Updated: 8:15 p.m.
It took six years but the Bengals under Marvin Lewis finally drafted a tight end.
The Bengals' selection of Matt Sherry out of Villanova in the sixth round Sunday broke the dubious streak and gave position coach Jonathan Hayes his second addition this offseason. The Bengals signed Ben Utecht away from Indianapolis as a restricted free agent to join Reggie Kelly, Daniel Coats and Nate Lawrie as competitors for roster spots.
Sherry, 6-4, 255 pounds, led Villanova with 37 catches for 461 yards and five touchdowns last season as the Wildcats finished 7-4. He fits the blueprint Lewis changed over the offseason, which focused on big athletes that could catch and had the body to develop into a blocker instead of trying to find a blocker/receiver.
Sherry was not invited to the NFL Combine in February so the Bengals brought him in for a visit to do their own medical testing as well as interview and work him out.
"He had the opportunity to play in a postseason all-star game and showed very well," Lewis said. "It just felt like where we were he was a good fit. He's caught passes in an offense where he was a productive receiver. He has great speed for a guy who is almost 6-5 and still has a lot of growth left as a man."
The last tight end drafted by Cincinnati was Matt Schobel, taken in the third round of the 2002 draft. Schobel caught 90 passes for 938 yards and nine touchdowns in four seasons with the Bengals but he never quite fit the mold of a complete tight end that the Bengals have been seeking.
First and foremost, the tight end in the Cincinnati offense must be an effective blocker in the run game. That was why Kelly was one of the first free-agent signings under Lewis and why the Bengals re-signed him to a three-year deal prior to last season after quarterback Carson Palmer's public plea.
No Bengals tight end has caught more than 30 passes in a season since Tony McGee had 34 receptions in 1997. Schobel's 27 catches as a rookie are the most since.
Utecht comes to the Bengals with the reputation of being a solid receiver—he caught 68 passes in the past two seasons with the Colts—but he is a better blocker than many might expect coming from an offense that too often gets mislabeled as soft or too dependent on the passing game.
Coats played in 15 games last season for the Bengals after earning a roster spot as an undrafted rookie free agent. Lawrie spent most of the first half of last season on the practice squad before being signed to the 53-man roster.
"Too many times we look at guys and say, 'He's just not man enough to do that at the line, but he's a great receiver,' " said Lewis. "I kept saying that at some point we needed to take the plunge with a guy who has the big bones and will continue to grow and develop, and be a 270-pound guy that can run. As (Sherry) gets into a lifting program and the things you have when you get to this level, he's going to add 15 pounds that all these guys do as well as continuing to have the skills to be a down-the-field receiver."
After taking Sherry in the sixth round, the Bengals finished off the 2008 draft by staying close to home and taking University of Cincinnati pass rusher Angelo Craig and Louisville wide receiver Mario Urrutia with their two picks in the seventh round.
The 6-4, 252-pound Craig looks to be targeted as a defensive end in a 4-3. The 6-5, 232-pound Urrutia caught 35 balls for 501 yards this past year in which he missed two games with turf toe.