4-5-02, 5:00 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON (Another in a series of stories breaking down the April 20-21 NFL Draft by position. Rankings are a compilation of evaluations from ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., Pro Football Weekly's Joel Buchsbaum and Jerry Jones of The Drugstore List.)
At least two gurus are mocking the Bengals with another Oregon quarterback three years after the club thought it had solved its QB quandary by taking Akili Smith out of Eugene.
Kiper and Buchsbaum give the Bengals Joey Harrington with the 10th pick in their mock selections of this month's draft.
"He's not as mobile as I am and his arm isn't as strong, but he's going to be a good quarterback" Smith said Friday of his former teammate. "He's got all the intangibles. Leadership. Toughness. He really benefited from having five years in the system with his red-shirt year. I only had two and split time when I was a junior."
Top 10 Quarterbacks
|Josh McCown||Sam Houston||6-3||221|
|David Garrard||E. Carolina||6-1||235|
But now Smith has three years on Harrington in the NFL, which he thinks gives him the edge in a possible Chucking Duck showdown.
"To be quite honest with you," said Smith a smile, "I'd have to put him on the bench. This is a totally different level and I'm in my fourth year, to be honest about it. It's a totally different game up here and I've got the experience."
The Bengals admire Harrington for his tremendous production with 43 touchdowns passes in his final two years, a 23-5 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio his senior year, and a 350-yard swan song in the Fiesta Bowl.
But working against choosing Harrington is that the Bengals are still trying to extract value from that No. 3 pick in 1999 out of Smith, Jon Kitna is moving into the second year of the offense, and there are other players available at 10 who would contribute right away.
And while everyone is talking about safeties and tight ends at No. 10, the Bengals still haven't ruled out taking one of several talented defensive linemen that dominate the top 10. Cincinnati is mulling putting a Wendell Bryant or a Ryan Sims on an already solid line and moving the Bengals' No. 9 defense into the dominating category.
Harrington is going to be discussed, but do they want to take another first-round quarterback on the 10th anniversary of the David Klinger debacle and with a franchise pick like Smith still on the roster?
In the last five years, at least one survey shows the Bengals have drafted above average in the NFL. In percentages gleaned by Jones, author of the draft publication "The Drugstore List," 26 percent of the Bengals' picks are starters, 44 percent are backups, five percent are on other teams, and 26 percent are out of the NFL.
The average in the NFL over the last five years has 24 percent starting, 32 percent backing up, 16 percent with other teams, and 28 percent out of the league.
But a few highly chosen busts (Klingler, Dan Wilkinson, Ki-Jana Carter with the jury still out on Smith) can kill a reputation and ward you away from a high-profile position. Yet Jones doesn't think Harrington
would be the risk some are making him out to be as the second-rated quarterback behind the first pick in the draft, Fresno State's David Carr.
"I don't think there is a great deal of difference between Harrington and Carr," Jones said. "Harrington's numbers are absolutely dazzling in a pro style offense."
So were Smith's numbers, but Jones said, "Akili was a one year guy and no one knew his maturity level (was low). This kid has very good intangibles and he's got the numbers."
The knock on Harrington is arm strength and while the Bengals haven't been bowled over by it, the feeling is that it is strong enough. He can't scramble like Smith, but they also think he's fast enough.
Tulane's Patrick Ramsey is projected as the next quarterback to go and most likely before the Bengals pick at No. 41 in the second round. No one sees Ramsey getting past the quarterback-starved Lions at No. 35 and Bills at No. 36 if one of those teams doesn't take Harrington at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively.
The Bengals know all about Ramsey since the father of offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski has been working him out weekly at Tulane and there is a lot to like. He's a 3.5 student and has a first-round arm, but there is some concern that he's got fifth-round mobility and that earlier in his career he tended to hold the ball until the last minute.
"He's not fast, but he's got good feel in the pocket and knows when to sidestep out of the way," said Jim Lippincott, the Bengals director of pro/college personnel. "He's been rushed a lot and he's got excellent poise and instincts."
The post-season has been a roller-coaster for Kurt Kittner of Illinois because it looks like he'll end up where he started. After some sub-par outings at all-star games, he has apparently put on some terrific outings in Champaign and has scratched back to the bottom of the second round and top of the third.
"Ramsey is the hot guy," Jones said, "but his statistics at Tulane are almost exactly what Kittner had at Illinois."
Here's one former Illinois quarterback, Bengals director of pro/college personnel Duke Tobin, on another.
"He's got a high test score, great intelligence, and he's been productive at a Big 10 school," said Tobin of Kittner. "They weren't very good until he started playing and that's impressive. The big thing for him is how consistent can he be?"
After those four quarterbacks go in the first three rounds, everyone in the NFL will have a different board.
"This is turning out to be a first-day draft quarterback class," Lippincott said. "There's not too many of them. If you need one, teams are going to take them earlier than you should take one so that you get one. By the time the first day is over, a lot of the quality is going to be gone. Teams are going to reach."
After the Fab Four come players like Sam Houston State's Josh McCown, LSU's Rohan Davey and Stanford's Randy Fasani. They all have some negatives and this is where Tobin is looking for the unseen.
"There are some guys who are going to get drafted on the second day who are going to make it and develop. And they're harder to identify," Tobin said of the quarterback position. "You have to have enough tangibles to succeed, but if you don't have the intangibles, you really have nothing. You have to have leadership and the ability to think quickly. Make good, sound decisions in a fast period of time. You have to be able to see the big picture, and some people's minds don't work that way."
Out on the road, quarterback coaches are apparently falling in love with McCown's Favre-like size and release. But gurus like Jones remember he didn't cut it at Division I SMU.
"All you've really got on him is the Senior Bowl in which he did well," Jones said. "You don't have any record of consistent play against a high level of competition."
Davey has 21st-century size, but the scouts are getting nervous about his ability to grasp the next level.
Fasani has all the tangibles (Buchsbaum notes the 234-pounder somehow runs the 20-yard agility drill in under four seconds) and the intangibles (he went from Parade Magazine High School Quarterback of the Year to oblivion back to the top), but he hasn't been all that durable and he's erratic when it comes to accuracy.
Of course, there are some draft boards that may have BYU's Brandon Doman and Vanderbilt's Greg Zolman in the middle of that second-day mix. It just depends on what you like because everyone has a different opinion on what makes a NFL quarterback.
"Just when you say a guy needs this or that as a requirement to make it," Bratkowski said, "you can think of a guy who made it without that."
This year, Bratkowsk is staying at home and re-tooling the offense while scouting quarterbacks on tape. Quarterbacks coach Ken Anderson is on the road meeting with players and coaches and scouting workouts in the bid to find the right mix of tangible and intangibles.
Tobin says not to forget about Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch of Nebraska. Buchsbaum has him projected as a safety and Jones has him going as a running back. But Tobin likes the unseen.
"He's certainly got the intangibles and then you start to measure the tangibles and they add up," he said. "He runs faster than any of these guys."