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PFW: Bengals Like DEs Harvey, Merling, OT Williams at 9


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Good article...

Setting the draft stage

The latest word on what the teams with the top 10 picks are considering

By Dan Arkush

Feb. 25, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS — Now that the coin has been flipped at this year’s Combine to determine the third through fifth spots in the 2008 draft, maybe the Falcons’ fortunes are starting to take a turn for the better. After all, the time seems right for an updated look at the draft strategies and mindsets of the teams who own this year’s top 10 picks.

Here’s what our sources around the league were telling us as the Combine was winding down:

1. Miami — The Dolphins appear to be going out of their way not to tip their hand, but our sources remain pretty confident that the team will select Boston College QB Matt Ryan, provided they don’t trade down. “It’s an easy decision,” a source told PFW. “They are pressing hard to move down now, but I don’t see it happening.”

2. St. Louis — The word is the Rams are looking at both Michigan OLT Jake Long and LSU DT Glenn Dorsey, with a higher priority apparently on the offensive line given the team’s history of busting on early DT prospects. New Rams executive V.P. of player personnel Billy Devaney told PFW at the Combine that he is going to depend “tremendously” on the input of V.P. of player personnel Tony Softli, who suddenly is looking like he’ll stick around through at least the length of his contract, which has two years remaining after the draft.

3. Atlanta — In conversations with team sources, we’re being told that they are looking primarily at quarterback (Ryan), left tackle (Long) and defensive tackle (Dorsey) — in that order. “Tackle is a desperate need,” one team source said. “They don't have a legitimate starting OT on the roster after cutting Wayne Gandy.”

4. Oakland — Raiders officials say the always-intriguing Al Davis will look to fill his team’s most pressing needs first, starting at offensive tackle and defensive tackle. “That’s where it gets interesting,” a rival team executive told PFW. “Maybe (USC NT) Sedrick Ellis goes higher than he should. He’s more like a top-15 pick than top-10, but Al has always loved Trojans, and the head coach (Lane Kiffin) knows Ellis. Or maybe that's where the L.A. kid (Boise State OLT Ryan Clady) goes. Al won't care about (character concerns).”

5. Kansas City — Chiefs officials say they are looking hard at offensive tackle, cornerback and wide receiver, in that order, and will reach for an OT if they can't move down. We hear the preferred OT choice of Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards is Pittsburgh OLT Jeff Otah.

6. N.Y. Jets — The consensus is that they’re looking first and foremost for a running back and a hybrid DE-OLB, with Oregon RB Jonathan Stewart, Virginia DE-OLB Chris Long and Ohio State OLB Vernon Gholston as the primary suspects. The team is still exploring options in free agency, not to mention shopping Jonathan Vilma and Dewayne Robertson — moves that could seriously alter their draft plans.

7. New England — With Asante Samuel asking for $11 million in free agency, a figure the Pats’ brain trust will absolutely not pay, the team is eyeing a cornerback, but more than anything, we hear they would like to move down the same way everyone in front of them would. Said one team insider: “This could be a good spot for Gholston, but their coaches are not that far into the draft yet, coming off their Super Bowl run, and they always have considerable input.”

8. Baltimore — We hear the Ravens would like to address the QB position but will probably be looking for a badly needed cornerback with Ryan expected to be long gone. In that case, our sources believe their choice will likely be either Virginia Tech’s Brandon Flowers or Troy’s Leodis McKelvin.

9. Cincinnati — With Justin Smith on the way out of Cincy, we hear the Bengals are looking hard at defensive end, just as they were a year ago in the first round, when head coach Marvin Lewis loved Jarvis Moss but was scared by his background concerns. Word is Florida’s Derrick Harvey, who has a cleaner character than Moss and is a more versatile player, and Clemson’s Phillip Merling are two players they like a lot. It’s also possible an offensive tackle such as Vanderbilt’s Chris Williams could be an option, with a big run on tackles expected to occur in the top part of Round One.

10. New Orleans — We hear the Saints are desperate for a corner and are not willing to enter the extreme bidding for Samuel, thus making McKelvin, South Florida’s Mike Jenkins and Kansas’ Aqib Talib top considerations.

One more interesting development worth noting: Conspicuous by his absence in the above observations is Darren McFadden, who could be in the midst of a Randy Moss-type plunge in the first round due to character issues the Arkansas running back might not be able to shake.

How bad has it gotten for McFadden, who was widely considered to be a surefire top-five pick not too long ago? Not only has his stock fallen beneath the likes of Stewart and Illinois’ Rashard Mendenhall, we also hear fellow Razorbacks RB Felix Jones could now conceivably be selected before him.

Typically in recent years, it has been quarterbacks who have fallen hard. The safe landing spot for McFadden, as it was for free-falling Brady Quinn a year ago, is at No. 22, where fellow Arkansas alum and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is still said to be very interested, if he does not get overexcited and package his two first-round picks to land him sooner. Carolina, who traded down a year ago, and Chicago both need runners and are prime trading candidates who could help Dallas end a McFadden free fall. Perhaps helping offset some of McFadden’s character concerns is the unofficial 4.27 time he posted in the 40-yard dash at the Combine.


Forget McFadden's fall -- what about Howie Jr.? Chris Long gets one mention in the Jets blurb, but overall it doesn't look like anyone in the top 5 is looking at DE at all. I find that very hard to believe.

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Wow - that would be so typical of the Bengals: Having Chris Long / Ellis / Dorsey / Gholston combination available, and going elsewhere

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Well, if Arkush is right, the first five will be:

1. Matt Ryan

2. Jake Long

3. Glenn Dorsey

4. Sedrick Elis

5. Jeff Otah

That makes the Jets the pivot. If they were go with RB, then you have NE up and both Chris Long and Gholston still on the board. The rumor is that the Pats would like to trade down, and if that scenario plays out I think they are going to need 10 or 15 phones in the draft room because a boat load of teams will be calling looking to move up. I would also expect Balti to get to get some offers for the 8th pick.

Even if the Jets do pick Gholston or Long, the other should generate plenty of trade offers for NE, and if they pass, Balti.

The best thing for Cincy to do if those two slip (and if, indeed, Cincy wants either of them) is to call NE themselves and offer their third to swap first rounders with the Pats.

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