Since Cincy Jungle was born, I've been fortunate enough to speak to people on a personal level within the media about the Bengals; mostly started by many who wanted to clarify their points when I referenced them in one of our links and notes. One such person is Michael Abromowitz, President, Senior Writer and NFL Draft Director of the website The Football Expert. So he agreed to answer a few questions about the Bengals position in the upcoming draft.
Josh: Many mock drafts have Cincinnati selecting Andre Smith. We made the argument that many of the things that people are flagging as character concerns for Smith were overblown and that his film and performances on the field were too impressive to pass up. What are your general thoughts on Smith?
Michael Abromowitz: I am not too concerned about Andre Smith. Nick Saban is one of the most respected college coaches in the game and when Saban has gone for his former player I think it is a good sign. Sometimes I dislike that the draft season is so long because the longer it goes, the more people forget about the tape. On tape, Smith was the most dominant offensive tackle in college football in maybe the hardest defensive college football conference. I think the Bengals realize this and are still extremely high on him. I would be more concerned with the prospects that tested positive for marijuana or have in the past (B.J. Raji).
Josh: So if Eugene Monroe and Jason Smith are drafted ahead of the sixth pick, do you think Cincinnati should go after a "risk" in Andre Smith, a "safer" Michael Oher or think an entirely different position once the top two offensive tackles are taken?
Abromowitz: I absolutely love Michael Oher, but I believe the sixth pick is too high for him. Oher has just as great of a ceiling as any offensive tackle in this draft, but he doesn’t have the fundamentals and NFL readiness that Andre Smith has. If I was Cincinnati, I would feel comfortable starting Smith at right tackle from day 1. I would prefer to start Michael Oher at left guard and then after a year of experience transition him to the tackle position, a luxury the Bengals don’t have. Carson Palmer needs to be protected and Andre Smith can protect him immediately. Of course, I believe teams should stay true to their big board. I believe the Bengals probably have Aaron Curry above both Smith and Oher, and if he is available, I say you have to draft him. I know the Bengals are high on Brian Orakpo, but if its between Orakpo and offensive tackle, I would go with the tackle.
Josh: If Smith would be better equipped to be a right tackle, knowing Mike Brown, drafting Smith could be a long-shot. Is the league starting to perceive Smith as better suited for right tackle?
Abromowitz: I think after Willie Anderson and franchising Stacy Andrews last season showed how important right tackle has been to the team. I have heard Cincinnati is very high on Smith and would be comfortable taking at the 6th spot. Right tackle Levi Brown was drafted at number 5 for Arizona and that has turned out very well. Most analysts agree that Smith is best as a right tackle as he is only 6'4 and 330 lbs.
Josh: You mentioned Aaron Curry on the big board, and there has been some speculation that Curry could fall in the draft. Whether or not he will, we can't say. However, if Curry were to fall to the Bengals, should Cincinnati draft him immediately, no matter whom is available at tackle?
Abromowitz: Yes, this is assuming Curry is the Bengals’ top player on the board, which I believe he is. Having a chance to draft the top player in the draft at the sixth pick is too valuable to not do. Curry is exactly what the Bengals need. He is a playmaker, leader, and most importantly a positive face for the franchise. For a team trying to change its image, Curry would be the perfect prospect. Keith Rivers and Curry would make for one explosive outside linebacking duo. This draft is deep at the OT position, so the Bengals can get a solid player in round 2 or 3. Aaron Curry is my second safest prospect in the draft, next to Alex Mack, making my decision for Cincinnati to take Curry, especially with Smith have a “risk” factor.
Josh: Some make the argument that Cincinnati's best option could be trading their pick to acquire additional picks, maybe a late first-round pick and an additional second-round pick for a team wanting to desperately move up in the first. If that possibility exists, could the Bengals execute that trade, and which team would seem most likely to jump at the chance to move up in the first round?
Abromowitz: I think whenever a team owns a top 10 pick, they want to trade down for two reasons. The first is you are in the top 10, meaning you are not that good and you have many holes to fill. The easiest ways to fill those holes are with more draft picks. The second reason is you don’t want to pay a top 10 prospect millions of dollars before they play a snap. The Bengals’ potential to do a trade depends on four prospects: Mark Sanchez, Michael Crabtree, B.J. Raji, and Aaron Curry. If all three of those prospects are off the board, then the Bengals won’t have any trade value because I don’t see another prospect that will force a team to jump all the way to the sixth pick. The Jets and Broncos may be trying to jump up to get Sanchez if they think the Jaguars will really take him at 8. The Jaguars may want to jump over Oakland at 7 to snag Michael Crabtree. With so many teams moving to a 3-4, Raji could be in demand. Green Bay and Denver may try to trade up to ensure they get Raji. If Curry makes it to the Bengals, teams may be willing to move up that weren’t willing to give up and pay as much for Curry in the top 3. I expect Sanchez, Crabtree, and Curry though to not even be available. The Bengals currently own 11 draft picks, so they got to make sure not to add too many draft picks if they trade down, unless they will use those picks to trade up later in the draft.
Josh: On Friday night, the Bengals claimed former Steelers running back Gary Russell off waivers. It's been projected by myself and the readers on CincyJungle.com that we could look at drafting a running back as high as the third round, if not the second. While it's highly unlikely that the Bengals will ease any necessity drafting a running back, if they do, and decide to wait until after the fourth round, is this a class deep enough to find a franchise-type back late in the draft?
Abromowitz: I actually had the Bengals taking a running back in the 3rd round, but with the addition of Russell I agree that they won't pursue a running back until after the 4th round.
The class is deep enough (that) you have a chance to get a franchise type player. However, these players fall this far due to many things: speed issues, durability issues, level of competition, vision, etc. Big names like Glenn Coffee and James Davis could be around in the beginning of the 5th. Tennessee running back Arian Foster will probably go in the 6th or 7th round. These guys have great ability as shown by successful college careers at big programs and all are very big and physical. At one time, James Davis was considered a first round draft pick. Davis' poor senior season mostly because of lack of carries and a horrible offensive line has caused his stock to drop. At his Pro Day he ran a sub 4.5 40, showing scouts he has solid speed. I actually like that Davis split carries with CJ Spiller, causing less wear and tear on him. I think James Davis has just as much potential to be a franchise back as a Aaron Brown or Javon Ringer. A prospect like Bernard Scott from Abilene Christian could be a steal in the 7th round or even as an undrafted free agent.
Josh: Is there a guy in the draft that you really like no one else is talking about?
Abromowitz: Well, in regards to one of my favorite players it would have to be James Casey, tight end/athlete from Rice. However, Casey is expected to be a late 2nd round to early 3rd round draft pick. I have been high on him since December because of his amazing athleticism and his versatility. He can play tight end, H-Back, running back, fullback, quarterback, and even wide receiver. The guy was a catching machine for Rice, and he even had a triple major with a 3.8 GPA. Casey is a former minor league player that I have been so impressed with.
In terms of a true player no one is talking about, I got two guys I really like because of their ability to be return specialist. When teams are looking in the 6th and 7th round, players that stand out for me are players that can play on special teams and contribute immediately. Joe Burnett, cornerback from Central Florida and Devin Moore, running back from Wyoming are the two players I am really high on. Both can add depth to their position, but both I believe can be instant starter as a kick/pun returner. Burnett did have 16 career interceptions at Central Florida so I believe he can add great depth in the backfield.
Great video of Burnett:
Devin Moore ran a 4.34 40 at his Pro Day. He is truly a speed demon and just like Burnett can be an effective kick returner and 3rd down running back.
Here is Moore's highlight:
We'd like to thank Michael for his time and information. You can read all of his analysis on The Football Expert, and hear him this Sunday at 10:05 a.m. with Ken Broo on 700 WLW.