his NFL comparison is Alex Mack, according to NFL.com, who is arguably one of the best centers in the league. Furthermore, his athleticism means he probably has the ability to fill in at offensive tackle if necessary.
Work ethic: 34 bench reps at the combine is a testament to the fact that he's been training for virtually his whole life to play this position. He brings the kind of mental toughness, attitude, and relentless technique that really makes him more than a solid pick in the fifth round.
Why Westerman to the Bengals makes sense
Room on offensive line: Take one look at the Bengals' offensive line depth chart and you'll see plenty of places where a talented and versatile guy like Westerman could fit in. At the moment, the only backup guard on the team behind Zeitler and Boling is Trey Hopkins, though tackle Eric Winston and center T.J. Johnson could be used as backup guards as well. And, Zeitler is a 2017 free agent, though, he should be a priority for the Bengals to re-sign this offseason. If Westerman pans out as his strengths would suggest, you could maybe see him moving inside to center and stealing Bodine's starting job.
Veteran Leadership on offensive line: One of the Bengals' biggest strengths on offensive line lately has been the presence of guys like Andrew Whitworth and Boling. Bringing in a guy like Westerman who probably fell due to a determined but unrefined technique brings the potential for one of the accomplished veterans to take him under their wing and teach him how to succeed in the NFL.
Technical genius: Let's not necessarily jump the gun on saying he's going to make the switch to center just yet, but the fact that he's known for being a student of the game as much as a tremendously talented player really helps this potential transition. The ability to read and react to defensive schemes is going to be key on any area of the offensive line