Bengals Coach Lewis on This Year's Defensive Line Prospects

Sunday, I wrote that because of the amount of defensive linemen that the Bengals have on their roster, some played last year and some are coming back from injury, the Bengals may not want to draft a defensive lineman with the No. 4 pick, especially when you consider the team's other needs (quarterback, wide receiver, offensive linemen, running back, full back, outside linebacker, cornerback, safety, waterboy and general manager).

Obviously that's one person's opinion and doesn't necessarily reflect those of the Bengals decision makers. Just because I don't think the defensive line is as big of a need as most others that the Bengals have, doesn't mean that Marvin Lewis agrees. And, even if he does, that doesn't mean he's not taking a look at the nations top defensive line prospects.

When it comes to what he's looking for in the top-tier defensive linemen that he's keeping his eye on, Lewis says that a mark of a successful defensive lineman is the the speed of their feet.

"You want to see their hips, their ability to shed and get off blocks. Their explosiveness at the point. You can't have slow footed guy be very productive in the NFL. I don't care how big and strong he is, if he's slow footed the defense is going to get cut in half."

Obviously you can't have an extremely quick, 130-pound defensive lineman in the NFL, but Lewis said that strength is something that can be worked on once the team gets a player into their facility.

Most draft analysts believe that Marcell Dareus is the safest pick when it comes to defensive linemen in this year's draft class. In fact, Dareus may be one of the safest picks overall. Last season, at Alabama, Dareus had 11 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hurries. He would likely be an immediate starter and would help solidify the Bengals line.

Another top talent in this year's class of defensive linemen is Auburn's Nick Fairley. After Fairley completely dominated the Ducks in the BCS National Championship Game, many felt that he would go to a team selecting in the top five and maybe No. 1 overall to the Panthers. However, Fairley's stock has fallen as scouts and analysts have worried about the fact that he was a "one-year wonder" and that he may have work ethic issues.

Said ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. of Fairley: "He'll have to make some adjustments and improvements in terms of technique. No longer will he be facing centers or guards that will never see the light of day in the NFL. That's why defensive tackles are such a roll of the dice."

Lewis and Bengals defensive line coach Jay Hayes took a trip to Alabama to watch Fairley work out during Auburn's pro day on April 1. According to Joe Reedy, Lewis isn't buying all the negative hype about the lineman.

"He's got a real good personality in watching him interact with teammates. I don't see some of the characteristics that some people have compared him to," Lewis said.

I'm personally still of the opinion that drafting a defensive lineman with the fourth overall pick, while probably safe, is a mistake. The Bengals have enough solid talent, both young and not so young, on their defensive line. They could possibly look to shore up the position later in the draft, but they should use their No. 4 pick to fill some of the glaring holes that exist elsewhere in their roster.

The draft is now just a couple weeks away and I for one can't wait to see who the Bengals select with their first-round pick.

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