Q: It's been more than a week, and I am still having a difficult time understanding the second round selection of OT Andrew Whitworth. Right off the bat, I was convinced Bengals fans were facing one of two scenarios: A) The team will not re-sign at least one of the Big Three (Jones, Anderson & Steinbach), or B) All three are re-signed and the team wasted a 2nd round pick on a backup. Please help me see the bright side of this selection. Thanks.
**--Dave, Studio City, CA
DAVE:** The only way this is a wasted pick is if Whitworth shows up and has no versatility at all and can only play right tackle. Clearly, the Bengals don't think that despite some of the draftnick criticism, and remain very high on his big-man athleticism.
But you'd have to be downright naïve to think that the offensive line situation had nothing to do with the pick.
I had the same reservations the night of the draft, especially when Miami of Florida special teams maven Devin Hester went two picks later to the Bears.
Here they are, stacked at tackle with not only Levi and Willie, but also two other guys they like in Stacy Andrews and Adam Kieft. And they let a game-breaker like Hester get away. He might win one or two games for you in a season victories may not exactly be growing on trees early in the season.
But as the weekend went on, I felt better about it, mainly after finding out a little about Whitworth.
The guy is extremely durable (only one guy has played more games in Division I history), he's smart, and he's gone up against SEC speed on the left edge and left LSU with a 22-game sackless streak.
Plus, after Willie and guard Ken Blackman got picked in 1996, the Bengals went five straight drafts without taking a guard or tackle on the first day. You can't do that in the AFC North and live.
So anytime you come out of the draft with a solid first-day lineman and you have to line up against the Steelers, Ravens and Romeo Crennel, it's hard to get upset.
Plus, a lot of it is he was their best player on their board at the time, thanks to the Cowboys plucking Notre Dame tight end Anthony Fasano.
(Whitworth will always have Bill Parcells and Charlie Weis to thank for making him a Bengal.)
The Bengals simply didn't have a position for Hester, a guy that didn't really stand out at either receiver or cornerback. Who would they have cut to make room at either spot?
You can kind of compare the Whitworth pick to the Chris Perry thing in the first round in '04, another example of opting for the best player on the board at a position people didn't think they really needed. Not many felt good about that pick, but who in Bengaldom isn't glad they got him now?
There are no fools in Bengaldom. It is also a move that protects them if they lose one of the Willie, Levi, Steinbach trio. Really, it makes sense. It's only my opinion, but I just don't know how they can keep all three if all of them want top five money.
The team is going to try to keep all three, but it's going to be hard and you need some insurance. Plus, if they keep all three, you've got some versatility with Steinbach and Whitworth.
But that's a discussion for another era.