Wednesday's best draft rumor?
Naturally, supplied by an old Cincy scribe. Former Cincinnati Enquirer sports writer D. Orlando Ledbetter, who now covers the Falcons for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, theorizes that the Falcons are going to dangle the 19th pick to the Bengals at No. 21 and the Ravens at No. 25 and see who wants to give them a second-rounder to move up.
The theory supposes that the Bengals want Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham and the Ravens want Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and they'll find out who wants who more. When the draft starts Thursday at 7:30 p.m., the biggest upset next to the Bengals giving up their second-rounder might be Roger Goodell chomping on a cigar to announce Sam Bradford.
But, who knows? History showes the Bengals would never take a tight end with their first pick. Besides, maybe it would take a third. Maybe they stay put. Maybe the call never comes. It is a day of maybes and what ifs.
What better way to introduce the second and, thankfully, last Bengals.com Media Mock Draft of the year?
1. RAMS: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma: The phone lines are open, but who is going to play quarterback? West Texas A&M's Keith Null? Remember, Marc Bulger is gone. --Jim Thomas, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
2. LIONS: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska: Head coach Jim Schwartz's kind of guy. Smart, strong, productive, multi-dimensional. Throw him in with free-agent pickups Corey Williams and Kyle Vanden Bosch and the defensive line goes from a weakness to a strength. --Nicholas Cotsonika, Detroit Free Press
3. BUCCANEERS: Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma: The Bucs have been trying to replace Warren Sapp since he left seven years ago and they think this guy fits the bill. They see him as a perfect under tackle for a Cover 2 defense that has the quickness to penetrate and draw double teams. Even Sapp himself likes McCoy. --Roy Cummings, Tampa Tribune
4. REDSKINS: Russell Okung, LT, Oklahoma State: With Chris Samuels working the phones for Washington on Thursday night in New York instead of playing left tackle, the Redskins have to get somebody to take the Donovan McNabb trade from an A to an A . They'd love to trade down because they think there are four left tackles that can play and they could even take Oklahoma's Trent Williams here. Quarterback? Just a smokescreen for a trade, but there don't seem to be any Mark Sanchezes. --Mark Maske, Washington Post
5. CHIEFS: Eric Berry, FS, Tennessee: Kansas City desperately needs to infuse its defense in the back end, rated 25th against the pass and 25th overall. The Chiefs haven't had a playmaker in the secondary since, well, maybe Dale Carter in the mid-90s? --Adam Teicher, Kansas City Star
6. SEAHAWKS: Trent Williams, LT, Oklahoma: Sir Walter Jones hasn't played since 2008 and wasn't at new head coach Pete Carroll's first camp. Williams fits the depth chart and Seattle's zone running style. The trade for Charlie Whitehurst would make a quarterback pick more sensible when the Hawks pick again at No. 14. --Mike Sando, ESPN.com/NFC West
7. BROWNS: Earl Thomas, FS, Texas: Like everyone else after No. 3, Mike Holmgren would love to trade down. The Browns seem to think the Sheldon Brown trade means they don't have to get cornerback Joe Haden here. If Berry isn't there, they still need a playmaker to generate turnovers and solidify a secondary that has lost Brodney Pool. Don't look for a quarterback here. It was Holmgren that told the Plain-Dealer he wished he liked Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen more. The Browns seem intent on filling non-quarterback needs with the first two picks. And with Jake Delhomme in the fold they may decide to just load up on other spots with five picks in the first 92. --Tony Grossi, Cleveland Plain-Dealer
8. RAIDERS: Anthony Davis, LT, Rutgers: The Raiders could still go with workout wunderkind Bruce Campbell, the Maryland left tackle, and there's always the Clausen factor with Al Davis lurking with surprises. Despite questions about his work ethic, Davis is a guy that fits Oakland's desperate need for tackles. --Nancy Gay, AOL FanHouse Sports
9. BILLS: Bryan Bulaga, LT, Iowa: How about that? The fourth left tackle taken out of the top nine. Buffalo likes the way this is breaking. The only one of the four tackles the Bills probably wouldn't take is Davis for a spot that has been blamed for the implosion of their offense last season. Even with the elusive Ryan Fitzpatrick playing quarterback in half the games, they allowed the third most sacks in the AFC last season with 46. Clausen doesn't look to be a fit at this spot.
10. JAGUARS: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida: It seems all the Jaguars have done lately is take pass rushers. But if they don't trade down, they may very well do it again because it will make the other picks better. Particularly Derrick Harvey, the No. 1 pick in '08 who has played right end but could be switched to his natural spot at left end or move inside if the Jags take Pierre-Paul and put him at right end. Plus, they can move around former Packers sack ace Aaron Kampman up and down and over with two ends like Harvey and Pierre-Paul. The guy making this pick calls Pierre-Paul "a beast on tape," and says he's the best non-quarterback in the draft. --Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com
11. BRONCOS: Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State: How do the Broncos not take him? With the Brandon Marshall trade Denver has nothing close to a No. 1 receiver and Bryant and Georgia Tech's Demaryius Thomas are the only ones that qualify in this class. Of course, Denver could also take Alabama inside backer Rolando McClain to shore up the inside, but Bryant makes more sense here when you get past the red flags. --Bill Williamson, ESPN.com/AFC West
12. DOLPHINS: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech: The Dolphins love Earl Thomas because they've had him in to visit three times and they also like Idaho guard Mike Iupati even though they signed Richie Incognito away from the Bengals. But they let their two top pass rushers go in Joey Porter and Jason Taylor, so moving Morgan from end to outside backer in the 3-4 could be the move here. --Armando Salguero,
13. 49ERS: Joe Haden, CB, Florida: The Niners are looking to shore up the secondary and are leering at Earl Thomas. But they also need to get younger and faster at the corner opposite Shawntae Spencer. Nate Clements, 30, is coming off a benching against Peyton Manning and a broken shoulder blade, plus he's due $6 million this year. Any Jimmy Clausen talk would start at No. 17. --Matt Maiocco, Santa Rosa Press Democrat
14. SEAHAWKS: C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson: Carroll likes gadgets at running back, i.e., Reggie Bush, and Seattle needs some explosiveness with Brandon Marshall by the boards. Another clue? NFL.com's Pat Kirwan is from the West Coast branch that not only produced Carroll but former Bengals head coach Bruce Coslet, the guy that made Carroll his defensive coordinator at the Jets 20 years ago. Kirwan is close to both and has been giving Spiller to Seattle in most of his mocks. --Mike Sando, ESPN.com/NFC West
15. GIANTS: Rolando McClain, MLB, Alabama: The Giants are hoping against hope that McClain is going to be there because of the gaping hole left in the middle from the departure of Antonio Pierce. With Denver sniffing around McClain, could there be a swap so Denver gets Bryant later? The Giants also like Spiller at this spot. --Gary Myers, New York Daily News
16. TITANS: Brandon Graham, DE, Michigan: Kyle Vanden Bosch has left and Tennessee needs to come up with what it always seems to come up with in the first or second round and that's a talented defensive lineman that position coach Jim Washburn turns into a productive player. And Vanden Bosch only had 7.5 sacks in his last 26 games as a Titan (after 31 in the previous 48), so they need to find some young blood to step up their heat on the passer. --Jim Wyatt, The Tennessean
17. 49ERS: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida: The Niners will be talking about Clausen here and they would be tempted by Bryant even though he's got Michael Crabtree's agent. They figure the point has been made. But Pouncey isn't as far off as you think. In fact, as the best center in the draft he may be gone before this because he can also play guard. The Niners need help all over the line and while Iupati is enticing, they think he can only play one spot. Pouncey would allow the Niners to start him at right guard and learn the system and calls this year before moving him to center in place of Eric Heitmann. Although quarterback Alex Smith is at the end of his deal this year and Clausen is there, the thinking is the Niners need some impact guys right now because they've got a shot to win the division in '10. --Matt Maiocco, Santa Rosa Press Democrat
18. STEELERS: Mike Iupati, G, Idaho: The Steelers are also looking at Pouncey and while the 330-pound Iupati may not fit their specs of trapping and pulling, he certainly does in power and strength. Plus, in the last two years the Steelers have been through more right guards than the Secret Service. But also keep the name of Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson in mind. Corner is Pittsburgh's top need and the Steelers think they can get offensive linemen later in the draft. But Iupati's grade may be too high to ignore.
19. FALCONS: Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma: The word in Atlanta is the draft board sets up with Pouncey at the top and Brandon Graham No. 2, followed by Gresham, the top tight end prospect. There are those that believe if Gresham isn't gone by here, somebody like New England or Baltimore is going to trade up to get him. The thinking here is that even though the Falcons have Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, that doesn't mean you don't stockpile weapons for Matty Ice. You mean like they do for Peyton Manning in Indy? Dave Caldwell, the new Falcons director of college scouting, is a disciple of Colts president Bill Polian. --D. Orlando Ledbetter, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
20. TEXANS: Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State: The guy fits the Texans one-cut-and-go style and they need to jack up the league's third-worst running game to make quarterback Matt Schaub that much better. Steve Slaton (remember how he scorched the Bengals in the passing game last year?) is coming off a serious neck injury. Before he went on injured reserve he fumbled seven times, so the Texans are now looking at him as a possible change-of-pace guy while a guy like the 5-11, 218-pound Mathews can supply some pop with a physical game. --John McClain, Houston Chronicle
21. BENGALS: Taylor Mays, FS, USC: Fight on. Again. He would become the fifth SoCal product on the roster (and fourth on defense) and our guy believes a good fit in defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's system even though there is a knock on his ball skills that yielded just one pick and four pass breakups. But the 6-3, 232-pound Mays has all the physical skills. He's big, he was timed in a brisk 40 at 4.31 at the combine, and has the reputation of a big-time-in-the-box safety. With starting safeties Roy Williams and Chris Crocker both 30 or about to turn 30 and the fact that our guy believes Mays is the highest-rated guy at this point, Mays would become the first college safety ever taken with the Bengals' first pick in a draft. --Joe Reedy, Cincinnati Enquirer
Although it seems every mock draft in America has the Bengals matched with Gresham, not so fast kids. No question that the depth chart indicates it but the archives don't. The Bengals have never taken a tight end with their first pick and in a draft that is teeming with tight end prospects in each of rounds two, three, and four, it makes you wonder why they would start now.
Of course, they've never taken a safety No. 1, either.
So it makes you wonder.
If this is truly the dream draft where the Bengals have no desperate need in the first round and they can push back their tight end, safety, receiver and guard issues in the later rounds of what is supposed to be a rare deep draft, why not take a developmental guy at a more premium position knowing you don't have to play him right away?
Although they have what some believe to be the best cornerback tandem in all of football the Bengals may have to look at four very good cornerbacks. Florida's Joe Haden figures to be gone, but there is also Rutgers' Devin McCourty (a special teams demon who can return and cover), Boise State's Kyle Wilson (a good returner), and Alabama's Kareem Jackson, who likes to hit.
Johnathan Joseph is going into the last year of his deal and Leon Hall is a year away. There is no 2010 salary cap but many believe there will be one in the next collective bargaining agreement. And if it is anything like this one, the franchise tag at corner is going to be about $14 million.
"That's a lot of money to spend at one position if you're trying to keep both," said a former NFL general manager. "If you don't think you can, you'd like to address a situation like that a year earlier than the year you have to do it. You take a guy now and you can work him in and get his feet wet. When you're forced to make a move, those are the times you find yourself reaching."
Jerry Jones, the former Cincinnati pharmacist who authors the draft survey The Drugstore List, isn't so sure that the cornerbacks after Haden are worth it. He thinks it would be a slight reach. Jones broke into the business sitting in draft rooms with Paul, Mike and Pete Brown, and he still thinks the Bengals could break precedent this year and go tight end if Gresham is there even though he missed last season with a knee surgery.
"They don't have a tight end that can block and catch and pretty much everyone who saw Gresham this spring thought he was a better blocker than they thought and should be able to do it," Jones said. "He should be fine medically. He was good enough they didn't call him back for re-check."
Another guy that got injured, Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, broke his foot in February. But at 6-3, 224 pounds, he's built and catches like Andre Johnson and he wouldn't have to play right away.
"From what I understand he'll be ready for training camp and this guy is a very good player," the former GM said. "He's not as fluid as Andre Johnson, but he's similar speed-wise and size-wise."
Jones, the draftnick, demurs. Tech's run-oriented option offense has him concerned.
"Nobody knows if he can run patterns. He hasn't showed it and combine that with a serious enough injury that took him out, that's too high," Jones said. "I still think someone is going to slip through. A very good player they didn't expect to be there."
Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant? Idaho guard Mike Iupati? Texas free safety Earl Thomas? Tennessee defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul?
Whatever, for this year, this kills a Media Mock.