Note, if you're pissed off about the draft, then I understand. I put a more positive spin on the post-draft wrap-up that I think, and believe, can help this team. If you want to prove differently, go for it.
If you were to ask me "how the Bengals did in this draft" with only one word, I'll go with "solid". Nothing here blows your mind. Nothing will really pump you up like a Carson Palmer pick, or the string of productive cornerbacks the past two seasons. If you were to let me use two words, I'd use "long run" -- drafting a bunch of guys that will likely not make an impression this year, but could be contributors in 2009 and beyond. Perhaps the word should be, contributors. Or role players.
Cris Carter. I love Cris Carter. I grew up watching him in Minnesota. I enjoyed him on HBO's Inside the NFL. And I thought he did a tremendous job on ESPN's Draft Show. Oh, and he said that the Bengals had the best draft.
Keith Rivers. The Bengals selected their man at linebacker for a long time and Lewis wasn't afraid to call Rivers an All-Pro for many seasons. The role of "foundation development" was supposed to take place during the 2005 NFL Draft with Odell Thurman and David Pollack. Three years later, Pollack is retired and Thurman is just now returning after a two-year suspension. Guys like Caleb Miller and Landon Johnson are gone. Rivers offers the team quality leadership, sustaining defensive stability and (I hate this phrase) high character.
Linebackers shaping up. Rivers was the guy Marvin Lewis and company targeted if defensive tackle mega-god Sedrick Ellis was picked. As it happens, the Saints swapped their first round pick with the Patriots and offered their third for Ellis. While we begged for mega-god defensive tackle, I believe the Bengals acquired additional intangibles with Rivers.
At this point, the Bengals first eight linebackers could look like this.
- Keith Rivers
- Ahmad Brooks
- Dhani Jones
- Rashad Jeanty
- Odell Thurman
- Corey Mays
- Eric Henderson
- Darryl Blackstock
Of course, 6-8, you could probably mix and match players like Angelo Craig, Roy Manning, Jim Maxwell or Anthony Schlegel. Even so, that list is far more encouraging than how it appeared last season. We have a good pool of linebackers to pick from during training camp. Don't you agree?
No Chad Trade... but acting like Chad is gone anyway. If the Bengals were to make a trade for Chad Johnson, it would have been on Saturday, if at all. It didn't happen. The Bengals did a good job stocking the position with two quality receivers that will likely compete for a spot anywhere between #2 and #5. We're assuming that Chad is a man of his word and never plays for the Bengals again. While it might seem that the position will be weak in 2008 with youth, the Bengals quietly created a youth movement with Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell to go along with Glenn Holt and Marcus Maxwell and Louisville wide receiver, Mario Urrutia. With T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the Bengals still have Antonio Chatman and Doug Gabriel for experience. And as long as Chad and T.J. get the bulk of the practice and playing time, we won't see how good these kids are. Perhaps it's about that time. Let's not lie to ourselves. We are, after all, entering a rebuilding season.
Also, you have to consider that T.J. Houshmandzadeh is entering the final year under contract.
What we missed. I thought for sure the Bengals would address defensive end. Now the Angelo Craig pick could mean that the Bengals will use him as an end (doubtful though). Or it could mean that the team is giving Frostee Rucker a shot and think that Jonathan Fanene can handle that role. If that were the case, the Bengals would have a decent four player rotation at end if Rucker shows up and Fanene sustains production. Not mind blowing, but serviceable with Robert Geathers and Antwan Odom as guys with productive sack seasons.
Setting up a future of new tackles -- but trouble could be brewing. The Bengals could be in serious trouble with their offensive linemen this time next year. Willie Anderson is simply getting older and we can't imagine he'll be able to work through many more seasons. Levi Jones has expressed an interest -- though far less demanding than Chad -- for a trade. Stacy Andrews is locked up for one season. And after playing with a franchise contract, we can't imagine he'll come cheap. Though how many tackles are?
I liked the Anthony Collins pick up. Most reports say he's not ready and will likely be the team's newest project like Andrews -- with great results, I might add. If that's the case, and it takes a good two years to develop the tackle from Kansas, then Collins could easily slid into right tackle once Anderson retires.
As for the left tackle, we can only guess that Levi Jones will settle disputes with his coaches and get back on board. Otherwise, Jones could find himself playing with the Bengals for the final season while the Bengals feverishly knock out a long-term deal with Andrews. Otherwise, look for the team to address offensive line in next year's draft -- it was a need this year, it could be a must next.
Circumstances prevented the Bengals from stock-piling talented tackles. Too many tackles were taken too quickly in this draft -- seven in the first round. And it wouldn't have made sense to that this year. Anything can happen from this point until next year where Jones is back on board and Andrews signs a long-term deal. So the Bengals did the right thing and pick up a guy with big upswing that will need to be mentored for some time.
The Bengals would be wise using patience with the offensive line until more questions are answered. So stock other positions.
Defensive tackles. I'm not going to lie. I can't envision Pat Sims bringing that much more than Domata Peko. Some of you might be fine with that, but I've never thought highly of Peko as an every down defensive tackle. Cincinnati also took a huge risk in Fresno State defensive tackle Jason Shirley coming into the draft with character concerns.
I do think that the Bengals filled a talent gap at defensive tackle at a whole -- but didn't cover the ground I would have liked. Once Ellis went early, the Bengals had to go with Rivers at linebacker. After that, they lost their opportunity with Kentwan Balmer. Many will, and perhaps should, cry out that the Bengals went after a small school receiver while Trevor Laws -- the fourth defensive tackle drafted -- went one spot later. Though one could argue that there will be minimal gaines between Laws and Sims so waiting until the third round might have been the right move. In the end, we just won't know for several seasons.
A potential sleeper tight end? The Bengals were scouting Fred Davis and Dustin Keller in detail assuming that the team would go after a tight end. While none of us thought that the team would pick one early, we knew they'd hit the position eventually. Matt Sherry brings more dynamics with the team than just a simple third tight end. Consider for a moment that Reggie Kelly would likely play more H-Back than before -- where his talents are best utilized. With Ben Utecht and Sherry lining up in double tight end sets, it gives the Bengals a good look with fast pass-catching tight ends. For example, the team could line up big with two tight ends and pass the ball rather than run like the defense might expect -- we are, after all, a team of trends.
Why I liked the Corey Lynch pick up. With Lynch the Bengals solidify a special teams unit that's incredibly frustrating. He's an in-your-face tackler that can lead a group of talented special teams players for us. He won't win games on defense. He won't scored touchdowns on defense. But he'll be the guy that makes sure the other team doesn't do well on special teams. Admit it, we need that!
Conclusion. From the comments, I can tell many of you are upset with the draft. I still think this team did well stocking positions, addressing their biggest needs early and immensely improved their special teams.
They didn't impress with improving talent on the defensive line, but once the first two rounds had gone by, it wasn't going to be a significant talent increase anyway.
Anyway, that's my opinion. What's yours.