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Ellis and Rivers are front runners for Bengals draft

Every season during the Marvin Lewis era, except 2003, the Bengals were projected in Mock Drafts to go after a defensive player. Chris Perry was a surprise. David Pollack's injury and Odell Thurman's conduct poster boy status, took a hit on the team's defensive development. The last two seasons showed the team's secondary development comes with a rewarding future. Like the 2004-5 linebacker project with guys like Pollack, Thurman, Landon Johnson and Caleb Miller, the Bengals spent the past two drafts solidifying their secondary with Johnathan Joseph, Leon Hall, Marvin White and Chinedum Ndukwe. The unknowns, however, in the secondary include the team's decision whether or not to cut Dexter Jackson or Deltha O'Neal and whether they can re-sign Madieu Williams.

Even so, scanning through the database of mock drafts, the two names that appear the most are Sedrick Ellis and linebacker, Keith Rivers -- both from USC. An interesting theory could be debated here. If David Pollack comes back, he's likely moving to defensive end that could replace Justin Smith. If Pollack moves to end, there's no reasons to keep Smith's price tag. Either way, Pollack's choice is that he'll never play linebacker again. That would open up a spot for Rivers -- especially after draft circles started upgrading Ellis value in recent weeks.

Using Mock Drafts alone, the two players to keep your attention on right now, are Ellis and Rivers.

Sedrick Ellis

Scouts Inc., says of Ellis:

Strengths: A disruptive, penetrating interior defensive lineman. At his best in a one-gap scheme but has some versatility due to experience as a nose tackle and three-technique. He is extremely disruptive versus the run. Displays outstanding initial burst and wins most of his battles with first-step quickness. Uses long arms to keep separation and does an excellent job of disengaging from blocks and keeping on the move. Recognition skills are very good and he's athletic enough to change directions and pursue once he penetrates the backfield. He consistently generates pressure as a pass rusher. Shows upper-echelon closing burst for his position and also does a good job of batting down passes once he realizes he's not getting to the QB. Plays with a great motor and works very hard on and off the field. Never gives up on a play and his effort is infectious.

Weaknesses: Undersized; lacks ideal height and bulk. Not a good fit for schemes that require two-gap ability. Plays with a narrow base and will get overwhelmed by bigger blockers in the phone booth. He struggles to anchor when teams run at him and he really needs to be on the move in order to be successful. Durability has been somewhat of an issue; redshirted in 2003 due to injury that required surgery and missed three games in 2006 (Nebraska, Arizona and Washington State) due to right knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery.

Overall: Ellis arrived at USC in 2003 but received a medical redshirt after suffering a midseason left ankle fracture which required surgery. During his first three seasons (2004-'06) he saw action in 34 games making 86 total tackles, 16 tackles for loss, and nine sacks. Ellis missed some time in 2006 after having arthroscopic knee surgery. Ellis is a one-gap defensive tackle prospect that isn't for everybody but can be effective in the right scheme (see: Colts, Buccaneers, Eagles, etc.). If ranks among the elite prospects at his position and can solidify a spot in Round 1 with a healthy and productive senior season.

Draft Tek - Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC
Footballs Future - Ellis
Draft Ace - Ellis
Football Expert - Ellis
NFL Draft Pros - Ellis

Keith Rivers

Scout Inc., says of Rivers:

Strengths: Possesses excellent size-potential. He's tall with adequate bulk and room on his frame to get bigger. Displays very good speed and athleticism. A sideline-to-sideline run defender. He refuses to stay blocked. Uses his hands well to sift through traffic and has a knack for disengaging. Shows great awareness and natural instincts. Read and react skills are very good. Takes solid angles in pursuit, shows upper-echelon closing burst and is a powerful tackler. Knows how to jar the ball loose and generates more than his share of forced fumbles. Shows very good closing burst as a pass rusher when he has a clean alley to the QB. Plays with a very good motor and will wear blockers down. Never gives up on a play and will show tremendous effort when pursuing from the backside.

Weaknesses: Still has room to improve in terms of lower-body strength. Plays too high at times and loses his power when he does. Does a great job of sifting through traffic but needs to learn to anchor better when he's forced to take on blocks in the phone booth. Not an established playmaker in the passing game yet. Good range in coverage but lacks ideal ball skills. Needs to improve his pass-rush moves. He has great burst through the line but struggles to get off blocks once reached on the blitz

Overall: Rivers has played in 37 games during his first three seasons (2004-'06) recording 162 total tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, and two interceptions. He missed two contests and was limited in others because of a strained hamstring in 2005. Rivers, who possesses the size, speed and athleticism that NFL teams look for in a starting WILL, ranks among the elite class in what should be an outstanding crop of outside linebackers in 2008. Another dominant season as a senior in 2007 could land Rivers a spot in the top-20 picks of next year's draft.

Con Draft - Keith Rivers, USC, LB - Rivers
Walter Football - Rivers
Pro Football Experts - Rivers - Rivers


East Coast Sports News - Darren McFadden, Arkansas, RB
Scouts Notebook - McFadden

Huddle Report - Vernon Gholston, tOSU, DE
Draft King - Gholston

QI Sports - Phillip Merling, Clemson, DE

NFL Draft Countdown - Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida