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First-round locks?


Forget trying to analyze everything including the dandruff of the top seven or so quarterbacks in this year's NFL Draft.

Trying to decipher how many quarterbacks are going to be first-rounders is the biggest mystery and another way to crack the code is to count how many players are going to be gone according to the consensus. The exercise is only useful if the Bengals opt to go somewhere other than quarterback at No. 4 and still see someone of note with that third pick in the second round.

(Because, at what point do the Bengals call off the QB hunt, decide to get a veteran whenever free agency starts, and take one of those intriguing defensive ends at No. 35?)

No matter which mock drafts you look at, these players are almost always gone in the first round:

Seven DEs in Da'Quan Bowers, Robert Quinn, Adrian Clayborn, Cameron Jordan, Ryan Kerrigan, J.J. Watt, Aldon Smith.

Five OTs in Tyron Smith, Anthony Castonzo, Nate Solder, Gabe Carimi, Derek Sherrod.

Four DTs in Nick Fairley, Marcell Dareus, Corey Liuget, Muhammad Wilkerson.

Three CBs in Patrick Peterson, Prince Amukamara, Aaron Williams.

Two QBs in Cam Newton and Blaine Gabert.

Two WRs in A.J. Green and Julio Jones.

Two OLBs in Von Miller and Akeem Ayers

One RB in Mark Ingram.

One center in Mike Pouncey.

Already that's 27 players. Throw in borderline guys that appear in many mock first rounds like Jake Locker at quarterback, the rapidly-rising Kyle Rudolph at tight end, Danny Watkins at guard, Jimmy Smith at cornerback, and suddenly you're at 31 out of 32 first-round picks. Plus, Scouts Inc. rates other borderline guys such as defensive tackle Stephen Paea, defensive end Brooks Reed and cornerback Brandon Harris in its top 32.

All of which reflects that the pros, media, and draftnicks alike don't have much first-round faith in this class of quarterbacks beyond Newton and Gabbert. The tier below them—Locker, Ryan Mallett, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton, and Colin Kaepernick—all have enough dents that many believe they have second- and third-round grades around a good deal of the league.

Count senior analyst Rob Rang as one that believes one, if not two, of those guys are going to be there at No. 35.

"I think four quarterbacks will go in the first round; I don't see many more than that," Rang says. "I think Locker is going to be a top 16 pick and then I think either Seattle, or a team jumping up ahead of Cincinnati takes one."

Good, solid players and one of them may be a Montana. But two things are going to have to happen for five, or even six, quarterbacks to go before the Bengals pick in the second round. Teams are going to have to reach past more solid picks and there are going to have to be a flurry of trades.

"You're right. The quarterbacks don't have as high grades as some of these defensive ends and offensive tackles," Rang says. "That's the importance of the position, but it's also bad drafting. That would mean some of the better players would slip into the second round. It's just tough for me to see six, or even five, gone by 35."

"You figure everyone is watching the same tape and know the same things about the same guys," says one NFL scout. "They all know their limitations."

But no one thinks that is going to stop QB-starved teams from ignoring grades and drafting for the position.

Never a good strategy, but it's the only strategy there is in a frozen league.

HOT-COLD STUFF: The prospects are riding waves like surfers. Dalton, the TCU quarterback, had a red-hot Friday. Once seen as a third-round pick, he is riding high on SI maven Peter King's Twitter as a possible first-rounder. Meanwhile, a bad week for Bowers and Fairley continued with medical uncertainties about Bowers' knee, and work habit concerns for Fairley.

WHAT GOES AROUND: Who would have thunk it in the aftermath of the Sam Wyche Bengals' 61-7 drubbing of Jerry Glanville's Houston Oilers back on Dec. 17, 1989 at Riverfront Stadium?

Wyche and the Bengals, it will be recalled, had a hate-hate relationship with their bitter AFC Central rivals. The weeks leading up to their games, which always seemed to have a hand in deciding the playoffs, were littered with trash-talking and The-Man-In-Black Glanville and the irrepressible Wyche fueled it. It culminated in this do-or-die game, where in the final minute Wyche called a timeout so Jim Breech could kick a 30-yard field goal.

Then Wyche waved an irate Glanville off the field.

Now Glanville, 69 years young, is assembling a UFL coaching staff in Hartford and his first couple of hires have come right off the Wyche tree. After naming former Bengals defensive lineman and coach Tim Krumrie as his D-line coach, Glanville warned, "Wait until you see my next hire. You'll scream like a teenage girl at the top of a ferris wheel."

Asked if it was Wyche, he said, "Close."

It didn't turn out to be a screamer, but the appointment of former Bengals backup quarterback Turk Schonert as quarterbacks coach and the ensuing press release was still quite intriguing.

"He played for two of the best minds in offensive football—Bill Walsh and Sam Wyche. How could it get any better?" Glanville asked in the announcement.

"Sam's a fine coach. We were competitors, but that's all," Glanville elaborated. "Everywhere I go across the United States of America people always ask me about that division. I don't think there's been anything like it since. We were always right there with Cincinnati and Cleveland, and Pittsburgh was still pretty good, too."

Schonert played under Walsh at Stanford and for Wyche in Cincinnati before Wyche brought him to Tampa Bay in 1992 for the first of his six NFL jobs coaching quarterbacks.

"He's got a real good knowledge of 'NASCAR,' the up-tempo no-huddle that is kind of like what Sam ran," Glanville said. "He comes very highly recommended from guys that used to work for me and that's very important to me. You see, if you recommend a guy to me and he's no good, I fire you. That way you stop all these friendship hires. Jimmy Robinson and Bill Kollar came to me and said, 'We don't work for you anymore, but we know the rule. You wouldn't fire us. This guy is good.' "

Kollar, the Bengals' first pick in the 1976 NFL Draft, served as Glanville's D-line coach for a couple of NFL seasons. When Wyche was asked if Glanville had contacted him about working for the Colonials, Wyche laughed.

"I may have missed that call," Wyche said. "Jerry's a good coach. The games and the rivalries were intense. It wasn't too long ago when I recommended Jerry for the Buffalo job (in 2001). Hey, if a guy's a good coach, I'm going to recommend him. I've got no problem with that."

Glanville calls Krumrie one of the top three defensive line coaches in football, but he remembers how he played, too.

"Everybody talks about what it takes to play great defense, but then we just walk away from it," Glanville said. "It takes going all out every snap, playing hard, playing disciplined. I know that's what this guy gives: a lot of passion."

Glanville is amassing quite a grizzled NFL staff for a developmental league. And he's not done.

"Wait until my next hire," Glanville said. "We'll announce it Monday. You'll go crazy. You won't believe it."

It didn't sound like it's Wyche, but stay tuned anyway. 

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