|NFL DRAFT: Bengals looking for picks without problems|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 25 April 2007 10:37|
And every other pick, as well.
After an incredible run of arrests - nine players in nine months - and a recent history of taking chances on draft picks, the Bengals can't afford to bring in any more players with problems.
They need to improve their defense. They would like to add a tight end. They absolutely must find guys whose mug shots will show up in the media guide instead of the police files.
``It's a consideration to make sure we don't spend any more time trying to reshape lives,'' coach Marvin Lewis said this week.
Instead, they'd like to reshape a defense that has taken the brunt of that misbehavior.
Six of the nine players arrested were from the defense, including cornerback Johnathan Joseph, their top pick last year. Middle linebacker Odell Thurman missed last season and is still under suspension from the NFL for violating its substance abuse policies.
Cincinnati picks 18th in the first round and needs help at cornerback and linebacker. The Bengals could use a tight end and another safety. There's also some concern about depth at receiver now that Chris Henry has been suspended for the first eight games of next season, although Lewis has gotten accustomed to playing without a punished player.
``That doesn't affect us one bit,'' Lewis said of Henry's suspension. ``It didn't affect us last year, it wouldn't affect us this year.''
Their rickety defense will have the biggest impact on how they pick.
``Our defense's ranking wasn't the highest in the league last year, so they're always looking for ways to improve,'' Joseph said. ``We didn't do much through free agency, so hopefully we can get something through the draft.''
They really need a cornerback.
Eight-year veteran Deltha O'Neal dropped off dramatically last season, when he was one of the nine players arrested. Tory James also struggled mightily, and was allowed to leave as a free agent; he signed with New England last week.
Joseph can take James' spot, but there's not much depth behind him. And if the 30-year-old O'Neal struggles again, the Bengals would be in trouble.
Linebacker is another area of need. The Bengals released veteran Brian Simmons to save money, Thurman is still suspended, and David Pollack - a No. 1 pick in 2005 - is recovering from a neck fracture that jeopardizes his career.
The Bengals tried to replace Thurman by selecting Ahmad Brooks in the third round of the supplemental draft, costing them a third-round pick on Saturday. Brooks started five games at middle linebacker last season, but didn't play in five others.
Without a third-round pick, the Bengals will have to focus on the first two rounds to try to help their defense.
``There could be an opportunity for us to pick a player that also would fit a need on defense, to get younger and improve our guys over there,'' Lewis said.
One of their priorities in the draft last year was to get a tight end. It's an area of concern again this year, now that second-string tight end Tony Stewart has left for Oakland. Starter Reggie Kelly returns, but there's little experience behind him.
Four of the top eight tight ends were gone when the Bengals got a chance to pick in the second round last year, prompting them to take guard Andrew Whitworth instead. They're talking again about drafting a tight end.
``That's a possibility,'' Lewis said. ``I don't want to say it's a priority. You start prioritizing and you could get your feelings hurt. Maybe if we don't even think about it this time, we'll fall into one. We've been close, that's all I can tell you.''
Lewis knows that no matter who the Bengals pick, the first thing everyone will look at will be the player's off-field history instead of his 40-yard dash time.
Last year, Lewis insisted the team would ``red flag'' any player who had problems with coaches or teammates in college. The Bengals went ahead and chose players who had off-field problems that quickly turned into NFL embarrassments. Four draft picks - Joseph, defensive end Frostee Rucker, linebacker A.J. Nicholson and receiver Reggie McNeal - were later arrested.
Commissioner Roger Goodell took a close interest in the Bengals' problems, calling general manager Mike Brown at one point to offer assistance. His new conduct policy holds teams accountable for their players' misconduct, and might prompt them to give extra thought before taking on a draft pick with problems.
``Whether a team gives a young man a second chance or not who's had a checkered past, that's up to the individual team,'' Lewis said. ``And I can't speculate on that.''
He knows one thing: the Bengals can't afford to do it.