4-6-04, 4:10 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
As the Draft Day questions roll through Cincinnati like presidential (not to mention vice) presidential candidates, one thing is for sure.
With their compensation draft pick that comes at the end of the third round at No. 96, the Bengals are going to get a shot at a player who should contribute fairly quickly. Just look what teams in their own AFC North have done with recent mid-range compensation picks.
The Steelers chose Pro Bowl wide receiver Hines Ward in 1998 with a comp pick at No. 92 in the third round and the next year used another comp to select running back Amos Zereoue in virtually the same slot at No. 95. One round after the Steelers took Zereoue; the Ravens used an extra pick at the end of the fourth to choose one of the NFL's strongest guards in Edwin Mulitalo.
And, of course, everyone in New England alive on that famous day and year in 2000 when the Patriots chose Tom Brady in the sixth round knows it was with a compensatory pick.
Not only that, out of last year's crop, seventh-round pick Wayne Lucier ended the season as the Giants' starting center and sixth-rounder Makoa Freitas helped the Colts get to the playoffs subbing for the injured Tarik Glenn at left tackle.
Now, with Virginia Tech's DeAngelo Hall and South Carolina's Dunta Robinson flying up the board and Ohio State's Chris Gamble and USC's Will Poole running slowly in their workouts, according to numbers compiled by NFL.com, could the Bengals decide to wait to get their cornerback in the third round with possibly no impact corner available at No. 17? At least one draft guru thinks they could use that extra pick to get one of their two most pressing needs on defense, a run-stuffing defensive tackle or corner.
Certainly, Jerry Jones, the former Cincinnati pharmacist who publishes "The Drugstore List," believes there is a pretty good list of tackles.
"That position doesn't have a lot of glamour like this wide receiver class has with the high picks," Jones says, "but it's one of the best loaded positions on the first day. This is a very good group."
Some third-round possibilities are Hawaii's Isaac Sopoaga, the 320-pound strongest man at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, and Oregon State's 310-pound Dwan Edwards. Why not Edwards? They have a good relationship with the coaches, and they already have five Oregon State players after taking three players in the past three drafts.
Of course, the Bengals have always been partial to that other OSU Ohio State and Jones does see a possibility there in 307-pound Tim Anderson.
"He's Marvin's kind of player," Jones says of Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. "A tough, blue-collar guy who goes out and will do everything that is asked of him."
There also could some interesting corners lurking at No. 96, but would they want to take another one two spots before where they selected Oregon State corner Dennis Weathersby last year? Plus, the six cornerbacks in last year's Pro Bowl were either drafted in the first or second round.
"But not all your corners who turn out to be good ones go that high," says Jones, who likes guys like Division II's Ricardo Colclough out of Tusculum, McNeese State's Keith Smith, and Nathan Vasher of Texas.
After the first round, all the corners are going to have some type of Scarlet A on their resume. The Bengals liked Colclough when they coached him at the Senior Bowl despite his twin knocks of size (5-11, 189 pounds) and lack of big-time competition. But if speed is what you want and what you're not going to get at No. 17, he should pop off a sub 4.5 40-yard dash when he runs next week.
McNeese State's Smith is another smallish guy at 5-11, 185 pounds, but he has a great knack for the ball and 48 pass breakups during his sophomore and junior seasons. While some top corners have had trouble running in ideal conditions, Smith was forced inside and ran a 4.49 40-yard dash on a slick wood floor.
The 5-9, 180-pound Vasher is really small, but Jones says he may be the best cover corner in the draft. A nice pickup for a secondary and special teams, but probably not the type of an every-down corner they need.
They are probably going to talk about pursuing another veteran free-agent corner in former Titan and Viking Denard Walker in the coming days and there has already been contact between the sides.
On Tuesday, backup guard-tackle Victor Leyva, a restricted free agent, signed his one-year tender of about $630,000.