Pre-Draft Ramblings

While many folks in the media were relatively harsh regarding Marvin Lewis’ generally vague comments in his annual pre-draft press conference, I for one was pleased with what I heard.  I heard a man not pressed to fill any gaping holes on his team. I heard a coach happy with his roster, confident in his program, and consequently calm, focused, and ready for the draft. 

Of particular note was his comment that the team’s first round pick does not “have” to start from day one; the here-to-for unheard of philosophy in Cincinnati that you pick the best player on the board, not the best guy for the glaring weakness you have.  This philosophy has worked for years in places like Pittsburgh, New England, and New York.  For once, the team has the luxury of flexibility in the draft.

There will certainly be discussion in the war room based upon coaches perceptions of current members of the roster, their contract statuses and the like, but when the rubber meets the road, when the Bengals are on the clock, they can go in one of several different ways without worry or concern that they may neglect an obvious need.  The team can field 22 NFL quality starters right now, before the draft even happens, and that, my friends is priceless. 

But what about Tight End?!”  I can hear the peanut gallery now. 

Yes, Tight End is a position that could use more bodies, but don’t for one second think that the team is honing in on Jermaine Gresham, the TE from Oklahoma and consensus talking-head pick for Cincinnati at 21.  Why?  Well, he’s a Tight End, and while the team needs better play from that position, the fact of the matter is that TE does not have the most vital of roles in Bob Bratkowski’s offense.  The fact is that 40% of the time, the TE is another tackle in the running game, or is extra protection on long yardage situations. 

This is not to say that I do not condone the idea of bringing in a dynamic talent at the position.  I whole-heartedly do.  But Gresham and second TE Rob Gronkowski of Arizona both carry with them a disturbing injury history, and there are capable options in rounds 2, 3, 4, and 5 that can contribute to at least the level of a Dan Coats.  Besides, Chase Coffman has not had an opportunity to play a single down yet, and the team will be bringing back Reggie Kelly before the draft.  Sure Tony Sheffler would be nice, but I just don’t see it happening, and the Bengals have officially poo-pooed that rumor within hours of it coming out.  Either way, though, I wrote in this space that the team should address the position prior to the draft, and Lewis basically confirmed my thinking in the press conference

One cannot honestly believe that Gresham would be the pick if Earl Thomas is available at 21; or Dez Bryant, or Jason Pierre-Paul, or even Taylor Mays.  

One thing I can guarantee after 20 years of watching drafts, is there will be a player that inexplicably falls and is head-and-shoulders above the guys that were expected to be there.  I don’t know who it will be this year, but he’ll be staring at the Bengals at 21, and this year, they can confidently pull the trigger.  And by the way, this happens in round two as well.  Don’t be shocked if Gronkowski is on the board when the Bengals are up again in the second. 

So who should they get with the 21st pick?  Who knows?  Let the draft work itself out.  Here are some names to keep an eye on: 

Dez Bryant:  Though it now looks like he may be gone by the time the Bengals pick, if Denver passes on him at 11, he may fall right into their lap. 

Earl Thomas:  This is the player I think the team covets the most.  He should be gone by 21, but if not, they’ll gladly scoop him up.  If he is gone, then… 

Nate Allen:  The safety prospect from South Florida is moving up draft boards, and some are calling him the second best safety after Tennessee’s Eric Berry. 

Mike Iupati:  If the Steelers pass on the massive guard from Idaho, Bengals Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander will begin salivating.  

Brandon Graham:  The OLB from Michigan is getting rave reviews for his evaluation period performances.  Reminds me of the type of guy the Bengals were trying to land with David Pollack. 

At the end of the day, who the heck knows? The team cannot control what the 20 teams in front of them do.  All they can do is wait for their turn, and pick the best player left that fits their philosophy and matches the kind of lunch pail work ethic Marvin Lewis is looking for.  

As always, it’ll be top-notch entertainment.  We’ll all be holding our collective breathe as the commissioner steps to the podium.  We’ll all know in the back of our minds it could be someone we haven’t even discussed or fretted over.  Remember David Klinger?  Remember Chris Perry?  How about Levi Jones?  No one saw those guys coming.  So, while I look forward to seeing one of the above mentioned players in stripes, it won’t shock me to hear something like… 

“With the 21st pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select….Jahvid Best, runningback, Cal.”  Don’t laugh.  It could happen. 

Only a few days to go and all this waiting will be over and the real fun–the second-guessing, draft grades, postmortems and analysis–can begin.


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4 Responses to “Pre-Draft Ramblings”

  1. SteelerSinceBirth says:

    Eric,

    Nice blog, nice writing style (save for the double-negative–“This is not to say that I do not condone…”–sorry, my Mom was an English teacher–and never seen the phrase “here-to-fore” used in a football blog before lol), great content, very well done. I’ll actually watch the Bengals picks this year with a modicum of interest, which is something I’ve never said before. Hard to believe the Steelers pick before you guys… it’s alot easier to forget we sucked last year with our history. Between Big Ben’s off-field problems and Charlie Batch reaching pasture age, I’ll be interested to see if Da Burgh looks to find a Ben-style diamond-in-the-rough Quarterback somewhere in the 3rd-to-5th rounds as Ben’s heir-apparent (although Ben may still be a little too young for that), but moreso to apply a little on-field pressure to his off-field idiocy. And I’ve seen too much “Slash” in my day to think Dennis Dixon is really that guy.

    What do you think of the NFL’s latest marketing ploy, moving the draft to Thursday night? Better for water cooler talk on Friday? Will it extend the office chats and talk radio buzz to 4 weekdays instead of just 1 or 2? More next-pick speculation vs. second guessing? More like 2 more nights’ revenue for the Marriott Marquis, I’m thinking. We’ll see how it’s received.

    Regards,
    SteelerSinceBirth (aka Brent G.)

  2. Division Sweepers says:

    Hi Brent,

    Glad to see you out here. I admit I wrote this one without a re-read or run through the old grammar check. Thanks for the edit! 🙂

    This one was a real stream of consciousness kind of thing.

    As for me, I’m looking forward to the expanded format. They say it will create the opportunity for more trades, and that can only make for a more entertaining draft.

    I will be interested to see if/when the Steelers take a QB. What do you think he’ll get in terms of league discipline?

    Thanks for reading…

    Eric

  3. SteelerSinceBirth says:

    Despite the fact that Ben wasn’t charged, the language and accuser’s statements in the police report were pretty jarring, even if the truth was probably somewhere between her statements and his likely version. I think the NFL will give him 2 games and the Steelers will give him another 2 for good measure. You would think that the motorcycle accident would have been the wake up call, and that even if that didn’t take, the lawsuit in Colorado for sure. I was 28 once too and kind of a jerk after a few beers even without being rich and the toast of the town, so I kinda get it, but this will definitely be Ben’s final Come-To-Jesus meeting.

    An interesting point here that just occurred to me today: So many of these Baby Boomer fans and media love to hold their old sports heroes in such high regard and are so quick to pass moral judgements and hang the “role model” tag on today’s stars… their heroes lived well before this age of 24 hour news cycles, TMZ, paparazzi, cell phone cameras, and Sportscenter. Their heroes were, in many cases, just as much a group of carousers and miscreants as today’s athletes. It’s just that media and club-goers and fans back in the day possesed a quality that is gone from modern society… discretion. So while it’s easy to hold the old gaurd in such high esteem and pass judgement today, let’s not forget that Joe Namath was a hard partying playboy back in the day, and still hadn’t managed to turn it off as of a few years ago (you gotta be loaded to want to kiss Suzy Colber, let alone on national TV).

  4. Couldn’t agree more. The old-timers were just as bad in some cases. Some were legendary drunks, druggies, womanizers and abusers. This fact is usually either swept under the rug, or worse, considered “okay” for the time with a sense of bygone-days-nostalgia.

    Not that I condone his activity, or any of the countless others who’ve made mistakes (especially the Bengals), but some perspective is clearly needed.

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