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 CINCINNATI (AP) -Carson Palmer takes the NFL draft just as seriously as he takes a game plan for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
``I check out everybody's mock drafts,'' the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback said. ``I kind of make my own mental mock draft. I've researched a lot of players, watched a lot of film and have a good idea who I think are the best guys at each position.''
Who would he like the Bengals to pick at No. 9 overall?
``I hope it's Sedrick Ellis,'' Palmer said. ``I hope he's still there.''
There's a college connection and a bit of history. Both of them went to Southern California, which is a big plus in Palmer's mind. Ellis also plays one of the positions that coach Marvin Lewis has failed to fill during his five seasons in Cincinnati.
The Bengals could desperately use a dependable tackle on defense. Ellis, the Pac-10's defensive player of the year, is considered one of the best around. It's a nice fit, and everyone knows it.
``As a defensive player, you want that dominant force up front,'' safety Dexter Jackson said.
Lewis seems determined to fix the defense that has dragged the Bengals down for most of his seasons in Cincinnati. He fired defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan after a 7-9 season, bringing in Mike Zimmer.
The Bengals considered switching to a 3-4 defense this season, but decided to stay with a four-man line. End Justin Smith left as a free agent, and was replaced by Antwan Odom, a free agent from Tennessee.
The middle of the line still needs some work, something Lewis said he would address during the draft. The question is whether the Bengals will have to trade up to get Ellis.
``I do think this is going to be a draft where there's going to be a lot of movement,'' Lewis said. ``After the first few players, I think there's going to be varying views of a particular guy. I think that's going to be across the board.''
The Bengals got a boost at linebacker when Odell Thurman was reinstated Monday from his two-year suspension by the NFL. If he can stay out of trouble, the Bengals will have less need at linebacker.
``He's big for this team,'' Jackson said. ``Before he was suspended, he was one of the top young Cincinnati Bengals. I hope he can come back and play the way he was before he was suspended by the NFL.
``He can be a difference-maker for this team. He's a very competitive player. If he can come back and play at that level, he'll be a big help for us.''
For the first time in years, the Bengals will consider taking a receiver high in the draft.
No. 3 receiver Chris Henry was released after his fifth arrest earlier this month. No. 1 receiver Chad Johnson has been unsuccessfully lobbying for a trade, and is threatening to sit out the season. T.J. Houshmandzadeh is the only proven option left.
``Obviously with Chris Henry and us waiving him, there's some holes that we need to fill,'' Lewis said.
The Bengals also will look at offensive linemen. Tackles Levi Jones and Willie Anderson struggled with injuries last season, and the Bengals need to replenish their depth. They also could use depth at cornerback.

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