The Bengals and the rest of the NFL teams returned home from the scouting combine Tuesday and here are some of the emerging observations from some eyes that were there:
» There is no sure-fire, drop-dead, consensus top 10 quarterback prospect. Cam Newton came to town like the next Sam Bradford and left as the next Tim Tebow. All in about 48 hours. Thanks to inaccurate passing and a defensive attitude in team interviews.
"That doesn't mean some of them won't be good players," one scout said. "And it doesn't mean some of them won't go in the top 10. But if you're saying there's no top 10 guy now, then you're going to spend the next two months trying to convince yourself."
» It's a deeper draft than usual in the mid rounds, where the Bengals are looking for a guard, safety and running back.
"You can see the personal training for the combine is really making a difference," said a long-time personnel director. "There were very few sloppy offensive linemen. It's as deep as the defensive line's ever been and out of about 60 DBs, I don't think anyone ran more than a 4.5 40. They were gorgeous. You'll be able to find some good players in the mid rounds."
» With the Bengals hopeful of re-signing free agent Cedric Benson, they are going to be looking for a running back just in case. And there will be plenty in rounds one to four even though the lone stud is Alabama's Mark Ingram.
"There are a bunch of guys that if you give them the ball 250 times this year, they'll get 1,000 yards," the scout said. "I think the league is finding out you can virtually get one anywhere when a guy like Arian Foster leads the league in rushing and he's a college free agent."
Maybe like Georgia Tech's Anthony Allen, a seventh-rounder on some boards. NFL Network's Charley Casserly anointed Allen a sleeper at running back following his workout. The 6-foot, 232-pound Allen, who played close to the line of scrimmage at fullback at Tech, showed enough cutting ability in the drills that Casserly thinks his size and mobility is a good fit in NFL-style runs.
» With no quarterback seemingly worthy at No. 4 barring a monstrous campus pro day by Blaine Gabbert at Missouri on March 17, the Bengals are faced with an age-old decision between Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson and Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus.
Of course, one of those guys will be gone by No. 4, and maybe two of them. But the dilemma remains. A road map? When the Bengals have been in the top five, they have almost always gone for the unique positions of quarterback, offensive line, defensive line and cornerback. In the nine drafts they've had a top five pick since 1980, they've taken two quarterbacks, two defensive ends, a defensive tackle, a left tackle, a cornerback, a running back, and wide receiver. Note that the running back (Ki-Jana Carter) and wide receiver (Peter Warrick) never panned out.
"That high in the draft," said one club official, "you have to think about the premium positions. The corners. The down linemen. There just aren't that many of them. You've got to get them when you can."
JORDAN RALLIES:It turns out the Bengals receivers are going to be throwing to a Palmer in March and April even if there's a lockout.
It is Jordan Palmer, the Bengals backup quarterback, who is taking it upon himself to round up the receivers and get them to Arizona or southern California later this month and next month. That includes the running backs, too, because he's also been on the horn with Benson and Bernard Scott.
"I've talked to Jerome a few times and talking to Jerome is like talking to Bubba because they're joined at the hip," Palmer said Tuesday of Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell. "I've been in touch with (Jordan) Shipley and we're going to get a hold of Jermaine (Gresham). No matter what happens with the lockout, we'll be throwing."
For a lot of reasons, Palmer can't and won't elaborate on his brother's standoff with the Bengals. Carson Palmer wants a trade and head coach Marvin Lewis said last week the club is proceeding as if it won't have him at quarterback in 2011. But Bengals president Mike Brown is showing no signs that he's backing off his Jan. 24 statement that he does not intend to trade Palmer and the club's actions at the combine indicated it is preparing like he'll retire.
Jordan Palmer is stuck in the middle of it all, but he's doing what young backup quarterbacks do. Up until the collective bargaining agreement deadline of Thursday-Friday midnight he can talk to the coaches and he said he's had good discussions with quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese about new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's system.
"You know we're going to play good defense and it sounds like we're going to pound the ball and be creative in the passing game," Jordan Palmer said. "I think we're going to be the Jets and that's exciting to me. I don't know what's going to happen. I'm preparing like any other year, like I'm going to play, so I'll help get everybody together that I can get together and we can get going. If I'm not in the picture, then I'm at least helping get the team better."
Palmer said Bengals offensive lineman Evan Mathis owns a gym in Scottsdale, Ariz., so that is being looked at as a possible site for not only the receivers and backs to work, but also the offensive line. He's confident that he can show well in a training camp derby with a rookie quarterback because of his experience, but he knows it all starts with getting in a productive offseason.
And that means making sure he gets together with receivers.
"I learned that stuff from one of the league's best quarterbacks," Palmer said.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Bengals running back Bernard Scott's cousin, Abilene Christian wide receiver Edmund Gates, had a huge combine and he won't be under the radar like his cousin was when he went in the sixth round out of ACU in 2009. And he made sure he'll go before ACU wide receiver Johnny Knox's fifth-round selection by the Bears in '09 when he borrowed Knox's shoes to run the fastest 40 by a receiver at 4.37.
After Knox blazed a 4.34 in Indy in '09, Gates wanted to take a look at his shoes.
"I tried them on and they were nice," Gates said. "They fit nice and tight. My feet didn't move around at all and I asked him if I could use them for my combine, so he stowed them in his house in Houston."
Clif Marshall, Gates' personal trainer who works occasionally in the Bengals weight room, is now hearing the second round and no later than the third. Marshall threw in the second-best broad jump for a receiver behind Alabama's Julio Jones. The 5-11, 190-pound Gates has to fight the same small-school tag as his cousin and Knox, but Knox's selection as a Pro Bowl kick returner and Scott's career 4.6 yards per carry average should be convincing enough.
» Here is one personnel man's take on the top three passers at the combine: Arkansas' Ryan Mallettt, Nevada's Colin Kaepernick and Florida State's Christian Ponder:
"But the best guy if you look at what he did on tape is Gabbert," he said. "He's a big kid with a pretty good-sized arm. But these spread offenses they play in at college aren't doing these guys any favors."
» Here is one club official's take on the QBs:
"It's not a class with a (Dan) Marino or (John) Elway, but it's a pretty good class. About 10 of them are going to go in the first four rounds."
» There seems to be one difference between Georgia's Green and the man he would replace, Chad Ochocinco. One guy that sat in on an interview with Green said, "Very soft-spoken. I almost had to lean forward to hear him."