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Measure for measure


INDIANAPOLIS — When the Bengals analyze the wide receivers here Sunday at the NFL Scouting Combine, they've got a fairly accessible measuring stick.

All they have to do is take what A.J. Green did here last year and start with his 34-inch arms that dangled off his 6-3.5, 208-pound frame while he fired up 18 reps of 225 pounds and a sub-4.5-second 40-yard dash that ran him into the fourth pick and the Bengals.

"There's nobody with A.J. Green's and Julio Jones's measurables," Bengals receivers coach James Urban said Saturday of last year's two top receivers. "And even if you take all that away, you've got a guy in A.J. that had the most yards by a rookie receiver in (five) years and was the first rookie Pro Bowl receiver in (eight years)."

So why not use Green for a measuring stick since the Bengals are trying to size up a running mate for him on the other side? With Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell free agents, Urban knows "we have to prepare with due diligence for free agency or draft guys trying to find the best option to play alongside A.J. Green."

The last time the Bengals went back-to-back drafting first-round receivers it worked out pretty well. Both years, like now, they had two first-round picks. Eddie Brown arrived via the 13th pick in 1985 before they went for linebacker Emmanuel King at No. 25 and in 1986 Tim McGee arrived with the 21st pick after linebacker Joe Kelly checked in 10 picks earlier.

With three of the four Bengals cornerbacks on the roster hurt (Leon Hall), inexperienced (Brandon Ghee played two snaps last year), or rusty (Rico Murray was on the street after he got cut following the opener), the Bengals could go corner at No. 17 and then go best player at No. 21.

There may not be a corner worthy at 17 and the only safety they would pick there is probably Alabama's Mark Barron, and his teammate Trent Richardson is probably the only running back.

But there are always wide receivers. The receivers may not measure like Green, but there are enough to give quarterback Andy Dalton another young impact player.

"You can get a good receiver in this draft at 17, 21, 41," said draft guru Gil Brandt.

"That's right about where the run (usually) starts and then goes to the top of the second round," Urban said.

When the dust settles in the 40-yard dash times Sunday, the receiver board after Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon is going to reset for the post-combine stretch heading into the March campus Pro Days and the names of Baylor's Kendall Wright, LSU's Rueben Randle, Notre Dame's Michael Floyd, and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery get shuffled again.

The 5-10, 194-pound Wright is rising with his speed and punt return ability overcoming his size. The 6-3, 229-pound Floyd is supposedly dropping with off-field nicks and the 6-4, 230-pound Jeffery is fighting concerns about his speed.

Brandt thinks the 6-4, 205-pound Randle may end up being the best of the post-Blackmon lot with the Green-ish brew of size and speed.

"There are going to be a lot of fast guys tomorrow and (the time) certainly becomes a factor because it is verified speed," Urban said.

But first-round draft picks don't live by the stopwatch alone. Urban won't get too excited about Sunday's activities. They're not jammed at the line, they're not covered, and they're not catching the ball from their quarterbacks.

"The combine is one piece of the puzzle. The interviews are one piece of the puzzle. The Pro Days are a piece of the puzzle," he said. "The biggest piece is the game tape. How do they play in games?"

But Urban sees some benefit in Sunday's workout. After eight seasons of coaching in the NFL, he'll be on the floor at Lucas Oil Stadium working the drills making his combine debut.

"I want to see their reactions," he said. "I want to see their faces. You can't really see that from the seats. I want to see who responds. Who literally and figuratively drops the ball?"

Urban believes it is going to be hard to find someone that can broad jump the 11 feet-plus that Simpson corked off here in 2008 for the longest of that combine or his 37.5-inch vertical leap that was the fourth highest that year.

But he figures there are going to be some top-level performances because "there are a lot of great athletes."

And Urban knows he's got a couple hidden on his own depth chart in four-year veteran Brandon Tate and Armon Binns, coming off a rookie year he did everything impressive but play in a game.

The Bengals never really had a shot to get Tate acclimated in the offense since he arrived off the waiver wire four days before the opener, but here's a guy that in 2010 averaged 18 yards on 24 catches from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for three touchdowns. This past year, Chad Ochocinco averaged 18.4 yards per his 15 catches and had just one touchdown in New England.

"I'm excited to have him this offseason and see if we can't see some of what you saw a couple of years ago when he started (10) games in New England," Urban said of Tate.

Urban tweaked the 6-3, 210-pound Binns's stance by making him more upright and he was impressed with how he embraced all the other improvements the coaches made in his game. Like his head coach, Urban isn't concerned about the youth of the room.

Urban does covet the most experienced of the lot, Caldwell, and how Caldwell led the group during practices and never griped about bouncing between the slot and the outside.

But there is Tate ("He's an old 24, he's an old soul," Urban said), and there is Green, the new measuring stick.

"You'd have to say," Urban said, "A.J. is pretty rare."

The Bengals are hoping they find someone that can measure up.

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