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Bengals felt a need for speed in the draft

By Carlos "Big C" Holmes
Cox News Service

When the Cincinnati Bengals completed their draft selections on Sunday, I wasn't quite sure if they were trying to field a football team or prepare for an L.A. track meet. It turns out to be a little of both. Although on draft day I kept waiting to hear the announcers say "with the 23rd pick in the seventh round the Cincinnati Bengals select Carl Lewis?!" (Huh?), but they called WR Bennie Brazell's name instead, who in fact did compete in the Olympics in track.

The Bengals began to fulfill their need for speed right out of the chute when they selected South Carolina CB Johnathan Joseph in round one. Joseph entered the draft early as a junior and quickly rose to the top of the charts after a stellar performance at the Combine, where he posted some serious workout numbers, not to mention scorching the track in Indy, running a 4.36 in the 40-yard dash. He's a solid cover corner and is aggressive in run support.

Although Joseph lacks experience, playing in only 14 Division I-A games, he does possess all the physical attributes of a standout corner, and will likely be groomed to replace CB Torry James.

In the second round, the Bengals added some depth to their offensive line, selecting LSU OT Andrew Whitworth, who is known primarily for his run blocking skills and a mean, nasty streak in the trenches. The club may have reached on Whitworth in the second and decided to pass on more heralded linemen like Miami OT Eric Winston and Texas OT Jonathan Scott, who fell to the third and fifth rounds.

The team was back on the prowl in the third round, this time in search of a power rusher. USC DE Frostee Rucker was the player of choice and, like Whitworth, he too may have been a reach. Rucker played with some inconsistency much of his career with the Trojans, but came on this season, producing 6.5 sacks. He has a high motor, never gives up on a play, leaves everything on the field and is a leader in the locker room.

The organization believes that Rucker can provide the defense with a much needed pass rush. I, on the other hand, thought a more versatile guy like Purdue DE Ray Edwards would have been a better fit for the Bengals. Huh, Frostee — can I get a Biggie Fry with that? Bengals fans, let's just hope that this Frostee is as good as Wendy's.

In the fourth round, the team got itself a big mamma jamma to plug the middle on defense in Michigan State's 6-3, 306-pound DT Domata Peko. The team also came away with a hard-nosed MLB in Florida State's A.J. Nicholson, whose stock slipped a bit due to some off-the-field concerns. However, on the field Nicholson is a tackling machine.

After that it was back to drafting speed. I feel the Bengals got the most intriguing prospect in this year's draft when they landed Texas A&M's QB Reggie McNeal. McNeal ran a 4.3 at the Combine, is very athletic and has loads of talent. He is not likely to compete for a QB position, but instead is expected to be converted into the team's "do everything" guy, ala Antwaan Randle El.

The team loaded up with more speed in the seventh round, taking Penn State wideout Ethan Kilmer. Don't know much about this guy, but head coach Marvin Lewis says he's fast.

Bottom line, I thought the Bengals had just an adequate draft, because they failed to upgrade some critical areas such as the tight end and safety positions. I also felt they could have done a better job addressing the offensive line.

One undrafted free agent acquisition played a role in my grading of the Bengals, and that was the signing of Miami of Ohio LB John Busing, who will be competing for a safety position. Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin loves what this kid brings to the table both on and off the field, and so do I.

So, the grade I am handing out to the tiger stripes is a C.