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Feeling a draft

A.J. Green

Six combines ago when we asked CBS Sports analyst Rob Rang for the name of a cornerback that would be worthy and available at No. 24 two months later in the NFL Draft, he didn't hesitate with the correct call of South Carolina's Johnathan Joseph.

Now with Leon Hall recovering from a torn Achilles, Nate Clements heading into his 12th season and Adam Jones and Kelly Jennings heading into free agency, we turn to The Seer again for a corner at No. 17.

He offers two with North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins, and Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard. At 5-9, both are a little short when it comes to head coach Marvin Lewis's preference for tall corners in this era of the A.J. Green wideouts. And Rang notes Jenkins's character problems that led to his departure from Florida.

"I don't think Jenkins's issues are bad enough to knock him out of the first round," Rang says in reference to Jenkins's two marijuana arrests in three months. "Teams are going to have to decide that, but no question he would be ranked higher without those questions. Dennard doesn't quite have the same cover skills but he's a very physical, tough kid that plays the run and played a lot of press coverage in college."

The Bengals, who are destined to be one of the teams on center stage during the April 26-28 NFL Draft with two first-round picks (maybe they'll even get a war room video), submerge into the draft season the next two weeks at the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., before heading to Mobile, Ala., the week of Jan. 22 to scout the Senior Bowl.

Enter the cliché here.

What a difference a year makes.

The last time the Bengals left Mobile they were looking for a quarterback. Now a year later when they get there, the quarterback they found will most likely be in Hawaii getting ready for the Pro Bowl, held the day after the Senior Bowl on Jan. 29.

Now the Bengals are probably looking on the other side of the ball with cornerback and defensive tackle leading the speculation. The guys they won't see the next two weeks they'll catch at the Feb. 22-28 scouting combine in Indianapolis.

As usual when free agency starts March 13, they won't be looking for big names and are most likely to focus on signing own players. The Bengals hope to have guys like kicker Mike Nugent and safety Reggie Nelson locked up before offseason workouts start April 16 at Paul Brown Stadium.

But for now it is draft gurus like Rang and Jerry Jones of "The Drugstore List" already making some calls. Jones, who has been charting Bengals drafts since the creation and was actually in the room for a few of them, senses Cincinnati may make noise early at running back and wide receiver to help quarterback Andy Dalton.

"I thought Dalton was a big reach in the second round last year but he certainly proved that he wasn't a reach at all," Jones says. "He did things rookie quarterbacks simply have not done. They need more there to take the heat off him and Green."

Jones, of course, would love Alabama running back Trent Richardson at No. 17 but he's not going to fall that far and the Bengals won't trade up for a running back. After all, this is the 17th anniversary of the Ki-Jana Carter trade-up.

After Richardson, Jones isn't so sure there's a first-round back and the Bengals have shown a preference for waiting until the second round to grab a back with Eric Ball (1989), Harold Green (1990), Corey Dillon (1997) and Kenny Irons (2007).

But Rang thinks Miami's Lamar Miller and Virginia Tech's David Wilson could be options for the Bengals at No. 21. Neither have the size the Bengals always seek in their bell cow backs, but Rang believes the 5-10, 205-pound Wilson and the 5-11, 212-pound Miller can be franchise backs.

After getting singed by Ray Rice's quickness this season, Wilson's explosion should interest the Bengals and Miller's durability and inside toughness make him seem a little bigger.

But Rang has already had a few mock drafts in which he's projected Georgia guard Cordy Glenn to the Bengals at No. 21. The 6-5, 350-pound Glenn was able to play left tackle this past season despite his girth after he played guard opposite Clint Boling, the Bengals fourth-round pick last year.

"Knowing how the Bengals love their linemen big and his ability to play both spots and the fact they just picked Boling, it seems like a good fit," Rang says.

O-LINE GM: Speaking of the Ki-Jana Draft in 1995, Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander remembers the next day when Cincinnati picked a tackle from Purdue in the sixth round in part because he was an extremely big guy that he projected to play both guard and tackle.

But the Bengals couldn't sneak Ryan Grigson to the practice squad and Alexander remembers how the Lions snuck in and plucked him off waivers. Grigson soon hurt his neck and had to continue other pursuits, where he did rather well.

So earlier this week, Alexander was on the phone with Grigson congratulating him on becoming the general manager of the Colts.

Now that Alexander thinks about that '95 training camp, it's not all that surprising. During film sessions he discovered he had a guy that grew up reading the legendary Joel Buchsbaum's draft guides instead of the Hardy Boys.

Before Alexander's assistant, Bob Surace, became the head coach at Princeton, his photographic recall earned him the nickname "Rain Man." But Alexander had seen it before.

"There was Surace, but Grigson was the first Rain Man," Alexander said. "We'd be watching the fourth quarter of Indianapolis and Chicago and I'd say, 'OK, who's No. 67?' Well, no one knew who No. 67 was. Grigson knew who No. 67 was. 'That's Billy Smith from Ohio Wesleyan. He's 6-2, 290. He didn't get drafted because he ran 5.2 in the 40. But he's got long arms and he's got ability. But they worry about his character.' "

"That's what he did," Alexander said. "That was his hobby."

Grigson would play a game. Any school. Anywhere in the country. Big. Small. Didn't matter. And he would know its nickname. The Bengals at the time actually had a player from Ohio Wesleyan named Keith Rucker.

"And (Grigson) knew it," Alexander said of the Battling Bishops.

So Alexander is pretty certain the Colts have a guy capable to make the first pick in the draft.

"He won't screw it up," Alexander said.

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