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Hobson's Choice: Solid contact

Q: Am I the only one who thinks this is a very good draft? I asked you a few months ago if we shouldn't get a running back with speed. I love Rudi for his power and ability to get positive yards on every carry. However, with Perry not able to fulfill his role, we needed a running back with the breakout speed. I haven't heard of Irons' ability to catch passes.
--Bud, Hillsboro, OH

BUD: No, you've got some company. One NFC scout weighed in Monday with a solid grade and said the while the Irons pick surprised him, the Bengals had him right where he should have gone and that they have upgraded their secondary. Maybe not a home-run draft, but good contact.

"He's a real physical runner. For his size he runs a lot bigger. And he'll play hurt. He'll help you," said the guy, who also noted his hands as "reliable."

And, look, if Jim Anderson, the Bengals running backs coach, says Irons has good hands, he has good hands. Before Chris Perry caught 44 balls at Michigan his senior year, he caught just 20 in the previous two seasons, but he would have broken James Brooks' (speaking of Auburn) Bengals club record catches by a back if he didn't miss virtually three games with a sprained ankle in 2005 when he finished with 51.

Irons caught only 23 balls in two seasons at Auburn, but they just don't throw the ball down there.

The kid's value is what he can offer running the ball. He's got some burst and that supplies a change of pace, which should make Rudi more effective. Defenses won't be able to time him up.

Q: I am less optimistic on this draft. Ahmad Brooks seemed to be out of position a lot last year, even on special teams. The knock on him in college was he wasn't too bright. With losing Brian Simmons, linebacker also seems very light. The big beef I have is picks four through seven don't seem to help at all. Jeff Rowe is an intermediate route passer. The Bengals offense is a strong arm passing offense. No tight ends were drafted. We took another center when we have Wilkerson as a backup. Other teams passed on Hall. If he doesn't pan out, the Bengals' small scouting department missed on this draft.
--Jimmy Joe, Fort Mitchell, Ky.

JIMMY JOE: Sorry, but Hall is a solid 10-year pro. And, let's see. Going off the last media guide, Buffalo had about twice as many people in their personnel department and I would assume the Bills are getting flushed down Niagara Falls today.

First, they reached for Cal running back Marshawn Lynch at No. 12, a leap made heavier by his character baggage. Then they traded two picks to move up to the top of the second round to take Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny at No. 34 when some think they could have stayed put and got him at 43.

Then they inexplicably spent their other third-round pick on a top quarterback prospect in Trent Edwards even though their defense is bleeding with free-agent losses and they're happy with J.P. Losman.

Then, to finish it off, they took another running back in the fourth round.


So when it comes to drafting, does size really matter? The Ravens are so good not because they've got a guy with more titles than the Celtics, but because Ozzie Newsome is a hell of an evaluator and flat out can tell who can play and who can't.

The Rowe pick is the only one I really gripe about. Why spend a fifth-round pick on a guy who may never play here when you could use a tight end or another cornerback?

The argument for it is sound. It takes you out of the annual veteran carousel and gives you continuity and solid talent at a relatively cheap salary cap hit for a young guy that you hope is going to be better than the veteran once he gets the playbook under his belt.

The problem is, you keep saying next year you'll draft one, and next year never comes because there are always bigger needs.

The safeties in the fourth round and seventh round have the ability to help you right now. Certainly TCU's Marvin White is going to be a factor from scrimmage and on special teams and they've got high hopes that Notre Dame's Nedu Ndukwe can stick on special teams and maybe even do more. Both add a physical presence that has been sorely missing on this defense.

Apparently they're not as sold on their backup center as everyone else. In the last month, they've not only drafted Notre Dame's Dan Santucci, but signed a young former fourth-round pick in Ohio State's Alex Stepanovich.

You've got to give Brooks another year before you sell him out. He came in here with no spring workouts and went into training camp cold. If they sign Ed Hartwell, that should help what is now a very young position at backer, something a draft pick wouldn't have helped.

Hall may have gone No. 18, but that still doesn't take away what everyone knows he is and why everyone is giving them an A for the first pick.

He's a solid player and good character guy that already gives the Bengals one of the best young cornerback tandems at one of the NFL's premium positions.

Q: Do the Bengals have enough to win 10 games this season and make it to the second round of the playoffs?
--Tim, Fairfield, OH

TIM: Wait a minute, let me check Carson Palmer's pulse.



As long as the guy is upright, they've got a shot. Heck, they should have won 11 games last year and he was playing on one leg, they were playing against a much tougher schedule than they are this season, and a lot of defensive pieces were missing.

Now, is the defense better or worse? There are a lot of ifs, but certainly the secondary is better. If Sam Adams is healthy, if they get Odell Thurman back, if Ahmad Brooks plays like a first-rounder ...

But they were close to 11 wins with none of those last year, so, yeah, they've got enough to win 10.

(Remember, the last seven games of the year are against teams that didn't have winning records in '06.)

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