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The irony of Russell Bodine, the 2014 NFL Draft and Matt Paradis

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Russell Bodine wasn’t a bad pick by the Bengals in 2014. He actually ended up being one of the best centers that year. Unfortunately, the Broncos got the best one two rounds later.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

For much of Russell Bodine’s career, he’s been viewed as the painfully-obvious weakness on a Bengals team on the cusp of Super Bowl contention.

You can’t blame fans for not exactly being a fan of the guy who typically ranks among the worst starting centers. The latest ranking to sour on Bodine is Bleacher Report’s 1000 series, which ranks all of the starting players at every position.

Bodine came in at 32nd out of 32 players with a 61 overall grade after Week 2. Journeymen who’ve repeatedly changed teams like Matt Slauson and A.Q. Shipley graded better than Bodine, a full-time starter who has been given no challenger for his job at any point.

Pro Football Focus is a tad friendlier, ranking Bodine 25th out of 32 eligible players, and his run-blocking grade is the 10th-highest of any center.

Still, it seems like the Bengals made a bad move with the 2014 fourth-round pick out of North Carolina. However, the irony of Bodine and that 2014 NFL Draft is he was actually one of the most reliable centers to come out of it, especially for a fourth-round pick.

The first center drafted that year was Weston Richburg at 43rd overall pick by the Giants. He’s done very well, but we can count out the Bengals ever spending that high of a pick on center.

The next two guys to go off the board have done very poorly. Marcus Martin went in the third round to the 49ers, but he’s been so bad that he’s benched right now. He was one of the NFL’s worst centers last year and looks like a complete bust.

Travis Swanson went in the third round to the Lions, ahead of where the Bengals were drafting that round, but has been one of the league’s worst centers since then. He’s come into his own this year, but to this point, Bodine in Round 4 was a much better value, especially when you remember Cincinnati got Jeremy Hill with their second-round pick, which is what they would have to use to get Swanson or Martin.

Then you’ve got the Patriots grabbing Bryan Stork in the fourth round, six spots ahead of where the Bengals took Bodine. Stork had a good start to his career, but injuries limited him to six starts in 2015 before he was cut this offseason and now, he remains a free agent.

So that’s three of the four centers who went ahead of Bodine who he ended up being a better selection than. Then you’ve got the Packers grabbing Corey Linsley in the fifth round. He had a tremendous start to his career and had many Bengals fans wondering why the heck Cincinnati passed on Linsley for Bodine.

However, injuries cost Linsley three games in 2015 and led to him being benched in favor of J.C. Tretter this year. For all the hate we throw Bodine’s way, his durability has made him a better pick than Story or Linsley to this point, even if that’s not necessarily how their careers play out.

Then came the Steelers taking Wesley Johnson in the sixth round, only to waive him that same year before he became a backup with the Jets.

Next up was the Jaguars grabbing Luke Bowanko in the sixth round. He flopped in his one year as a starter in 2014 before not starting at all in 2015 and is currently on PUP this season.

Again, Bodine has by no means been a stud at center, but when you can get a full-time starter in the fourth round who remains durable, as Bodine has done throughout the past two years, you see where the value comes in that pick.

So the Bengals look like they made the right center pick with Bodine...until you see who the final center drafted in 2014 was. Boise State’s Matt Paradis went in the sixth round to the Broncos, and is now one of the top players at his position this year.

The B/R 1000 has Paradis ranked as the fourth-overall center, while PFF has him ranked first overall. He’s actually the only center in PFF’s ‘elite’ tier of players.

All of this is just a painful reminder the Bengals made a decent pick with Bodine, but Denver made a better one, and...well...they’ve done ok. It’s painful to think Sunday that Paradis will be starting for the defending Super Bowl champs, while Bodine is part of just the most recent pair of one-and-done postseason trips for Cincinnati.

Maybe the Bengals should look and see how a good center can elevate a supposed contender into a legitimate threat to hoist the Lombardi.