04-24-2004-UNKNOWN

4-24-04, 7:10 p.m. <>
Updated: 4-24-04, 7:45 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

With their two picks in the second round the Bengals addressed their secondary needs by selecting Florida cornerback Keiwan Ratliff at No. 49 and Maryland safety Madieu Williams at No. 56, the choice they got from the Patriots in the Corey Dillon trade.

The 5-10, 192-pound Ratliff, a Columbus, Ohio native who played at White Hall, was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year by The Sporting News, had a conference-leading nine interceptions and put his stuff on display for the South all-stars against the Bengals-coached North team in the Senior Bowl back in January

"I wanted to stay close to home, the Midwest, what better place than Cincinnati?" asked Ratliff in a conference call from his parents' home in Columbus.

The 6-0, 193-pound Williams is a guy known as a big hitter who had three interceptions last season with 81 tackle and could contend for a starting spot.

The Bengals are exited about Ratliff's hands, and his ability to catch the ball, and make a play on it. Ratliff was the only Division I-A player in 2002 to have a touchdown catch and return an interception for a touchdown.

The Bengals won't have to rush Ratliff into the starting lineup after trading for the Broncos' Deltha O'Neal two weeks ago. But with Dennis Weathersby's playing future in doubt, Ratliff appears to be the leading candidate to be the third cornerback.

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