Draft influx boosts Bengals

1-14-01, 7:00 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The corner-starved Bengals think their draft hopes got a boost Monday when the NFL released its list of 37 underclassmen eligible for the April 20-21 draft.

With University of Miami cornerback Phillip Buchanon coming out early, the odds increased that a top cover cornerback could be available when the Bengals pick 10th in the first round.

"It makes an already deep draft deeper," said Bengals personnel man Jim Lippincott. "It populates the field."

Which means if the three best cornerbacks are gone by the time the Bengals pick, "then a very good player is still going to be there," said Duke Tobin, Lippincott's colleague in the personnel department.

Some view the top three corners as Buchanon and seniors Quentin Jammer of Texas and Keyou Craver of Nebraska.

"Buchanon and Craver are mirror images," Lippincott said. "They both have a lot of the same attributes. Big-time quickness, big-time speed that can close and a guy that is going to play in the NFL for a long time."

The Bengals won't draft a wide receiver or running back, but two underclassmen declaring Monday might make teams picking in front of them want one. With Florida

wide receiver Jabar Gaffney and Boston College running back William Green now available, the top 10 board is shrinking. Another underclassman, North Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers, figures to be a top five lock.

"How often do you go through a draft and a wide receiver isn't taken in the top 10?" Tobin asked.

Lippincott wondered, "Somebody is going to want a running back. We don't want one, but if another team is looking for one, it would be hard to look past William Green. Do you want a guy like Corey Dillon? This kid is a Corey Dillon clone. Same kind of power, body lean, and he's got a burst. He can run away from people."

If the Bengals can't get a corner, the thinking is they will opt for an offensive tackle. Miami of Florida's Bryant McKinnie and Texas' Mike Williams are seen as top ten picks. Another player who came out Monday, Florida tackle Michael Pearson, could be.

"The teams in front of us can only take nine players," Tobin said. "That's why I think we're going to be in an excellent position. Somebody is going to be there who is not only a good player, but one who also plays a spot that will help us."

Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington is also projected to go in the top five. Fresno State quarterback David Carr also doesn't figure to fall out of the top ten.

So two quarterbacks, two tackles, two corners, a wide receiver, a running back and a defensive end take up nine spots,

Which means, with about 90 days to go until the draft, the Bengals have a good chance at getting a cornerback or a tackle with that top pick.

"It helps us," Lippincott said of Monday's influx of players. "But teams are still studying and it's a long way off."

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