Each Bengals pick analyzed: Price is right at center

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The Cincinnati Bengals walked the tightrope of sticking to their board and attacking their needs when they emerged with a starting center in Ohio State's Billy Price in the first round and a potential starting free-safety type in Wake Forest's Jessie Bates III in the second round.

The linchpin of the draft was their trade in the second round when they slid from No. 46 to Kansas City's spot at No. 54 while moving up 22 spots from Friday night's last pick to No. 78.

That allowed them to not only get Bates, a player they coveted as they try to improve on a Marvin Lewis-low 10 interceptions last season, but also versatile Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson at No. 78. They were looking to improve their linebacker depth with Vontaze Burfict staring at a four-game suspension and trying to upgrade at a position where undrafted free agents Hardy Nickerson and Brandon Bell were pressed into service last season.

Throw in the selection of Cincinnati's own Sam Hubbard in the third round with the pick before Jefferson and the Ohio State defensive end that's pegged to be a rotational player was in the middle of a run in which the Bengals drafted six defenders in their first eight picks. That was the plan heading into the offseason. Address the last-in-the-league offense with free-agent moves involving coaches and players while bolstering the defense in the draft.

A closer look at Bengals' picks

Round 1/21 - Billy Price, C, 6-3, 312, Ohio State

They lost Russell Bodine in free agency after he started all 64 games since they traded up to get him in the fourth round in 2014. Now they replace him with the rock-solid Price, a two-time captain for the Buckeyes who set the school record with 55 straight starts. He expects to be on the field for the start of training camp following surgery for a partial tear of his pectoral muscle during the bench press at the Combine.

Round 2/54 - Jessie Bates III, S, 6-2, 200, Wake Forest

First-year defensive coordinator Teryl Austin came in right away talking about the need to get interceptions and turnovers. Last year his Lions had the third most turnovers in the NFL while the Bengals had the second fewest. Bates is rangy and smart. "He's got a good football IQ in the pass game. I think he brings a little different skill set in the back end for us and I think he has ability to move down on slots and cover slots," Austin said. "If you want to stay in some base defense, we've got a guy that can help us stay in base defense and cover slots."

Round 3/77 -- Sam Hubbard, DE, 6-5, 265, Ohio State

He's believed to be the first Bengal to be drafted that came out of Cincinnati's fabled football powerhouse Moeller High School. He almost went to college on a lacrosse scholarship, so they love his athleticism. They see him as a rotational mix on the edge with ends like Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Carl Lawson, and Jordan Willis. They also love his every-snap effort. Austin compares him to the relentless Grant Wistrom from back in the day.

3/78 -- Malik Jefferson, LB, 6-2, 240, Texas

They were looking at him as early at 46. They believe he can play all three spots after moving from the middle to a Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year season as a "Rover." He will sit and watch guys like Vontaze Burfict, Nick Vigil and Jordan Evans, but while he's doing that they think he can be a force on special teams.

4/112 -- Mark Walton, RB, 5-9, 205, Miami

He's coming off ankle surgery that limited him to 63 touches, but those showed how elusive and jitter-buggy he is with 7.6 yards per rush and 13 yards per catch. He'll be sitting behind Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, but it looks like he will be the first guy off the bench if anybody gets dinged. They think he can be very effective in the passing game.

5/151 -- Davontae Harris, CB, 5-11, 205, Illinois State

A burner with a 4.4 40 that has shown some versatility inside and out but the plan at the beginning is to play him on the outside. He will be grinding for a backup roster spot behind KeiVarae Russell as they jockey behind the starting three of Dre Kirkpatrick, William Jackson and Darqueze Dennard. "He has a really good skill set -- runs, competitive, tough -- so he's got all the base things that you look for when you're looking for a corner," Austin said.

5/158 - Andrew Brown, DT, 6-3, 296, Virginia

The guy is coming off a monstrous Senior Bowl that he dominated with his explosive first-step, one-gap destruction. He seems to be a better fit in the Bengals' 4-3 than as an end in Virginia's 3-4. There were questions about his discipline after some on-field dustups, but Bengals defensive line coach Jacob Burney can't say enough about his character and called it" exemplary." He has been tagged as an underachiever and that's not lost on Brown: "My whole mindset going into (the Senior Bowl) was to show everybody that the five-star Andrew Brown never went anywhere. I've always been here." He'll be jockeying for the job next to Geno Atkins with a full house of Andrew Billings and Ryan Glasgow, fourth-rounders from the last two drafts. If he plays like he did in Mobile ...

5/170 - Darius Phillips, CB, 5-9, 193, Western Michigan

This could also be your slot guy at some point. The man set the FBS record with 12 return TDs that included five pick-sixes. But they see him as more than a returner. "Phillips is a natural cover guy," said cornerbacks coach Daronte Jones. "He has a knack for going after the ball, using his hands, and ball disruption. We like his ability after he has the interception and what he can do after, in terms of return ability. He provides that impact that you like." That makes it a full room of corners and it may be the final blow for free agent Adam Jones' hopes for returning.

7/249 - Logan Woodside, QB, 6-1, 213, Toledo

The reaction to AJ McCarron's departure continues as they piece together the backup situation behind Andy Dalton. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor grabbed Matt Barkley early in free agency for a reunion of his days as the Eagles quarterbacks coach. The extremely athletic Jeff Driskel, who broke his non-throwing arm playing receiver in one of the year's last practices, looks healthy. The decision to keep two or three quarterbacks may be out of their hands and decided at another position unless one of them is lights out. Lazor likes Woodside's production and that Dalton's first backup, Toledo's own Bruce Gradkowski, has worked with him. He'll get a shot.

7/252 - Rod Taylor, G/T, 6-2, 320, Mississippi

A lot of people thought the Bengals would address tackle or guard before this, but they did get a guy that might have a chance to swing between both. He started 12 games at right tackle last season, seven at left tackle the season before that and broke in with four starts at right guard in his first two seasons. "This guy has played a lot of football. He's got good length. He was in the SEC as a starting tackle. That will be interesting." The Bengals are looking at a right tackle battle between Jake Fisher and Bobby Hart and are trying to upgrade at right guard with in-house candidates in third-year players Alex Redmond and Christian Westerman.

7/253 - Auden Tate, WR, 6-4, 228, Florida State

This a guy who is a throw-back to the old Bengals receivers that were monstrous and dominated on those 50-50 deep balls. "This guy's big, got really great hands, was productive down there and is a big target," Lewis said. He'll have to leap over a bevy of young receivers that have been plucked in the previous two drafts before the seventh round: first-rounder John Ross, second-rounder Tyler Boyd, fourth-rounder Josh Malone and sixth-rounder Cody Core.


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