Shipley arrives in third round


Jordan Shipley

Updated: 3:45 a.m.

Sure, the Bengals were lusting after USC safety Taylor Mays in the second round as he plummeted toward them like some kind of meteor.

But they were also coveting their first third-round pick, not to mention Saturday's first fourth-rounder. So maybe they didn't get the safety with a trade up, but they got a safety valve by staying put with the 84th pick in the third round.

When it comes to the world of a franchise with a big-time quarterback, there may not be a more important pick. Since the departures of T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry, Carson Palmer has been looking for a target with whom he clicks and when he heard the pick was the ultra reliable Jordan Shipley of Texas, he texted, "Love the production in big games."

The selection of Shipley reflects what the Bengals have done all draft. They've stayed put and pretty much gone with their board and it has taken care of their needs at the same time without reaching. First-rounder Jermaine Gresham is the best tight end in the draft. Second-rounder Carlos Dunlap is a pass-rushing end with first-round numbers. The second pick in the third round, Wake Forest cornerback Brandon Ghee, is another athletically attractive player with first-round numbers and was invited to New York to attend the draft.

And Shipley?

Bengals receivers coach Mike Sheppard compares him to the great slot receivers like Houshmandzadeh and New England's Wes Welker. A boon for a pass offense that struggled last year in the bottom tier of the stats. 

Shipley's college quarterback, Colt McCoy, stayed in the AFC North when he went to Cleveland on the next pick and praised the Bengals for getting a steal.

"I've been watching Carson for a long time, and I feel like he is as good of a quarterback as there is out there," Shipley said. "Jermaine is also an unbelievable player. I've played against him the last couple years at OU. So to get to go to work with a couple of the best at their positions is going to be a lot of fun, and I can't wait to get started."

But Shipley is going to be in competition with whom he calls one of his best friends, former Texas teammate Quan Cosby, the free agent rookie who finished fifth in NFL punt returns with an 11.9-yard average that was the highest for the Bengals since Mike Martin's league-leading 15.7 in 1984.

"Sometimes that's part of the deal," Shipley said. "Quan is a really good friend of mine, and I have a great deal of respect for him. He's an unbelievable player. So I'm looking forward to being up there with him, and being up there with someone I know and am familiar with."

While grabbing 116 passes for the Longhorns this past season, the 5-11, 192-pound Shipley averaged 13 yards on 24 punt returns while scoring two touchdowns.

"He's a consistent, solid target ... against a high level of competition," Sheppard said. "His strength would be inside, filling that void that maybe T.J. (Houshmandzadeh) had when he was here. ... He'll be a great target for Carson. ... It's just like Marvin (Lewis) said to everybody: Trying to give Carson more weapons to work with and I think we've given him certainly a productive one."

Shipley's speed hurt him, but he did fire up a 4.5 40-yard dash at his pro day and he said during Friday night's conference call that he thinks football speed and 40 speed are two different things. Sheppard agrees and was more intent on the Longhorns secondary coach telling him that none of his players wanted to cover Shipley.

"I think Welker is a pretty good comparison," Sheppard said. "Quick. Darts around. T.J. had a little more size and probably smooth was his thing. I think they're similar in that they're both real bright and real productive and have great hands and that's a real positive for Carson."

Shipley has been hearing for two years he's the next Welker. He's not tired of hearing it.

"That's another player I've been watching for a long time," he said. "Honestly, that doesn't bother me at all. You're talking about a guy that's as productive as anybody in the league. I don't mind being compared to Wes Welker at all. I think the way that we're different is that I probably play a lot more outside, and Wes is a pure slot guy. I feel like I can do that, but I feel like I can play on the outside, too. But I definitely don't mind those comparisons."

Both Shipley and the Bengals think he has enough speed to play outside as well as the slot.

"I think, for me, football speed is a little different than lining up and running the 40 out of a three-point stance," Shipley said. "For me, I could probably run a 40 just as fast by standing up in a receiver stance. So when you get out on the football field, all the numbers go away and it equates to football speed. So I think that's what I have going for me."

The Shipley pick also shows where the Bengals came down on local favorite Mardy Gilyard, the University of Cincinnati wideout that rode up the board on the strength of his added dimension as a punt returner. While the Bengals may have been turned off by Gilyard's slow 40 times and choppy testing instead of turned by his game tape, they appeared to lean to Shipley's production in games on the big stage:

» 10 catches for 122 yards in the national title game loss to Alabama.

» As a junior he rung Oklahoma for 112 yards on 11 receptions, and set the Texas record with 15 catches against Oklahoma State.

"I've said from the beginning that one of the best things in my situation is my punt return and kick return ability," Shipley said. "I plan on doing as many special teams things as they will let me do, like holding for field goals and extra points, and whatever else I can do."

With Chad Ochocinco, Antonio Bryant and Andre Caldwell on the roster, the Shipley pick also looks to make this spring and summer the last referendum on 2008 second-rounder Jerome Simpson. Simpson not only has to contend with Shipley, but also Matt Jones battling for one of the outside spots. Newly signed Chris Davis is also a return candidate.

"I like to think of myself as a guy who can play outside, too," Shipley said. "I played half the year at 'X' this year, which is the outside spot. I feel like I can win those one-on-one matchups and win on the deep balls. And then also, I can move into the slot and mix it up in there, too. I think that's part of what makes me a successful receiver."

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