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Keeping An Eye On Bengals Draft Smokescreens

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 It's no surprise that lately you've been hearing a lot of draft rumors floating around. There's a reason so many rumors surface just before the draft. It's smokescreen season. This is the month leading up to the draft when you must take everything you hear with a very skeptical approach. It's very hard to decipher what is truth and what are lies. Does the coach really like this guy, or is he just trying to throw everybody off so a team doesn't trade up just before your pick? Remember in 2008, when the Bengals really liked USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis? Before the Bengals could pick, the Saints swooped in and stole him from under their nose. This is why coaches, general managers, scouts and anybody involved will try to throw the media and other teams off. Not everything you hear is fabricated though. It's like playing poker, where you can tell the truth and people will still think you're bluffing.

So how have the Bengals been trying to deceive everybody this draft season? I have charted most of the hints and smokescreens that Marvin Lewis has been dropping since mid February. With the draft just over two weeks away, let's try to figure out which smokescreens are lies and which are the truth to the Bengals draft plans.

They're moving on without Palmer

"His situation is what it is," Lewis said. "Whatever Carson decides to do he does but it's not going to affect our direction and so forth at this point. We're going to move forward."

Why this could be truth: There's no way they will build this team with the hopes of Carson Palmer returning. They have to be smarter than that. Nobody really believes Palmer will be playing for the Bengals in 2011, so I assume they will draft a quarterback within the first three rounds. 

Why this could be smoke: Maybe you're trying to convince Palmer that you're moving on without him and he may get his trade wish. Meanwhile hoping that he doesn't file his retirement papers just yet. If he does, the Bengals lose almost all leverage if they decide to trade him. Whenever the CBA gets settled, teams will start calling for Palmer's services. Mike Brown doesn't seem like he will even answer the phone, but at least there's a chance he drunk dials the 49ers and trades Carson Palmer on a lonely Saturday night.

Cam Newton is a franchise QB

"He's got it. He's got it. Whoever said that wished they had it," Lewis said. "It's really important when you're talking about evaluating the quarterback position that they have that. That's they're that kind of guy. You've got be a guy that is standup, ready to take control kind of guy. Whether you're talking about the football team, whether you're talking about the city. Talking about a lot of stuff. The good thing is that all these kids this year have been that."

Why this could be truth: When you like a player, sometimes you make excuses for their faults. It's easy to nitpick a guy's faults when you don't like him as a football player, but when you see the potential of a prospect like Cam Newton, and he's the center of constant criticism, you might have to sell him to your fan base or fellow decision makers. That may be a stretch, but I don't see a reason to stroke Newton's ego for the sake of it.

Why this could be smoke: Do they like Cam Newton? More than likely, but why would you come out and say it? If you really wanted him, wouldn't you keep your mouth shut and hope he falls to you? The Bills and Broncos could be looking to trade down with a QB needy team. So maybe Cam Newton isn't highly rated on the Bengals board and they would rather somebody move up to select him. This will help push a better player or their actual target player down to them.

Julio Jones is rated higher than AJ Green

When you evaluate receivers, what are the qualities you look for? ML: "I think No. 1 you look for a guy that plays the game like a football player. I think it's important for us to have a guy that is physically aggressive, who obviously has speed, and he has to have ability to catch. Only one of those do I think you can improve on and that's the catching part. The other part I don't know if you can improve the guy on. The physical ness to play the position or the speed part I don't think you can improve. I think guys can get better at catching the football and concentration."

Why this could be truth: Even though 90 percent (this is a guess) of draft boards have Green rated higher than Jones, Marvin Lewis has preached how much he would like his receivers to be able to run after the catch and block downfield. Some have even made the case that Julio Jones is a better fit in a traditional west coast offense than A.J. Green.

Why this could be smoke: A.J. Green is a top three player on almost every board. He is a special player with rare natural abilities. He instantly becomes an offensive threat from anywhere on the field and forces defenses to know where he's lining up. The Bengals could be trying to keep it a secret that A.J. Green has been their target all along. It's rumored that the Browns have Green as their top prospect. Both teams need a game breaking WR and neither wants the face Green for the next 10 seasons. Keep your love for Green under wraps or the Browns may make a bold move to go get him.

Jerome Simpson can be a No. 1 WR

"When Chad got hurt, Jerome became the No. 1 receiver. How many (games) did Chad play before he became the No. 1 receiver? I think Jerome will be fine. We'll see where we are"

Why this could be truth: They invested a second round pick in Jerome Simpson three years ago and almost got nothing in return. It was nothing until the final three games of the 2010 season when Simpson was the go-to receiver with Ochocinco and T.O. out with injuries. He played like a No.1 receiver.

Why this could be smoke: Again, this could be a way of keeping people away from A.J. Green or Julio Jones. Remember when Marvin said how impressed he was with Anthony Collins just before the 2009 draft? Well the Bengals drafted Andre Smith. That was definitely a smokescreen.

Draft Picks must produce now

"We have to make sure we get great players," Lewis said. "Because we're eventually going to complete this team with other players. So let's get the greatest young prospects that are going to play for a long period of time and hopefully at a very, very high level. It's important to be careful. Anybody we put our chip on, we're expecting him to come in here and go."

Why this could be truth: I'm sure every team wants their rookies to contribute right away. The Bengals got a taste of it last year when Gresham, Dunlap, Shipley and Atkins all were big contributors on the season. This year I could see A.J. Green and Julio Jones contributing right away. Running backs always step in and play right away. Patrick Peterson would be a day one starter somewhere in the defensive backfield.

Why this could smoke: Most of this year's QB class isn't expected to contribute right away. This could be a hint to teams that the Bengals aren't interested in Newton or Gabbert. UNC's Robert Quinn missed all of last season and is only 20 years old. He's going to need time to get up to speed and might not be a heavy contributor in the first half of the 2011 season. If the Bengals decide to go pass rusher, I think Quinn could be their favorite.

Bengals looking for O-Line help (RT)?

"We didn't play well enough at the right tackle position; we'd like to get better," Lewis said. "We have to get better through what we're doing. We've got to get better through coaching. And we may get better through personnel. We have to see what happens."

Why this could be truth: Marvin at times seems fed up with Andre Smith and Mike Brown would like to keep giving Smith chances to win the starting RT job. They usually draft guys who can play multiple offensive line positions, especially guys who can play offensive tackle and guard. With left guard and right tackle being the weakest links on the offensive line. The Bengals may be able to draft a guy to play both.

Why this could be smoke: There is decent offensive linemen depth in rounds 2-4. So maybe they can keep an opposing team on its toes by making it look like RT is a position of need. This would be a mid round smokescreen to keep teams off their trail.  

They're having a hard time finding safeties this year

"Guys are playing different spots," he said last week. "You've got more guys trying to play corner, they're becoming big receivers. You would think with all the spread offenses in college there would be more, but the last few years there have been less. We felt last year like there was a pretty good drop-off after a certain point."

Why this could be truth: This safety class has been called maybe the weakest position in the draft this year. The Bengals have been frustratingly tough when grading safeties since the Marvin Lewis era began. They have only drafted one safety higher than the fourth round (Madieu Williams, 2004). Marvin has said how he wants a safety than can cover deep and man-to-man while also supporting the run. That type of player is a rare find and usually go within the first two rounds. They won't find one unless they draft one.

Why this could be smoke: Safety is a huge need. It's been a big need for a while. They need to inject some youth into the safety position and I think they finally realized it. They could be eyeing a guy like UCLA's Rahim Moore at the top of round two or get the first safety when the run starts in round three.

No Star D-Lineman this year

"Defensive line-wise you're not going to pass on a great player who could change the game. I haven't studied them enough yet. This is an important process for us. We have to get going. We didn't like the way last year ended."

[This D-line class has been ballyhooed as one of the best ever and Lewis says it's deep but he doesn't see the big star: "There's the depth of ability. That's probably a better thing overall. There are some good hard-playing guys."]

Why this could be truth: The defensive line class this year has been called easily the deepest position in the entire draft. If a team thinks you're going to take one of the guys they have already targeted, they will be forced to trade up unnecessarily. I also believe this could be truth because Marvin may want his defensive threat that he never had with the Bengals. He needs somebody who forces the opposing offense to game plan with our premiere pass rusher in mind.   

Why this could be smoke: By saying that you don't believe there is a star defensive lineman this year, maybe the teams behind them will sit back and wait for their guy. More than a few teams in the top 10 picks are looking for defensive line help, so keeping your cards close to chest is a good idea.

No concerns with Fairley's character

Marvin Lewis: "You've got high school, junior college, you've got a lot of things to look at in Nick's case. He's got a very good personality in watching him interact with teammates at Auburn. I don't see some of the characteristics that some people are comparing him to. Exceptional quickness. That's one of his big assets."

Why this could be truth: Maybe Fairley's character concerns aren't that big of a deal. I'm sure some defensive minded coaches actually like his aggressive play style. Nick Fairley is the type of guy you want on your team, but you really don't want him on the other team. He could set this defense to another level.

Why this could be smoke: Again, Fairley may not be the Bengals target and number four. Keep it your real intentions a secret and let on that Fairley is your kind of guy. This might increase your chances of actually getting your man.


I'll make sure to come back to this article after the draft to see which of these were how Marvin Lewis and the Bengals actually felt or if they were intentionally sending smokescreens our way.