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Bengals have Andre Smith high on their draft board? Maybe that's not a bad thing

I admit, I'm still hesitant on the Bengals drafting Andre Smith. Not because of what fans from other teams think -- honestly, I could care less. Nor am I hesitant based on how the media characterizes the Bengals as a team of thugs, when half of the teams in the NFL still roster players that have been arrested more recently, even more frequently than the Bengals. Little-minded people tend to struggle to update their characterizations and generalizations with half-baked tools giggling with baseless profiling.

It's not a perceived "character" issue that worries me about Andre Smith. Maybe I've used that word before, but it was a baseless umbrella, because the general rule of thumb when talking about character issues these days are high-risk guys with a Tank Johnson-like armory in the cellar. The issue with Smith, as I understand it, isn't character -- rather it's work ethic. And if you want put work ethic under the umbrella of character, by all means, do it. After all, most words with subjective meanings will hold different perspectives based on the person.

Anyway, none of this is the heart of this post. Sorry.

Lately, I've started having this feeling that the Bengals will draft Smith because Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe will be off the board, and I believe the Bengals will still draft an offensive tackle. Now, it's impossible to know whom the Bengals will draft a month in advance. We're not so narcissistic to predict the future -- nor do we think our Jedi mind tricks are strong enough to take over the mind of a Sith Master, or Mike Brown.

Reader Mr. NC-17 pointed out a blurb by Lance McAlister in which Shotgun said

An NFL source, traveling to Pro Days this week, tells me they heard a key member of the Bengals brass indicate the team has Alabama's OT Andre Smith high on the draft board. At least one member of the Bengals decision-making staff wants to take Smith, according the the discussion.

Our feeling is that if you project the Bengals to become the third team within the first six picks of the NFL draft, then Andre Smith will be the team's left tackle.

More on Smith.

Scouts Inc rates Smith a "95", the third best OT and the 11th best player in the draft. This rating is long after Smith's embarrassing Combine, and Pro Day in which people felt his work ethic was highly questioned. However, Scout Inc said of Smith's character:

Was suspended for 2009 Sugar Bowl vs. Utah for improper dealings with an agent. Otherwise, he has had no off the field issues and coaches/teammates speak highly of him as a person.

They describe Smith's attributes:

Strength/Toughness 2 Massive OT prospect. Thickly built. Good upper-body strength and elite lower-body strength. Can create a new line of scrimmage in the run game and can anchor versus powerful bull rushers when set in pass pro. Rarely loses a battle at the point of attack. Plays with a mean streak at times but is a bit inconsistent with his motor.
Agility 3 Displays good initial quickness and agility for his size. Shuffles well laterally when coming out of his stance and when working in one direction (either right or left). But he struggles when asked to change directions. He will occasionally be a step late getting into position as a second-level blocker. He lunges a lot when moving forward and struggles to recover.
Awareness 2 Shows adequate-to-good awareness. Understands assignments and picks up the blitz consistently (from an awareness standpoint). If he misses an assignment it's almost always due to physical, not mental. He knows the angles and where he's supposed to be almost always. He will stick with a play and find someone to hit if the ball carrier changes direction back his way.
Pass Protection 3 Can anchor versus top bull rushers when he's set with leverage. Shows adequate quickness in his pass pro set. Usually gets in position to protect the edge initially, but doesn't show ideal mirror-and-slide skills. Struggles to adjust to quick second-move (See: first series versus Kentucky when working against #51). Falls off far too many blocks. Doesn't jar DE's with his hand punch as effectively as he should.
Run Blocking 1 An absolute mauler. Overpowering at the point of attack. Takes solid angles and is almost always in position if the block is at the line of scrimmage. Shows good upper-body power and even stronger in the lower body. Drives defenders off the line of scrimmage. Only small concern here is that he sometimes is a bit slow getting into position as a second-level run blocker.

ESPN's James Walker:

The two highest-rated tackles in Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe could be off the board for Cincinnati. From there, the team has to decide whether to take a risk (Alabama tackle Andre Smith) or a reach (Mississippi tackle Michael Oher). It may be safe to take the best available player on the defensive front seven. But the Bengals desperately have to address the tackle position on the first day with quarterback Carson Palmer coming back. Keep in mind Cincinnati now has 11 total picks in this draft, which gives the team a lot of flexibility to move up and down the draft board.

If the Bengals draft Andre smith, it's a risk. Michael Oher is a reach. Defensive front seven is safe -- Carson Palmer says "there's nothing safe about that", which Walker points out. Since I don't get to watch every college game and scout every college player, I admit that my knowledge on incoming rookies is limited -- so I rely on others. However, what Walker said is consistent with most analysis that I've heard/read regarding projected Bengals targets.

The following is an eight minute highlight clip of Smith, playing against Clemson, Georgia, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Auburn and Florida.

Based on the highlight alone, you see that Smith finishes his blocks, waits for rushers on pass protection which means stunts don't confuse him and he and seals rushing lanes. Not all of the plays were great, but you get the point. Also take note of this critical point -- these are highlights of football games; not how a guy looks while sprinting several months after the season, and several months before his promotion to the NFL. The Bengals have always fallen in love with workout warriors, and look how that's turned out in the past. No, Smith would fit well against that mold -- and doing things opposite with this organization is the point, right?

An NFL Network report on Alabama's Pro Day.

It isn't our point advocating Andre Smith as our first-round selection; however, drafting him might not be the disaster that some promote it as.