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Hobson's Choice: Safe and sound

*Q: I've been shifting my thinking as to who we might (or rather, should) draft. In checking many of the draft sites (which, admittedly, count for very little), it looks as if there may be some good D-linemen available when we pick--guys like Adam Carriker from Nebraska, Justin Harrell from Tenn. and even Alan Branch from Michigan (seems to be falling due to weight/effort concerns).

My question is, are you warming up to the idea of a DT/DE instead of a DB? Looking at the DB talent pool it seems like there are some solid athletes we could take in Round 2 (Jonathan Wade from Tenn. should be there, Josh Wilson from Maryland, and a slew of safety prospects). Given our anemic pass rush, doesn't this make sense? Best way to make your DBs better is to give the QB less time to throw, right?*
**--Steve M., Washington, D.C.

STEVE:** Right. But while there are some interesting guys there, there are also bigger questions on the defensive line than with the secondary guys and you've got to know at No. 18 that you can get an every-down player fairly quickly.

The weight stuff has to scare you about Branch and it doesn't sound like he'll help any time soon rushing the passer. Harrell, another tackle, is a real talent but he's been beat up and the torn biceps injury he suffered this past season can be a devastating injury for a guy at a position where the hands and arms are so important. Carriker is a nice, versatile player but at 308 pounds is he a tackle or end and do you have time to find out?

On the other hand, it looks like there are going to be a batch of cornerbacks (Darrelle Revis, Chris Houston) and safeties (Reggie Nelson, Michael Griffin) that, like Johnathan Joseph last year, you know what you've got right now.

The D-linemen are interesting, but it just seems like the surer, safer first-round picks are in the secondary at No. 18.

Q: With Michael Myers in the fold, does this take Okoye or Branch off the board in the draft should they be there? Do they look in the later rounds for a lesser known DT, or is tackle completely out of the picture?
**--Dave, Dayton, OH

DAVE:** They definitely won't have a shot at Okoye and they probably won't get one at Branch and I'm not sure they'd grab Branch given his tag as an underachiever with enormous potential. In this climate big on intangibles, that may not play well with one M. Lewis.

The Myers deal won't stop them from taking a young guy they like later. If there's a tossup on the second day with guys, that could be a factor. But, remember, last year they still took defensive tackle Domata Peko in the fourth round three weeks after they signed defensive tackle Sam Adams.

To me, the more interesting impact on the draft would be if they signed middle linebacker Ed Hartwell. Even if they chose to move him to the weak side, that could take them out of the Beason-Posluszny derby.

But, then again, Hartwell is only going to do a one-year deal, so it probably wouldn't.

Q: Why can't the Bengals use Reggie McNeal as a third quarterback/receiver and save salary cap and roster space? Marvin did say he is our version of Randle El.
**--Matt F., Mount Orab, OH

MATT:** Maybe the Bengals aren't so cheap after all since they're not using that two-for-one cap bargain. But, seriously, you probably just answered the question by asking it.

You've got to feel that if they felt comfortable with him playing quarterback, they would have done it before making this latest foray into free agency. So the only conclusion to reach is they think he's a wide receiver.

But so is Randle-El.

It doesn't mean they still can't use him as a QB in specialty situations and maybe they'll do more now that he's got a year of playing receiver. Certainly everyone loved McNeal's eight-yard keeper against Indy last year. Maybe that will give them some inspiration.

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