NFL Draft: Bengals boast strong O-line but could use upgrade at center

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in an eight-part series previewing the Cincinnati Bengals draft needs by position group. Today’s look is at the offensive line.

Roster (contract length):Andrew Whitworth (2016), Cedric Ogbuehi (2018), Kevin Zeitler (2016), Clint Boling (2019), Russell Bodine (2017), Eric Winston (2017), Jake Fisher (2018), Trey Hopkins (2017), T.J. Johnson (2016), Darryl Baldwin (2016)

Analysis: After drafting tackles in the first two rounds last year, it’s safe to say that’s a position the Bengals won’t be targeting this year, at least not on the first two days. Cedric Ogbuehi proved to be everything the coaches had hoped the first-round pick would be once he fully recovered from an ACL injury he suffered in his final college game. Pro Bowler Andrew Whitworth has a year left on his contract, and the team re-signed veteran tackle Eric Winston, whom the team actually lists as a guard on its website, to a one-year deal. Second-round pick Jake Fisher is still a work in progress, but so much so to cause the team to consider adding depth at the position early on.

The Bengals also are set at guard, with Boling signed for four more years and Zeitler on the cusp of becoming a Pro Bowler. The team likely will try to get a long-term deal done with Zeitler before the season, and drafting a guard could give them some more negotiating leverage.

The biggest question mark is at center, where Russell Bodine hasn’t lived up to expectations since being handed the starting job the day he was drafted two years ago. Despite being praised for his strength on draft day, Bodine has been pushed around too frequently in the run game.

The offensive line is one of the best in the league, but there also is ample room for improvement.

Needs: There are no glaring needs on the line, unless, of course, the team doesn’t feel it can re-sign Zeitler, which doesn’t appear to be the case.

Adding a center that can push Bodine and maybe ultimately replace him should be something the team considers, but probably not before Day 3.

Top 5 prospects

1 . Laremy Tunsil, Mississippi

Predicted by many to be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, Tunsil has all the physical tools and three years of starting experience and the kind of mature makeup coaches love.

2. Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame

In addition to his obvious talent, scouts are impressed by the technique Stanley’s displays for such a young player.

3. Jack Conklin, Michigan State

The fact that he had no FBS scholarship offers coming out of high school and now sits a few weeks away from being a likely first-round pick is all you need to know about Conklin’s ability to work and learn.

4. Taylor Decker, Ohio State

The Butler High School product is expected to be one of a handful of Buckeyes to go in the first round despite some scouts’ concerns that he plays too stiff with limited knee bend.

5. Ryan Kelly, Alabama

Another local product from Lakota West, Kelly has a chance to be the first interior lineman selected. ‘Grit’ is the word that crops up in seemingly every scouting report on Kelly, a three-year starter for the Crimson Tide.

Sleeper

Max Tuerk, USC

A torn ACL in October could cause one of the top centers in the draft to fall to the third day, and if he does the Bengals could follow a similar path to 2015 when they took Cedric Ogbuehi in the first round knowing he had to finish his ACL rehab. The Bengals would love to get value pick who could develop into an eventual replacement for Bodine.

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