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Final Draft

The Bengals seemed relaxed and comfortable wading through this year's rich pool of talent in the 2010 NFL Draft.  The supposed needs we fans and pundits identified didn't seem to register much with the team's brain-trust, and they exercised faith in their current roster as well as a strict adherence to their blueprint of the future.  After the last pick was announced and young, fresh faces held up striped jerseys at local press conferences, the message of last year was echoed once more in this draft: the Bengals are a power team, dammit.  Get used to it.

The most reasonable approach to the draft for a grind-house team is to become a physically stronger one and it seems the Bengals did just that.

Lots more after the jump.  Read on.

First-rounder Jermaine Gresham comes with a big muscular frame, and although he is roughly the same weight as the unremarkable J.P. Foschi, he is far more athletic and nimble.  While Gresham must prove he can block to avoid landing in the purgatories where Chase Coffman dwells, he certainly appears large enough to get the job done.  I'm in favor of bringing back Reggie Kelly, if for nothing else, to simply instruct the youngster on the finer points of blocking.  Many pair of eyes will be fixed on how his repaired knee holds up to the training camp grind, but any which way you slice it Gresham is a powerful player with future pro-bowl potential.  It's a sensible pick that puts the onus on Bob Bratkowski to actually incorporate the tight end as a viable passing option—something many of us have clamored over for years—and by not choosing Dez Bryant, the pick shows the team's commitment to offensive power formations.

Then the defense got bigger.  Weighing in at around 275 pounds, Carlos Dunlap is already adequately sized to play defensive end in the NFL, but the coaches say they want him heavier and would like to play him closer to 300 pounds—Antwan Odom underwent a similar weight-gain last offseason which had positive results.  Dunlap was knocked for motivational issues and inconsistent play, but nearly every evaluator sees vast potential in this guy.  If Mike Zimmer can turn on the light-bulb in Dunlap's helmet, the team may have scored a ferocious pass-rusher that can play inside on passing downs and become a key defensive specialist.  The Bengals like versatile defenders and no team can have too many pass rushers.  This pick was a luxurious impulse buy that only good teams with many returning starters can enjoy.  If Dunlap makes Cincinnati's top-five defense even better, then you're talking about something truly dominant and that kind of stuff wins Super Bowls. 

The third-round pick seems to go against my theory of size and strength, but Jordan Shipley does come with cliché white-receiver superlatives such as scrappy, hard-nosed, reliable, and, oh what the hell, cerebral too.  Setting racist sports terminology aside, Shipley did produce some humongous numbers the last two seasons at Texas and is a prototypical slot receiver.  The only concern of mine is the possible validity to the claim of one bitter and unpopular Laveranues Coles, that Carson Palmer prefers bigger targets.  In Coles' defense, Carson does sail the ball often and smallish guys can only cover so much space.  Still, with the addition of Gresham, Antonio Bryant, and Matt Jones—not to mention Dez Briscoe—having a small guy to get lost in the trees may have its benefits.  Shipley adds additional pressure to the increasingly crowded receiver battle coming this training camp.  Matt Jones is my early pick to be the first castaway.  Stay tuned for that one.

What the Bengals didn't do is reach for a guard or  a safety.  Taylor Mays was still there at No. 21, but he is the same type of safety as both Roy Williams and Chinedum Ndukwe—no need to build a clone army, I suppose.  They could have selected Jon Asamoah in the second, but apparently feel okay with their offensive line as it is.  Once again, when you only lose one starter from a playoff team, you can select what you want and not what you need.

They did add Brandon Ghee to the defensive backfield and I think he could become the backup to Chris Crocker by Week 1, even though he is listed as a corner.  His scouting report mentions big-hitting and an aggressive style of play, but also raises concerns about his technique and footwork.  Luckily, the Bengals employ secondary coach Kevin Coyle, whose players regularly impress me with their excellent fundamentals.  If the injuries mount once more at the safety position, Ghee may be thrown into action, prepared or not.  I already prefer him over the likes of Tom Nelson in a similar scenario, so therefore, the pick is a good one. 

Zimmer landed two more projects in the fourth round with tackle Gino Atkins and linebacker Roderrick Muckleroy. 

Big Gino is said to have a nice burst at the line of scrimmage along with the proverbial "high motor".  With only three true tackles on the team, adding another belly to the rotation makes Tank Johnson's feet feel better already.  It should also be noted that it was reported that Atkins dominated Mike Iupati at the Senior Bowl (that was my last Iupati mention now the he is a 49er, I promise). 

As for Muckleroy, well, he's got a great name.  The Bengals coaches liked what they saw out of this Longhorn and remarked about how they valued his ability to play different spots.  His scouting report talks of good coverage ability, which is an area that needs improved at the middle linebacker position.  The starting linebackers are strong but the depth is limited behind them.  Even though Muckleroy should initially see mostly special-teams action early on, should Dhani Jones or someone else go down, a guy like this becomes crucial.  Like Coyle and his men, linebackers coach Jeff Fitzgerald has a quality track record of developing great players, and while Muckleroy isn't likely to blossom with the likes of Keith Rivers and Rey Maualuga, he could certainly someday become a regular contributor—especially on passing downs. 

What's interesting is that the Bengals return every starter on defense, yet invest four out of their first six picks on that side of the ball.  They did compliment those picks nicely with passing-game help which screamed to be addressed, but while the experts insist that the NFL is a passing league based around speed and deception, the Bengals grow larger and more brutish with nearly every move.  Is this road less traveled ahead of the curve or a stubborn and futile insistence to do things Marvin's way?  After winning the division with only the first phase of morphing the Bengals into a smash-mouth team, I'd say the man has a good handle on what he's doing. 

Mojokong—proud blogger of the AFC North Champion, Cincinnati Bengals; lest we forget.\\