4-24-04, 7:10 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
In what may be the start of a trend, the Bengals opted in the second round for a player they saw at the Senior Bowl back in January when they took Florida cornerback Keiwan Ratliff with the first of their second-round picks at No. 49. They pick seven slots later at No. 56 with the choice they got from the Patriots in the Corey Dillon trade.
The 5-10, 192-pound Ratliff, named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year by The Sporting News, had a conference-leading nine interceptions. He's an Ohio prep product who played for the South against the Bengals-coached North team in the Senior Bowl.
The Bengals are excited about his 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.