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Lewis draft take; Scheffler talks denied

Updated: 9 p.m.

The Bengals' Marvin Lewis kept the tradition going Friday and did what every NFL coach is supposed to do in his pre-draft news conference.

He said he'll let their draft board make the pick at No. 21 in the first round. He wouldn't rule out a trade down if their guys aren't there. He said they'll add depth based on what the first pick is, and basically allowed next to nothing about the process that begins Thursday at 7:30 p.m., and continues with the second and third rounds Friday beginning at 6 p.m. and the last four rounds Saturday beginning  at 10 a.m.

Based on last year's first round that took three hours and 22 minutes, the Bengals would make their first pick at about 9:30 p.m.

Lewis did allow that his 2009 AFC North champs don't have a gaping hole that needs to be filled with the first pick.

"We're not going into the draft saying, 'We have an empty chair at one particular spot,' " Lewis said. "We're kind of letting the draft board pick our player and obviously we'll address some areas as we go through the draft based on what occurs in the first round."

Lewis said he thought the draft's new format could spark more trades in the second round.

"There may be more of that because teams would have more of an opportunity to look at that," he said. "I think two teams don't have first-round picks. It gives them a chance to go into the second round and say, 'Maybe we need to make sure to get up and get a particular guy.' ... Maybe there's more time to bargain to give up something down the line. Maybe more player trades because it takes a little longer to get player trades done because there is (more) time from one night to the next evening than we've seen in the past.

"I don't think you want to alter it," said Lewis of his team's board during the gap between the first and second rounds. "I think you have a chance to re-look. 'Boy, nobody thought this guy was going to be sitting there.' Kind of what you did in the past at the start of the fourth. ... Probably overthink it, overanalyze it. Probably not the best thing to do."

The biggest sign that Lewis feels his team is "in a good state," is his belief the 21st pick doesn't have to start Opening Day. He thinks it is a sign of a strong program and is unable to recall a Steelers first-round pick starting right away during his first four seasons of NFL coaching in Pittsburgh. Since he became the head coach in 2003, the Bengals have started three first-rounders Opening Day in cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall and WILL linebacker Keith Rivers. But Joseph and Hall started because of injury and both didn't start again for a month.

"Hopefully he does or he can, but I can't guarante that. He doesn't have to," Lewis said. "And that's generally a good situation for the team. Because I think the guys respect that. That gives everybody on the current roster a good feeling. There's nothing guraranteed here. Everybody earns the opportunity to be out there on that field and that's my job to fit them in the right spots."

Part of the draft room discussions have nothing to with the 2010 Opening Day lineup because the club is also trying to look beyond with contracts. Three big-time starters are heading into the last year of their deals, Joseph, running back Cedric Benson, and middle linebacker Dhani Jones.

"That's kind of a little thing that sits above our head the entire time," Lewis said. "To understand where we are as a team and, more importantly, the organzation as it moves forward to make sure we recover ourselves. But it has to be a guy you feel can fill that spot and if you take a guy that can't fill that spot, or he's going to have to really get on the treadmill to fill that spot, whether it be physical ability or mental ability, or some other issue, then what really do you have?"

The last time the Bengals traded down?

The 2004 first round, when they did it twice. They went from 17 to 24 to pick up Denver cornerback Deltha O'Neal. Then they went from No. 24 to No. 26 for a fourth-rounder.

"If it gets close and there's a lot of movement around those picks and there's a couple of guys that fit us in the right spots, then there's an opportunity to do that," he said. "If a player is there, we would prefer to step up and pick him. Maybe the guys that fit us the the best go before us, and after there's a couple of guys we can wait on, then possibly yes."

With the Bengals still interested in re-signing veteran tight end Reggie Kelly, Lewis said some of the position's needs could be addressed prior to the draft, but "we don't need to panic in any way."

The only one of the three tight ends that has any NFL experience is Dan Coats, a former college free agent that has struggled with drops. Lewis made it clear they're banking on getting something from last year's late third-rounder Chase Coffman.

Coffman never played as he battled a broken foot from his last game at Missouri and the transition to blocking. But Lewis said he's had players such as quarterback Carson Palmer have a redshirt year and go on to be a Pro Bowler by the end of their second and third seasons.

"We feel good about Chase. We felt we were able to address some physical needs and improve him physically," Lewis said. "We knew there was a chance it would be a redshirt year for him and that's eventually how it worked out and that's probably a good thing. (When they do play) they earned it, they were mentored.

"Andre (Smith) is in that situation as well," Lewis said of last year's No. 1 pick at right tackle. "They will reap the benefit. Carson certainly did and I think other guys will follow suit."

For some reason, Lewis' comments ignited speculation that the Bengals are going to trade for Denver tight end Tony Scheffler.

The Broncos denied Friday night that they have talked to Cincinnati about Scheffler and it would go against the Bengals' grain. The Bengals almost never give up a draft pick for a veteran player and don't look for it to happen here with a deep field of tight ends in the draft. When Lewis was talking about pre-draft solutions, he was most likely talking about re-signing Kelly and/or J.P. Foschi.

Lewis isn't about to join the songs calling this the deepest defensive draft in years.

"There are a lot of names but in those names there are other things," Lewis said. "There's the medical. There's the physical characteristics. Some of the off-field things that occur. There are a lot names but when you get down to it, it shakes out to about the same most of the time."

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