Inside the pick

4-21-01, 12:46 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The Bengals made a bid for two starters at positions that have hindered them for years in the first hour of Saturday's NFL Draft.

But they couldn't strike a deal with former Tampa Bay veteran defensive end Chidi Ahanatou after he was cut Friday. So the club with AFC's fewest sacks turned to highly-regarded rush end Justin Smith of Missouri with the fourth pick.

Negotiations went late Friday night and into Saturday morning with Ahanatou, and the talks with agent Eugene Parker perked up again until about 90 minutes before the draft got underway Saturday at noon.

The idea was to sign Ahanatou and take a left tackle with the fourth pick. But with Ahanatou out of the picture and Texas left tackle Leonard Davis gone No. 2 to Arizona, the Bengals' War Room debate centered on Smith and Florida right tackle Kenyatta Walker.

Even though mock drafts from ESPN, CNN, CBS Sportsline (even Bengals.com) had the Bengals taking Davis or Walker, Smith was never far from the Bengals' thoughts.

The Bengals had the Davis-to-Arizona script sketched out early in the week and made some forays with teams on Friday about trading down.

Cincinnati toyed with trading down to around the bottom of the top ten so it could get an extra second-round pick. But the Bengals had no takers. They got one call on the clock Saturday before they picked, but there were no offers for this year's draft.

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