The Bengals' selection of Cedric Ogbuehi in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft took many fans by surprise, but in retrospect, it looks like a great selection. In limited snaps down the stretch of the 2015 season, Ogbuehi didn't have a single blown block.
ESPN's Vincent Verhei noted this, listing Ogbuehi as a serious candidate to break out in 2016.
4. Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Cincinnati Bengals
The 21st overall pick out of Texas A&M played only 65 snaps in five games as a rookie, sitting and learning behind the Bengals' starting duo of Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith. Those 65 snaps, though, added up to about one game's worth of action, and in that "game," we didn't chart Ogbuehi with a single blown block. Ogbuehi will be starting at right tackle this season in place of Smith, who signed with Minnesota in free agency. A year from now, Ogbuehi could move to the left side to replace free-agent-to-be Whitworth.
But will Ogbuehi be able to break out? There are several factors to consider.
Age and experience
Ogbuehi, at age 24, is fairly old for a second-year player. He has a year of experience in the Bengals' system, learning from Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith, as well as from Paul Alexander. And, given his age, he should start entering his prime years early in his Bengals career. These factors considered, it makes plenty of sense that Ogbuehi could potentially break out.
Size and athletic ability
The Bengals must've been ecstatic to see Ogbuehi on the board, as he's far more athletic than his predecessor at right tackle. He'll probably need to bulk up a bit for 2016, as right tackles are generally built bigger than left tackles. Ogbuehi doesn't have the size to be a road grader in the run game, but he's athletic enough to hold his own in the run game and certainly has the body to be a great pass blocker.
On paper, Ogbuehi looks like he'll fit right in as the Bengals' right tackle. However, there are other factors to consider. Regardless of a player's draft pedigree and early-career success, it's always possible a guy doesn't turn out to become the player his team hopes he can become.
Ogbuehi will face stiff competition, both internal and external. He'll need to hold off 2015 second-rounder Jake Fisher, who has more NFL playing experience than Ogbuehi, to become the starting right tackle. Though, it's assumed the role is Ogbuehi's to lose. It's also possible that Fisher could be the Bengals' long-term starter on the right side, while Ogbuehi bounces to the left side after Andrew Whitworth retires, so there's always the possibility the team gives Fisher time on the right side while Ogbuehi continues to develop. It's not likely, but it's still possible.
External competition, however, should present a much more difficult challenge for the second-year tackle. Ogbuehi will face some elite NFL talent in his first season as a starter, should he start, which offers as much potential for disaster as it offers for greatness.
Projected assignments for Ogbuehi Weeks 1-8— Connor Howe (@HoweNFL) June 10, 2016
1: T Reilly
2: B Dupree
3: V Miller
4: C Wake
5: R Russell
6: J Sheard
7: P Kruger
8: R Kerrigan
Projected assignments for Ogbuehi Weeks 10-17— Connor Howe (@HoweNFL) June 10, 2016
11: S Lawson
12: E Dumervil
13: C Barwin
16: J Watt
The first half of Ogbuehi's season, in particular, looks scary. He'll likely face Von Miller, Cameron Wake, Jabaal Sheard and Ryan Kerrigan, all of whom tallied at least seven sacks in 2015. The second half of the season shouldn't be much easier. Jason Pierre-Paul, Elvis Dumervil, Connor Barwin and J.J. Watt are all capable of taking over a game. If Ogbuehi doesn't rise to the occasion, it could be a long day for Andy Dalton against one of these pass-rushers.
All of that being said, if Ogbuehi plays well and manages to shut out some of the elite pass-rushers on the Bengals' schedule, he could immediately cement himself as one of the best offensive tackles in football.
Ogbuehi is obviously an injury risk, having spent the majority of 2015 recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in his last collegiate game. He'll need to stay relatively healthy in order to cement his starting status and progress in his development. And, he didn't start out on the best foot this year as he missed a bunch of the OTA practices with an undisclosed, minor injury. He did participate on Tuesday though and should be on the field for mandatory minicamp next week.
All in all, there are factors that will certainly help and hurt Ogbuehi's chances of breaking out in 2016, but for the most part, a potential breakout looks very possible. The Bengals' second-year offensive tackle was arguably the best offensive tackle in the NCAA before sustaining his ACL injury, so he'll look to return to that form in 2016. If he's able to fulfill the potential seen in him when he was in college, Ogbuehi could have a very bright future in the NFL.