One of the biggest additions to Sports Blog Nation was bringing Mocking Dan into the fold at Mocking the Draft. He personally conducted our network-wide mock draft (which got picked up by Shutdown Corner), keeping a bunch of egotistical team-specific bloggers in-line like Gunnery Sgt. Hartman. Conducting a 64-pick mock draft with 32 different people has to be a thankless and tiring job. But Mocking the Draft, led by Dan, pulled it off. So how does Cincy Jungle reward Dan? We make him work some more. Thankfully, he agreed to chat with us about the draft as it relates to the Bengals.
Josh Kirkendall: Even after the Bengals signed Tank Johnson, and the certain need to develop protection for Carson Palmer, there's some thinking that the Bengals will still draft B.J. Raji in the first round. Is Raji that special?
Mocking Dan: "Raji is very good, but he's not special. He's not Marcus Stroud or Albert Haynesworth. I don't know if Raji makes sense to Cincinnati after the signing of Johnson. And Pat Sims looked pretty good at times last year. If the Bengals go defensive tackle, they can wait until the second day and add depth."
Josh: If we were talking before the Sugar Bowl, is Andre Smith the best tackle in the draft?
Dan: "No. I'm in the great minority at this point, but I've like Michael Oher the most all along. Even when he was playing good, Smith always seemed like a right-side blocker. He's not very fleet of foot. And I wouldn't blame Smith's problems solely on having Alvin Keels, an inexperienced agent, giving him bad advice. There were some things about Smith before the Sugar Bowl that raised some real work ethic and minor character issues."
Josh: More than once, Nick Saban has come to Smith's defense. Are there teams that will listen to Saban alone and decide that the character issues that Smith is characterized with could be overblown?
Dan: "That's a good possibility on Smith, particularly in regard to coaches who have worked with Saban. But NFL teams do a really thorough character examination of the top players, so even if they were talking to Saban they'd have other sources as well."
Josh: There has been some talk that Aaron Curry is falling on some teams boards. Even with the offensive line being the biggest area of concern, should the Bengals pull the trigger on Curry, even if Eugene Monroe or Jason Smith are available?
Dan: "Absolutely if Curry is there he should be Cincinnati's pick. Curry on the strong side and Keith Rivers on the weak side? Scary. If Curry were there, the draft would have been pretty wild up to this point. The top two quarterbacks and offensive tackles would have probably been taken, Kansas City would have done something wacky and Cleveland would have probably traded out of the fifth spot.
"So, needless to say, it's unlikely that Curry will last until pick six."
Josh: The Bengals are likely to look for a running back in the draft. However, after signing Gary Russell, we assume that selection could come later in the fourth round. With that in mind, who should Bengals fans be looking at?
Dan: "The Bengals should be looking at a player who can do what Chris Perry has failed to do -- be a change-of-pace running back who can catch the ball. Cedric Peerman would be a great fit in the fourth-round range."
Josh: Of the three top center prospects, Max Unger, Alex Mack and Eric Wood, which one do you figure to be best suited for the AFC North?
Dan: "Best suited for the AFC North, in order: Alex Mack, Eric Wood, Max Unger. Mack and Wood are really tough and can handle tackles one-on-one really well. If Cincinnati got Mack in the second round, I'd really consider that a steal."
Josh: Who is your darkhorse steal that no one else is talking about?
Dan: "This is very tough for me to admit as a big-time Akron Zips fan, but I really, really like Julian Edelman, the quarterback from Kent State. There's no way he could be a signal caller in the NFL, but he's a fast, tough athlete would be a slash kind of player and still be a factor covering kicks and punts. He's about 5-foot-11, 200 pounds and very tough. He played hurt a lot of last year but still had more than 1,000 yards rushing."