Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Rhetorical Question: Will The Bengals Screw Up The Draft?

For a man who (a.) cares deeply about the NFL and college football, (b.) bets heavily on both products and (c.) has always loved the NFL draft, it's rather amazing how little I follow the hype in the days and weeks and months leading up to it. But I know a thing or two. For instance, I know the answer to the following question: What should my favorite team do with their first two picks on Saturday?

The Bengals have pressing needs at both offensive tackle and center. As it happens, this draft sets up perfectly for the Bengals to snag one of each in the opening two rounds. Will they do it? Will they pull off the logical? Of course not. Logical isn't a word in Mike Brown's vocabulary. But let's just assume the Bengals are capable of pulling it off.

As long as I live I will never complain about the Bengals drafting a defensive lineman in the first round. Even if they possessed 1992 Bruce Smith and 1993 Reggie White as defensive ends, I wouldn't throw my Reeboks through the television if the Bengals selected Texas DE Brian Orakpo with their first pick. You can never have enough mammals who can effectively chase quarterbacks.

Ditto for overweight, run-stuffing humans in the middle. The Bengals are currently in decent shape at the DT position, but I would not fist-fight my mother (or my Aunt Bunny, for that matter) if Boston College DT B.J. Raji becomes Cincinnati's newest character concern.

But anyway, the Bengals choose sixth overall, and no fewer than four offensive linemen might become Carson Palmer's best friend come Saturday afternoon. And really, if you care about the Bengals, you should hope and pray Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis make the logical decision.

But Brad, why is drafting an offensive lineman the logical move?

Well, Jimmy, I'll tell you...

Carson Palmer is not the guy we thought he was going to be. I've killed him routinely since the middle of 2007, both for his performance on the field and his complete and total failure as team leader. But he can still throw the football -- and under optimal conditions -- he can do so impressively.

Optimal. 2005 was optimal. You remember 2005, right?

Willie Anderson and Levi Jones were elite tackles; Rich Braham was a top-tier center; and the guards ranged from pretty awesome (Eric Steinbach) to totally decent (Bob Williams). So, while Palmer has proven time and again to be a subpar QB with pressure in his face (not only does he backpedal embarrassingly and carelessly heave the ball into traffic, but he possesses ZERO improvisational skills), he's on Peyton Manning and Tom Brady's level when given necessary time to throw.

And just like Manning's Colts and Brady's Patriots, the Bengals are sinking or swimming with Palmer. That being the case, he must be protected. Luckily, the Bengals -- despite neglecting the offensive line in the offseason -- are in a position to greatly upgrade the talent level up front -- and in the process, keep No. 9 upright.

Again: (1.) The Bengals are rolling with Palmer no matter what. (2.) He's incapable of avoiding pressure. (3.) He's unwilling to deliver a ball unless he knows he won't get blasted by a blood-thirsty opponent.

Thems being the facts (and they are the facts), the Bengals need to do what's right and go tackle-center in rounds one and two Saturday.

Who, exactly? How should I know? It seems Baylor tackle Jason Smith will be off the board come pick No. 6, but you never know. Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe appears to be a 50-50 shot to be available. I would gladly take either of these gentlemen -- and really, I don't care which one. Just give me somebody.

Which leads me to the realistic possibility of both Smith and Monroe being gone before the Bengals are up.

That leaves us with a red flag and a question mark: Alabama's Andre Smith (high knucklehead factor) and Old Mississippi's Michael Oher (is six way too high?). But you know what? I'll take either one of them. And yeah, yeah, I know the whole thing about taking the best player available -- and I also know what I said earlier about a game-changer on the D-line -- but slightly reaching for a guy who will protect Carson Palmer makes more than a little sense. It also gives the team the only legitimate chance to win football contests in the immediate future.

As for round two, the Bengals will almost certainly be staring at the option of snagging a highly-rated center. It only took eighty seconds of research to uncover the names Max Unger, Eric Wood and Alex Mack, three dudes who (a.) participated in collegiate athletics in the United States and (b.) are slated to go between picks 28 and 45. This is excellent news when one considers the Bengals' second round pick, which falls at 38th overall. Just as I can't differentiate between the top four tackles, I also can't tell the difference between the top three centers. But I know they're highly rated, and I know the Bengals are in desperate need of one -- and being the resident math major I can tell you the Bengals should take one of them. Any one. Again, just give me somebody.

My promise (which is more or less a threat): If the Bengals take tackle-center in the first two rounds, I'll refrain from making fun of Marvin Lewis/Mike Brown for at least eight days. And if they select a RB in the middle rounds (Glen Coffee, anyone?), I'll make it an even two weeks.

Anything less and Aunt Bunny had better not show her face at the Memorial Day picnic.

*****That is all*****

Draft discussion to continue for the next week or so.

-Brad Spieser (


Eric said...

they'll blow it