Mock pick: Buchanon

4-16-02, 3:00 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Gil Brandt, the George Washington of draft gurus, you make the call for the bengals com mock draft board of the top ten.

"Phillip Buchanon, cornerback, University of Miami."

The 5-9, 185-pound Buchanon reached the 10th slot after a panel of beat reporters made the picks for the team they cover in anticipation of Saturday's first round of the NFL Draft.

"He's a tremendous athlete and he might be the best punt returner in the draft," said Brandt, architect of the Cowboys' personnel juggernaut of the '60s and '70s who now writes for NFL.com. "The only negative is he's 5-9, but he's so explosive and quick that it won't be a problem."

Here's how the bengals.com mock draft unfolded:

1. Houston _QB David Carr, Fresno State. What does it say that Drew Bledsoe's old guru in New England, Texans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer, isn't going after him? It says Bledsoe will be 33 by the time the expansionists are ready to contend.

2. Carolina _DE Julius Peppers, North Carolina. Selected by Pat Yasinskas, Charlotte Observer. No, they don't have a quarterback, but the NFL's worst defense may not be able to pass on home-grown Peppers.

3. Detroit _CB Quentin Jammer, Texas. Selected by Mike O'Hara, Detroit News. Lions coach

Marty Mornhinweg is apparently convinced Mike McMahon is his quarterback and Detroit is looking for the best defensive player on the board coming off a season it gave up a NFC-high 424 points and a NFL-high 30 touchdown passes. **

  1. Buffalo _DT Ryan Sims, North Carolina.** Selected by Mark Gaughan, Buffalo News. The Bills act more interested in pro quarterbacks Drew Bledsoe and Jeff Blake than Oregon's Joey Harrington and Bills General Manager Tom Donahoe revived the Steelers from the trenches on both sides of the ball. But word is he would prefer to trade down.

5. San Diego _OT Mike Williams, Texas. Selected by Jim Trotter, San Diego Union-Tribune. Despite the moves of rookie running back LaDainian Tomlinson, the Chargers finished 20th in the NFL in rushing last year and are looking for a physical run blocker. **

  1. Dallas _S Roy Williams, Oklahoma.Selected by Rick Gosselin, Dallas Morning News. The Cowboys want and need defense after finishing dead last in the league in stopping the pass last year and Williams is the best defensive player on the board at this point.
  1. Minnesota _OT Bryant McKinnie, Miami.** Selected by Bill Williamson, St Paul Pioneer Press. Hearts may break if Sims isn't there, but their left tackle situation has been unsettled since Todd Steussie left before last season.

8. Kansas City _QB Joey Harrington, Oregon. Selected by Adam Teicher, Kansas City Star. They could be seduced by a defensive tackle, but all their quarterbacks are in the last year of their contract. It may be time for a franchise that hasn't taken a QB No. 1 since Todd Blackledge in 1983. **

  1. Jacksonville _DT Wendell Bryant, Wisconsin.** Selected by Vito Stellino, Florida Times-Union. With the departures of linemen Gary Walker and Seth Payne to the Texans, the Jaguars figure to look to the line. Bryant seems to be more of the solid, consistent guy Jags coach Tom Coughlin seeks when stacked against the Tennessee tandem of Albert Haynesworth and John Henderson.

10. Cincinnati _CB Phillip Buchanon, Miami _ Selected by Gil Brandt, NFL.com. This probably won't be one of the more appealing boards for the Bengals because of the lack of options.

With Harrington gone, the two left tackles gone, Roy Williams gone, and the one defensive tackle who might be able to play end gone in Bryant, it probably comes down to Buchanon, Haynesworth and Henderson. The Bengals could still opt for a defensive linemen here now that their starting cornerbacks in Jeff Burris and Artrell Hawkins are signed. But Brandt can't see passing on Buchanon's athleticism.

"The guy just had a great workout," Brandt says. "He vertical jumped 34 inches, he ran 4.36 and 4.41 in the 40 on the wet grass down there and he did 15 reps (at 225 pounds). He did all the stuff that you have to do, and the guy is a big-time threat returning punts."

Brandt says there is a chance McKinnie could slip to No. 10, but he probably won't get past Minnesota after the Vikings just lost Brad Badger and he doesn't think there is a third tackle worthy that high.

The big question is, of course, what do the Bengals do if Harrington is sitting there?

"If he's there, I'd take him, but it's a tough call from the outside," Brandt said. "I think it comes down to what they think Akili Smith can do. I think (offensive coordinator) Bob Bratkowski is pretty damn good. He did a great job in Seattle. If they think he's the answer, that's it then. And I think he is the answer physically. If he shows the dedication and work ethic, he can do it."

Bengals President Mike Brown admits it is a good question: Why not trade a first-round draft pick that will get you an unproven rookie for a proven veteran quarterback in Drew Bledsoe?

"There really is no pattern in finding a quarterback," Brown said.

Brandt admitted that quarterback was the one position that threw a wrench into the Cowboys' then state-of-the-art computer.

"We did a pretty good job of identifying people by certain character traits and quarterback had the least validity. The validity was high for running backs and linebackers, but quarterbacks were always the toughest call."

Brandt is still one of Smith's strongest supporters around the league and can't quite figure out why it hasn't clicked.

"I know why the Bengals drafted him and I don't blame them," Brandt said. "He put on a show at the East-West (all-star) game his senior year where every day in practice he was like radar. I mean, he put the ball right there every time. No one has put on a show like he did that week. Bradshaw, the other great ones. No one."

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