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Cincinnati Bengals 2003 Draft Preview

By Bryan McGovern, NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - The good news is the Cincinnati Bengals were rewarded for their 2-14 season with the first overall pick in the draft. Thatís also the bad news. In a perfect world, the Bengals would trade the top pick, move down and select Kansas Stateís Terence Newman, who is the top-rated cornerback in the draft. Such a move would thrill new head coach Marvin Lewis, who has stated that the defense needs the full attention of the franchise. After losing a player like LB Takeo Spikes, who signed as a free agent with Buffalo, the Bengals need defensive help more than ever. Yet if the team keeps the pick, it will probably select USCís Carson Palmer.

Thereís a reason this franchise has earned the nickname "The Bungles" and it hasnít been for its savvy drafting. Cincinnati is still trying to make up for the selection of Akili Smith over Daunte Culpepper in 1999. From a public relations standpoint, however, the Bengals would do well to take home Palmer, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback with good talent.

Palmer didnít put up the same gaudy stats that David Carr registered at pass- happy Fresno State, but the USC product finished his NCAA career by winning college football's most storied piece of hardware. At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, Palmer has the classic NFL QB build and the skills to match. Heís a level- headed player with excellent leadership qualities, and despite his sturdy build heís no slug. Palmer possesses the athleticism to elude a pass rush and gain yards as a scrambler. Still, heís a pocket passer first and foremost. He has the arm strength and passing ability to make just about every throw on the gridiron. His mechanics are solid and he has a very good feel for the game.

If the Bengals pull off a trade to move down then they would be looking to select Newman and draft a QB in the second or third round, possibly Chris Simms (Texas), Dave Ragone (Louisville) or Ken Dorsey (Miami). Newman is the type of shutdown cornerback that Lewis would love to build his secondary around. If the team winds up taking Palmer first, watch for Cincy to go after Oklahomaís Andre Woolfolk at the top of round two.

Lewis was the mastermind behind the record-setting Baltimore defense of 2000. He would like to upgrade his new defense as early and often as the front office allows. Whether its cornerback, linebacker or the defensive line, Lewis will be pushing for defense, defense and more defense in Cincinnatiís war room.

Cincinnati also could consider a defensive lineman in the second round. There will be a run on D-linemen in the first round, but players like Rien Long (DT Washington State), Ty Warren (DT, Texas A&M;) and Nick Eason (DT, Clemson) should be around at the beginning of round two.

If Palmer is selected with the teamís first pick, Lewis could hear his request for defensive help answered in the second and third rounds. A versatile defensive back like Rashean Mathis (Bethune-Cookman) might be around in the third round. The club could look at a pass-rushing defensive end, too. Potential targets include Dewayne White (Louisville), Shurron Pierson (South Florida) and Cory Redding (Texas).

The Bengals are expected to use their second-day picks to address weaknesses at wide receiver, safety, center and fullback. The loss of bulldozer Lorenzo Neal will hurt HB Corey Dillon. Ovie Mughelli (Wake Forest) is the closest thing in this draft to Neal and could be around in round four.

The offense needs a big wide receiver with speed. The presence of players like Chad Johnson and Peter Warrick will prevent the Bengals from taking Charles Rogers with the first pick, so finding a second-day steal will be the teamís task. WRs Justin Gage (Missouri), Kassim Osgood (San Diego State), Teyo Johnson (Stanford), Walter Young (Illinois) and Billy McMullen (Virginia) are all over 6-foot-3 and projected to go between the fourth and sixth rounds. Gage, a former basketball player with 4.46 speed, could be a real steal in the fifth round.

The Bengals wonít waste a high pick on a center, though Notre Dameís Jeff Faine and Wisconsinís Al Johnson are solid prospects projected to go in the first 50 picks. The club likely will wait until the middle rounds to go after Miamiís Brett Romberg, Coloradoís Wayne Lucier or Boston Collegeís Dan Koppen.

DRAFT NEEDS: Quarterback, cornerback, defensive line, wide receiver, safety, linebacker, center, fullback.

DRAFT PICKS: 1st round (#1 overall); 2nd round (#33); 3rd round (#65); 4th round (#98); 4th round (#118 from New Orleans); 5th round (#136); 6th round (#174); 7th round (#215); 7th round (#259).

RECENT FIRST ROUND HISTORY: 2002 - Levi Jones (OT, Arizona State); 2001 - Justin Smith (DE, Missouri); 2000 - Peter Warrick (WR, Florida State); 1999 - Akili Smith (QB, Oregon); 1998 - Takeo Spikes (LB, Auburn), Brian Simmons (LB, North Carolina); 1997 - Reinard Wilson (DE, Florida State); 1996 - Willie Anderson (OT, Auburn); 1995 - Ki-Jana Carter (RB, Penn State); 1994 - Dan Wilkinson (DT, Ohio State); 1993 - John Copeland (DE, Alabama); 1992 - David Klingler (QB, Houston), Darryl Williams (S, Miami); 1991 - Alfred Williams (LB, Colorado); 1990 - James Francis (LB, Baylor).

04/22 15:34:31 ET

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