Center of draft: Bengals take Ohio State's Billy Price

This Nov. 11, 2017, photo shows Ohio State offensive lineman Billy Price playing against Michigan State during an NCAA college football game in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

After watching four quarterbacks get taken earlier in the first round of the NFL draft, the Bengals used their first pick to help protect their own.

Cincinnati took Ohio State center Billy Price with the 21st overall pick on Thursday, adding another newcomer to an offensive line that was the main focus of their offseason.

The Bengals offense finished last in the league in yards last season — they've never done so badly — and the running game was among the worst in club history despite the addition of second-round pick Joe Mixon. The main problem: a line that couldn't protect Andy Dalton or open holes for the running game.

They knew what had to change.

The Bengals' draft maneuvering started a month ago when they traded the No. 12 overall pick to Buffalo for the 21st pick and left tackle Cordy Glenn, a significant upgrade. They lost center Russell Bodine in the offseason — he signed a two-year deal with Buffalo — and needed someone to anchor the middle of the line.

Price injured a chest muscle during the NFL combine, but he's expected to be ready for the start of training camp.

Cincinnati decided to keep Bill Lazor as offensive coordinator after he finished last season on an interim basis. They also gave him leeway to overhaul the playbook, and players have noted the many differences in style. But none of it will work if they don't have a dependable line.

The Bengals are hoping to get a lot more out of their top pick than they did last season. Receiver John Ross, the ninth overall pick, was hurt most of the season and got into only three games. He didn't have a catch, and the only time he touched the ball on a reverse ended up with a fumble. Ross is expected to be fully recovered from his shoulder injury next season.