The Cincinnati Bengals selection of Texas A&M Cedric Ogbuehi with the 21st pick in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday raised a number of questions.
For many fans, the questions were “Who?”
But for those who know Ogbeuhi was a first team All-American who, despite coming off an ACL injury in December, will give the Bengals some much needed depth at tackle and possibly guard in the second half of 2015 and a contingency plan for 2016 with Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith and Eric Winston all entering the final year of their contract, the biggest question is “Could the Bengals have traded down and still gotten their man?”
The answer would seem to be yes.
And there are reports that the Bengals had at least one offer to do so. Fox Sports Radio in Phoenix is reporting the Arizona Cardinals tried to trade up from No. 24 to No. 21 to take Kentucky defensive end Bud Dupree ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the Bengals declined.
The Steelers ended up taking Dupree and the Cardinals drafted Florida offensive lineman D.J. Humphries.
Had the Bengals traded down, they likely would have received an extra mid-round pick this year and another one in 2016, and likely still would have been able to draft Ogbuehi.
The fact that they refused shows just how much they like Ogbuehi and didn’t want to take the risk of losing a guy that most analysts did not have projected as a first-round pick.
Asked whether the team considered trading down, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis brushed off the idea.
“We feel good about the guy we picked,” he said. “We don’t want to be sitting here spinning our wheels.”
Had Ogbuehi, whom Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander said was the best pass-blocking tackle in the draft, been healthy, he may have been a top-10 pick and the first tackle off the board.
The reason the injury, which Ogbuehi suffered in the Aggies’ 45-37 win against West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl, caused him to fall so far was not that teams have concerns whether he recover, but rather that most teams targeting a tackle in the first round are looking for a guy who can step in and play right away.
That’s doesn’t appear to be the case with Ogbuehi, who will only be nine months removed from surgery when the season begins Sept. 13 in Oakland. But the Bengals have the luxury of patience with all five offensive linemen and a handful of top backups returning this year.
Only two more tackles were selected after the Bengals drafted Ogbuehi. The Cardinals took Humphries at 24 and Detroit grabbed Duke’s Laken Tomlinson at 28.
Most analysts had Carolina taking a tackle at 25, but the Panthers went with Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson.
Even the Panthers had been in play for Ogbuehi, the Bengals still would have picked ahead of them at 24 had they made the trade with Arizona.
Whether the Bengals thought the risk was too great or the reward was too small — a couple of mid-round picks, or even a third-rounder this year wouldn’t be locks to make the roster of a perennial playoff participant — they held their spot, got their guy and turned their focus to the second round.
And now instead of facing Dupree once in the next four years (when they travel to Arizona on Nov. 22), they’ll see him twice a year in black and gold.