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Anonymous scouts have mixed opinions on Bengals’ selection of Billy Price

A look at what NFL decision-makers had to say about the Bengals’ first-round selection of Billy Price.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals-Billy Price Press Conference Cincinnati Enquirer-USA TODAY NETWORK

The Bengals have had a great offseason in terms of addressing their biggest needs.

That continued with the 21st pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, where the team landed Ohio State Buckeyes center Billy Price.

There was no question center was the team’s biggest need coming into the draft, so Cincinnati seemed to have made a smart move addressing it with their first selection.

Every year, Bob McGinn speaks to scouts, personnel directors, NFL executives and coaches about the top crop of talent in the NFL Draft. That allows him to get some fascinating analysis on the players and creates a ranking of the top guys at each position.

Price, who was once regarded as the top center in this draft, wasn’t regarded as such in McGinn’s ranking, which had Price listed as the fourth-best offensive guard and 40th-best prospect and projected as a Round 1-2 pick. They have Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson, Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn and UTEP’s Will Hernandez ahead of Price.

But while the analysis didn’t quite measure up to being the 21st pick, the scouts did seem very high on Price:

4. BILLY PRICE, Ohio State (6-3 ½, 305, No. 40, 1-2): Replaced Andrew Norwell (Panthers) at LG in 2014 and started 25 games there. Started at RG in ‘16 before replacing Pat Elflein (Vikings) at center in ’17. “Pat Elflein was drafted in the third round and ended up starting, but this kid is light years better,” one scout said. “This kid is big and rocked up. He could run sub 5.1. He’s a first-rounder all the way.” Unable to run a 40 because he suffered a partially torn pectoral muscle benching at the combine. “He’s got to be discounted because of the torn pec,” said a second scout. “He’s not as good as Elflein. That (Corey Linsley) is about where he is.” Short arms (32) might make center his best position. “He can do more than Elflein but maybe not as nasty,” said a third scout. “Plays with heavy hands. He’s smart and tough and instinctive.” From Austintown, Ohio.

Gotta love one scout saying “he’s light years ahead of Elflein” and another saying “he’s not as good as Elflein.” Scouting at its finest.

Still, it’s easy to see why most experts and NFL personnel alike were a little lower on Price than where he was drafted, partly because he suffered a partially torn pectoral muscle at the combine, which hurt his stock leading up to the draft.

But prior to the draft, Price went to Indianapolis for medical rechecks on his injured pectoral. The recheck went very well, and now, Price’s doctors are saying he will be cleared for NFL training camps in July.

In terms of all the offensive linemen, Price came in as the eighth-best lineman.

Fourteen executives in personnel were asked to list their seven best offensive linemen in the draft regardless of position. A first-place vote was worth 7 points, a second-place vote was worth 6 and so on.

Nelson dominated the affair just as he dominated many an opponent, finishing first on 11 ballots compared to two for UCLA’s Kolton Miller and one for Ohio State’s Billy Price.

The first half of the vote showed Nelson with 91 points, followed by Notre Dame teammate Mike McGlinchey (65), Miller (59), Texas-El Paso’s Will Hernandez (29), Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn (28), Arkansas’ Frank Ragnow (24) and Texas’ Connor Williams (23).

Rounding out the 14 vote-getters were Price (22), Iowa’s James Daniels (20), Nevada’s Austin Corbett (13), Auburn’s Braden Smith (five), Oregon’s Tyrell Crosby (five), Louisville’s Geron Christian (four) and Mississippi State’s Martinas Rankin (four).

After beginning his college career on defense, Price was he moved to the offensive line during his redshirt freshman season. He began his career at guard, where he started all 15 games (three at left guard, 12 at right) on the national championship-winning Buckeyes team in 2014.

Price earned third-team All-Big Ten honors as a full-time starter at left guard the following year, then earned first-team honors as a right guard as a junior.

Price didn’t move to center until his senior year, and he was a unanimous All-American, won the Rimington Trophy and was named the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2017.