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Commentary: Bengals Direction Remains Unclear Heading Into The 2012 NFL Draft

I might not be Commandant Eric Lassard, but I enjoy bubble gum.
I might not be Commandant Eric Lassard, but I enjoy bubble gum.

It's very exciting. With less than a week before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell welcomes us to the opening of the 2012 NFL draft, endless speculation compounded by mock drafts and lifeless scouting reports will eventually come to a merciful conclusion. The team's development, clearer, the direction, more refined. Excitement, hope and every cliched one-word enthusiasm is like a baseball thrown between father and son. How else would you describe the fanatical resurrection after an infusion of so much talent?

An old friend likened the NFL draft to Russian Roulette -- especially in the first round. Do you score big with A.J. Green, Leon Hall or Johnathan Joseph, or sigh with heavy resignation after reliving failures like Chris Perry, who generated 39 rushing touchdowns, 3,696 yards rushing and a 4.6 yard/rush average during his four-year career in Michigan, fantastically short-changing the team's investment. Perhaps the 811 rush attempts in college wore him down by the time Cincinnati called his name at No. 26 during the 2004 NFL draft.

Though it's not his fault, the one-and-done David Pollack, a three-time First-team All-American at Georgia, suffered an unfortunate and unlucky career-ending injury after playing only 17 games in the NFL, with the 17th being Cincinnati's week two win over the Cleveland Browns in 2006. Now his career has taken off as a very capable analyst for college football, while offering tongue-in-cheek tweets about the Cincinnati Bengals.

Jerome Simpson, Chase Coffman, Kenny Irons, Keiwan Ratliff, Dennis Weathersby, the names after the first round can be stretched beyond these pages, along with a similar list of players that Cincinnati selected that's panned out for an extended period of time (beyond 20 games played).

But that's yesterday, irrelevant today, with a future as encouraging as 2006, which followed a strong Bengals team (that I still believe today was Super Bowl bound if not for.. you know) that finished the season after a one-game exit in the postseason -- except this year we don't have to worry about (enter letter)CL's with Andy Dalton. Here's hoping for something better than the disappointing 8-8 follow-up season in 2006.

Will the Bengals go with one of the best cornerback prospects this year or rely on a handful of free agent acquisitions, recently signed to give the position depth? Hoping for the former, but the latter not surprising. Do the Bengals select their first offensive guard in the first round in franchise history, with the purpose of designating him as a guard from day one and not a converted tackle shifted inside due to one unforeseen reason or another?

How far on the team's board is Alabama safety Mark Barron listed, and if he's there at No. 17 does he become the biggest prize? Or is Cincinnati, who favored Taylor Mays during the 2010 NFL draft, feel comfortable enough to put him in first position as the team's strong safety?

As confident as many are presenting what the team will and should do, it's false confidence using available information, which is usually in short supply, heavily impacted with personal perspectives on what should be done, as opposed to what the team has or will do.

Either way the countdown is on, approaching five days remaining before the NFL draft kicks off next Thursday. I think I just got a shiver.