The Draft Day snub.
Carlos Dunlap feels it as much as he did four years ago.
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Here’s what he said Monday as media and players mingled in the Paul Brown Stadium locker room and discussed the upcoming draft that begins Thursday (8 p.m.-NFL Network and ESPN) and ends Saturday.
“Plenty of teams could have used a D-lineman and some teams passed on me twice,’ said Dunlap, perhaps invoking a Giants team that not only drafted South Florida end Jason Pierre-Paul in the first round but East Carolina tackle Linval Joseph in the second.
And then here’s what Dunlap said in late April of 2010, the day after the Bengals drafted him with the 54th pick in the second round.
“My goal is to get a sack against every team I play against that passed on me,” he said. “And I want to compete for NFL Rookie Defensive Player of the Year.”
After the first-round-free-fall, Dunlap had the last laugh to the tune of a $40 million extension inked before last season. Long, lean, and athletic, he can disrupt offenses single-handedly. He’s scored two touchdowns, one on his one career pick, has got his hands on 20 balls, and ranked fifth in pass rushing productivity last year by profootballfocus.com for ends that played at least 75 percent of the snaps.
And he made quite a bid to get that rookie of the year. He got all of his Bengals’ rookie record 9.5 sacks in the last eight games and had the NFL rookie sack crown won until Lions tackle Ndamukong Suh picked up his 10th late in the last game.
Suh is one of 17 D-linemen drafted ahead of Dunlap and one of the few that deserved to be. A three-time Pro Bowler, Suh has the same amount of career sacks as Dunlap with 27.5. Only Pierre-Paul, with 29.5, has more from that list that still fuels Dunlap.
“I still feel a grudge toward those teams, especially if they drafted a D-lineman in front of me,” Dunlap says now.
It’s not like former Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. After he was named to the 2007 Pro Bowl, he proceeded to rattle off the names of 22 of the 26 wide receivers drafted before him in the 2001 seventh round. Including the immortal Francis St. Paul of Northern Arizona, a pick that got Houshmandzadeh so riled that St. Paul is one of the first guys he remembered since he was taken seven picks before.
“Yeah,” Dunlap said when asked if he recalls the names. “But I’m not going to call out the names. It was a good bit of guys.”
OK, we’ll call them out.
The first defensive end taken was Michigan’s Brandon Graham at No. 13 to the Eagles, two spots ahead of Pierre-Paul. He’s got 11.5 career sacks. Then at No. 16, Georgia Tech’s Derrick Morgan went to Tennessee, where he’s got 16.5 sacks. Good, solid players, but not Dunlap.
What really had to hurt is that starting at No. 40, five ends went before he got the call. The 40th pick, Utah’s Koa Misi is a linebacker in Miami. The Ravens took Texas’ Sergio Kindle with the 43rd pick, a prospect that fell because of injuries and off-field problems and ended up playing just three NFL games because of both. The Steelers did pluck Jason Worilds at No. 52 and he’s got 18 sacks. But with the pick before the Bengals, the Patriots took Dunlap’s Florida teammate, Jermaine Cunningham, a guy that’s been on three teams and has 3.5 sacks.
“No check marks, but when we play them, I definitely try to out-do the guy that they drafted,” Dunlap said. “That’s just how you continue to compete and continue to get better. Don’t get comfortable. Right now I like my odds. I’m just going to keep working and build on that.”
Dunlap had one blemish on his record, a DUI arrest four days before the SEC title game. But he’s had no problems off the field as a pro and he wonders.
“It wasn’t a problem, it was an issue that happened for me,” Dunlap said. “Some teams weigh it more than others. It blew my mind last year that guys in the top ten had multiple DUIs. I would think that would be more concerning than the guy that had one.”
The Bengals are glad they have him and are thankful he found his way to Cincinnati even though they didn’t seem to be in any of the pre-draft discussions or GPS.
“It was frustrating, sitting there waiting. You don’t who, you don’t know what team or what they are thinking,” Dunlap said. “A lot of people told me before the draft the teams you visit don’t even end up drafting you, so it’s like wow, all the visits I took you’d think they would have drafted me because of what they said and it ended up happening here because I didn’t take a visit here.
“I was looking at the area code, like where is this? I don’t know where 513 is,” he said of the phone call. “My sister or somebody (Googled it) and said, ‘Cincy.’ I was like, ‘Where is Cincy?’ And here we are now. “
He’ll be watching four years later, too.
“I always watch the first 15 and then I watch who we pick,” Dunlap said. “And then I always check to see who we pick in the (other) rounds, too. And I always check to see where my Florida boys are going, too. That’s the two biggest things I look at it.”
And he’ll do a little extra if he doesn’t catch the name. That’s what happened last year when the Bengals picked North Carolina running back
“I was like, ‘Who’s Giovani Bernard?’ I watch SEC football, so I never saw him play,” he said. “I looked him up and said ‘Oh, he’s like a Ray Rice guy like what they’re saying.’ It worked out for him, too.”