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Hobson's Choice: Defensive draft, but how many?

Q: Who do you see as the top possible draft picks that the Bengals might have a shot at with their first two or three picks in the draft? I think that defense, especially cornerback, safety, and linebacker, and maybe defensive tackle, must be looked at and upgraded via the draft.
--Perry B., Lawrenceburg, IN

PERRY: Oh yeah, all defense. But the interesting thing is how hard are they going to try to recoup that third-round pick and make it three first-day defensive players instead of just two?

If the Bengals don't want to trade down and not have a third-round pick, you can calm yourself by repeating over and over "Ahmad Brooks, Ahmad Brooks," because technically he is your third-round pick (from July's supplemental draft) and he is your starting middle backer.

But what if they get to No. 18 and there's just nothing that bowls them over?

You have to believe any tackle worthy of a first-round pick is long gone by then. So is Mississippi linebacker Patrick Willis and after that at backer look at the first-round history since they took backers Takeo Spikes and Brian Simmons Nos. 13 and 17 in 1998: None.

We don't know, but maybe they love guys like Florida State's Lawrence Timmons and Penn State's Paul Posluszny enough to buck that trend.

And what if they can get the same kind of safety or corner later in the round as they can at No. 18?

And you still can't rule out a wide receiver at No. 18 if he's the best player on the board. Not if Carson Palmer is your quarterback and Chris Henry is going to get suspended.

The problem is, they'll have a lot of company trying to trade down and you're going to have to slide a ways to make sure you get a third-rounder.

The matchups don't look like they can get much from teams with multiple third-rounders. Denver has two, but the Broncos are picking too close at No. 21 to get a third. The Chargers at No. 30 and the Colts at No. 32 also have two thirds but now you're basically talking about a second-round pick. But then again, maybe two solid second-rounders are better than a first-rounder at No. 18.

And, look, it would be hard to believe you could get a third-rounder straight up for cornerback Deltha O'Neal after his struggles last season and the fact he turned 30 in January. Yeah, I love what the guy did in '05 and think he can do it again in '07. But the '06 tape is the '06 tape.

Q: What's your take on the media's silence on the Joey Porter and gang attack on Levi? With so much focus on improving the league's image, how does an attack of this nature go relatively unnoticed?
--Dave, Petersburg, KY

DAVE: Hell of a question. But in the end it will get big play because Porter probably ends up being the first big name to feel the wrath of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's new conduct policy.

With Chris Henry, he's already eligible for suspension under the old policy. As for Pacman Jones, that's a bit of a mess because he hasn't been charged with anything yet and Goodell has to be careful.

But, yeah, you're right. The police report says one NFL player basically attacked another NFL player and had help. Goodell has to take a stand on it. Heck, that storyline is worthy of, at the very least, a bad B movie, not to mention daily news updates for a week.

But it's all very strange why it slid by. It seemed like it was only big news in Cincinnati and Miami.

Call it the offensive-line, small-market syndrome. As good as Levi Jones is, he's still a lineman. If it was Chad Johnson or Jeremy Shockey, or Larry Johnson, or Jake Delhomme, it's bigger news simply because the guy has the ball in his hands.

And as high-profile as Joey Porter has been, how much play has he really received outside of Pittsburgh?

A Pro Bowler, but a small-market Pro Bowler. I mean, two paragraphs from big-market defensive end Michael Strahan's divorce documents get World War III headlines, and an NFL player is involved in attacking another NFL player with robbery involved and it's treated like a high school baseball doubleheader nationally?

Plus, it happened in the middle of the NCAA basketball tournament, which even bailed out embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

It also didn't help that the police report wasn't released to the media for five days and then on a late Friday night because it was released at the end of a Vegas day, turning it into a news black hole.

And where's the casino video? If this was Britney Spears, ET or Total Access Pat O'Brien, or some damn network would have already had an hour special.

Q: Any chance the Bengals select saftey Brandon Meriweather?
--Ryan F., Cincinnati

RYAN: We'll find out right away about how serious they are about their new approach to Draft Day because he'll be there at No. 18, won't he?

How can they take him?

Meriweather, the Miami of Florida safety, has been in two high-profile brawls, the last of which came against Florida International and got him suspended for the next game.

He was also involved in an incident in which he fired a gun repeatedly at assailants of one of his teammates according to the web site "About: Football."

In the old days, like last year, he would be a tremendous fit because the guy can really play. He's been compared to other great Miami safeties like Ed Reed and Sean Taylor. And last season he played several games at corner because of injuries and dueled all-world wide receiver Calvin Johnson to five catches for just 68 yards, although he did get a touchdown. The kid is good.

This is another place where the off-field stuff kills you. He may end up being just fine off the field and the Pro Bowl safety that can define a defense.

"I told them I regret it and have changed in every way possible," is what he told the media he told teams.

But how can the Bengals gamble in the position they're in because of other recent draft picks?

The answer is, they can't.

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