Hobson's Choice: Wide open

*Q: Who do you see the Bengals eyeing in the draft? What if they make the Robertson deal happen before the draft, does that change their focus? If Darren McFadden falls to them, will they take him or trade out of that spot. If Dorsey, Ellis or Gholston are there, do they take one of them? What if none of those three are still around?

--Matt E., Xenia, OH*

MATT: As our Media Mock Draft reflected last week, this draft is wide open now that Antwan Odom is signed and no one knows if the best two defensive tackles, Dorsey or Ellis, are going to slide to No. 9.

And with Odom here, that most likely takes defensive ends like Gholston and Harvey out of the mix.

So where do you go if it's not a defensive lineman and you can't trade down? The way it's looking now, Dorsey, Ellis and Gholston probably aren't going to be there. What they need is the quarterbacks to get hot so either one of those tackles fall, or someone offers them a trade to jump ahead of a club that needs a quarterback.

But the teams picking right behind them, New Orleans, Buffalo and Denver, don't need a quarterback and you figure someone only has to get ahead of Carolina at No. 13 if they want one.

Sure, you have to believe they would grab McFadden if he falls. But no way he will. The question is if they think any of the next three running backs—Jones, Stewart and Mendenhall—is worthy at No. 9. Or if the top receiver, Oklahoma's Malcolm Kelly, is an option.

A linebacker, a defensive back, and an offensive tackle just don't seem to fit. No. 9 is too high for a backer and safety and they've got plenty of tackles.

Even if they do make the Robertson deal, there are some D-tackles in the middle of the draft that they'll probably pursue. But, no question, it is one of the biggest problems they've had ever since Marvin Lewis got here.

They want a dominating inside force, and if you don't have one of the top five picks, or you're not willing to drop a franchise number on a four-year guy with back-to-back seven-sack seasons like Green Bay's Corey Williams, or if you're not willing to make a trade plus give a guy a mega deal, you don't get him.

The Bengals have proven this past week they're more than willing to do the last option. But there doesn't seem to be much there beyond it.


Q: Do you think that the Bengals should go get Spikes and Simmons back? And if Pollack does come back, why not make him an end instead of linebacker?
--John F., Lawrenceburg, IN

JOHN: The heart tells me yes, but the head tells me the Bengals are going to be hesitant about Spikes and Simmons. With the Bengals seemingly sticking to a 4-3 base, Pollack figures to want to return as an end.

It'd be tough to re-sign two 11-year linebackers, but you'd have to feel that one of them would provide a great deal of leadership for a unit that just got younger with the free-agent departure of Landon Johnson.

In Simmons and Spikes, you're talking about two of the classiest acts in Bengals history and two of their greatest players. Unfortunately, they donated their bodies to a team that won 19 games in their first five seasons.

After talking to both guys in the last couple of weeks, neither would have a problem coming back. Indeed, they would embrace it. And the club wouldn't lose any compensatory picks.

But age and health are big topics right now for this club in the wake of last year's devastation and it is probably something they wouldn't do right away.

Still, it's a long way to Georgetown. Let's see what happens. A March depth chart hardly ever matches the one heading into training camp. Not after the draft and the spring camps.

As for Pollack, he lobbied Lewis hard to put him back at end almost from the minute he got drafted and they switched him to linebacker.

I always wonder if Pollack hadn't broken his neck, would they have put him at right end after the '06 season, let Justin Smith go to free agency, and put Rashad Jeanty in Pollack's spot on the strong side? Look at how much just one injury can not only affect a man's life, but the future of a team when it comes to scheme and salary cap.

Since he got hurt, Pollack has made the argument that he won't have those open-field collisions at end so you'd have to assume he's coming back as a right end, particularly since they seem to be staying in a 4-3.

But how the Odom signing affects that remains to be seen.

So whenever the subject of Pollack comes up, it's really always the same answer: You're just waiting.

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