Center was the Bengals’ biggest need on draft day after four-year starter Russell Bodine left Cincinnati in free agent. The team filled that need by selecting Billy Price with the 21st overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
However, the center who many people regarded as the best in the draft was Arkansas’ Frank Ragnow. The Bengals could have had him with their 12th overall pick, but they ended up trading that spot to Buffalo in exchange for left tackle Cordy Glenn, who filled another position of need. The Bengals also acquired the Bills’ 21st overall pick in the trade.
On paper, this sounds like a great move. Instead of keeping their first round pick, the Bengals get a veteran tackle and a slightly lower first round pick, which they used to select Price.
However, ESPN’s Mike Sando compiled opinions of NFL execs, insiders, coaches and evaluators to grade every team’s draft. The consensus will not please the Bengals.
Two drafts ago, three wide receivers in a row came off the board right before the receiver-needy Bengals were set to pick at No. 24. Cincinnati took a corner. This year, the Bengals drafted Ohio State center Billy Price one spot after Detroit selected arguably the top center in the draft, Frank Ragnow. Did Cincy settle?
”There are tougher poker players to read at the table than the Bengals,” an insider said. “The Lions knew that if Ragnow got to them, Cincy wasn’t going to trade ahead of them to take him. The Bengals probably could have jumped past Detroit for a fourth-round pick and gotten the consensus No. 1 center, but they are not going to do that, which in my opinion is an error from a philosophical standpoint.”
The Bengals did their wheeling and dealing before the draft. They traded the 12th overall pick to Buffalo for left tackle Cordy Glenn and the 21st pick. Would you rather have the 12th pick or Glenn plus Price? The top tackle (McGlinchey) was gone at No. 9, while the next tackle, Kolton Miller, lasted until Oakland at No. 15.
”The veteran market is for needs, and the draft is for finding the best players,” an exec said. “Cincinnati addressed the need with Glenn, but then they drafted for need, too.”
One evaluator who preferred Price to Ragnow still had concerns about Price’s health, while another said he had Price as a “run-of-the-mill” center, below Daniels, whom the Bears selected 18 spots later at No. 39.
But in the end, the Bengals did the best they could with what they had, right? The team did not like Daniels as much as Price and wanted to ensure they got one of their top two centers. Price’s doctors have assured him he will be healthy and ready to play in June and the Bengals believe it, too, which is why Price was selected in Round 1. Hey, even another NFL team told the Bengals after the draft that they were going to take Price if he was available late in Round 1.
Love it or hate it, the Bengals are committed to Price. Only time will tell whether or not he is a home run or a strike out.