by Tommy Lawlor – ScoutsNotebook.com
1 – TE Jermaine Gresham – Oklahoma
2 – DE Carlos Dunlap – Florida
3 – WR Jordan Shipley – Texas
3 – CB Brandon Ghee – Wake Forest
4 – DT Geno Atkins – Georgia
4 – LB Rod Muckelroy – Texas
5 – OG Otis Hudson – Eastern Illinois
6 – WR Dezmon Briscoe – Kansas
7 – OL Reggie Stephens – Iowa State
The Bengals don’t believe in making trades during the draft. They don’t play the board. They sit tight and make picks. Because they are less stringent with character concerns there is usually a solid player for them to take. I’m not a huge fan of their style. I prefer teams that target specific players and aggressively go after them or that deal back to acquire multiple picks. The Bengals system works okay even if it isn’t my preference.
In the 1st round they finally went for a playmaking TE. Jermaine Gresham had a great Junior season and then missed 2009 with a knee injury. He is an elite pass catcher with a deadly combination of size and athletic ability. He always seemed to come up big in big games for the Sooners. He played well in the title game loss to Florida, catching a pair of TDs. He caught 14 scoring passes on the year.
The Bengals passing game was brutal at times after they lost Chris Henry to injury (and then he was involved in the tragic accident that took his life). Chad Johnson remained a threat on the edge, but no other TE or WR stepped up. QB Carson Palmer had no one he felt comfortable with aside from Chad. If the run game stalled so did the Bengal offense. They had to get a TE to help the situation and Gresham fits the bill. At 6’5, 260 he’s big enough to work the middle of the field. He’s talented enough to flex out wide. Gresham is also a real dangerous threat in the Red Zone. I’m sure Palmer is ecstatic with this pick.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the 2nd round pick, DE Carlos Dunlap from Florida. He does have a lot of potential. My problem with Dunlap is that the closer I studied him the less impressed I was. That’s never a good sign. I watched him quite a bit this year and kept waiting for the light to go on. I just knew Dunlap would start taking over games at some point. That never really happened. He also had the DUI prior to the SEC title game that caused him to get suspended. I wasn’t impressed with him at all at The Combine. Dunlap ran well, but I thought he really struggled in drills. I know some scouts felt differently, as well as the Bengals of course. Dunlap has a good frame and could develop into an ideal LDE. I’m curious to see how he takes to pro coaching. He was able to dominate at times at UF, but that was based more on raw skill than honed talent. In the NFL he’s got to learn how to play.
Cincinnati decided to pick up an overachiever with their 3rd round pick. They took Texas slot receiver Jordan Shipley. This was an excellent choice. Shipley gives Palmer another weapon over the middle. Jordan is the kind of polished receiver that could adjust to the NFL quickly. He knows how to run routes and get open. He’s a very instinctive player. Shipley also gives them depth at RS. An offense that prefers to run the ball is always greatly helped by a good return game. Shipley was good value in the 3rd. He’s also the kind of high character player you love having in your locker room.
The Bengals spent a 3rd round Comp pick on CB Brandon Ghee. I thought he would be an early 2nd round pick. Ghee was big, fast, and experienced. That’s a good combination in a CB. His lack of plays really hurt his value. Ghee broke up 25 passes in his career, but only had 1 INT. That is not good, to put it mildly. There were some whispers about a couple of character questions that didn’t help matters. I was very surprised to see Ghee fall to the bottom of the 3rd. He was good value at that point, even with any questions. Cincy has good CBs already in place, but Ghee fits their style of play well so I see this as a smart pick.
4th round DT Geno Atkins gives Cincinnati a disruptive front-seven player. Atkins lacks ideal size at 6’1, 290, but he is quick off the ball and gets regular penetration. He had a monster Sophomore season (15 TFLs) and looked like a star. He didn’t play to that level in the last two years, but remained a good DT. Atkins then got people’s attention once again at the Senior Bowl. He was solid in the practices. He really stood out in the game. Geno ate Mike Iupati’s lunch when they went head-to-head as LDT and RG. That isn’t Iupati’s natural spot, but you have to give Atkins a lot of credit for winning that battle the way he did and playing so well in the game.
With the other 4th round pick the Bengals chose Texas LB Rod Muckelroy. He split time at LB and MLB in college. The Bengals are a team that will find you a place to play. Rey Mauluga was in the middle in college, but played outside last year. Dhani Jones played outside with the Giants and Eagles, but found a home at MLB for Cincy. I’m interested to see where they play Muckelroy. He is big and physical enough for the inside. Still, I thought he looked more natural on the outside. Cincy has the best LBs coach in the NFL in Jeff FitzGerald. I’m sure he’ll get the best out of Muckelroy no matter where he plays him.
The Bengals went small school in the 5th round and took OL Otis Hudson from Eastern Illinois. He’s one of the few drafted players I didn’t watch tape of. He is big at 6’5, 320. Cincinnati likes big interior players when they can get them. Reportedly OL coach Paul Alexander liked Hudson quite a bit after working him out. It was in this area of the draft a few years back that the Bengals got Stacy Andrews and turned him into a quality starter for several years.
Carson Palmer got another weapon in the 6th round, WR Dezmon Briscoe of Kansas. He was tremendously productive in the Jayhawks spread attack. Briscoe had 219 catches and 31 TDs in just 3 years. He has good size at 6’2, 207. Briscoe is pretty skilled. He fell to the 6th because he lacks ideal speed, isn’t a great athlete, and had some questions. Briscoe almost missed the season due to academics. He’s not dumb, just lacks focus. Now that football is his job we’ll see if he does the work that is required to make it in the NFL. He doesn’t lack potential.
The final choice was Reggie Stephens. In his time at Iowa State he mostly played OG, but shifted to C as a Senior. I enjoyed watching Reggie play. He’s not a gifted athlete, but is a smart, tough blocker. He’s got solid size at 6’3, 314. Reggie may have fallen to the 7th round, but don’t think he can’t play in the NFL. He is a good fit for the Bengals power running game. Good pick.
The Bengals offense really hurt the team last year. They added WR Antonio Bryant in the offseason and then spent several picks on targets for Palmer. That was the way to go. Running the football and playing good defense is still a sound way to build a team, but you must be able to throw the ball at times. You need guys who can catch short and long. You need receivers that know how to work the middle. You need guys with RAC ability. Last year Cincinnati had Chad and a bunch of bodies. They won’t lack talent this year. The question now becomes how quickly these players can be ready to play. Palmer and the coaches will have to work hard this summer to get the new guys ready, but that could pay huge dividends in the fall.