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Bengals board may get tested

Posted Apr 25, 2013

With the first round of the NFL Draft riding into its long day's journey into night on the usual plethora of rumors, Paul Brown Stadium on Thursday morning looked as resolute as head coach Marvin Lewis last week.


Andre Smith

With the first round of the NFL Draft riding into its long day's journey into night on the usual plethora of rumors, Paul Brown Stadium on Thursday morning looked as resolute as head coach Marvin Lewis last week.

The Bengals are hoping they can re-sign right tackle Andre Smith and it is believed they'll keep discussions open with him Thursday as the 8 p.m. draft looms.

But nothing looked imminent early in the day as the Bengals appeared to be sticking with head coach Marvin Lewis's mantra last week that the Smith situation doesn't mean the Bengals will be only looking at right tackle in the first round.

"I don't think that's going to affect (it)," Lewis said last Friday. "I think the overall drafting (of) an offensive tackle if he's the best player even if Andre were signed would be something we would still consider. Because these players that we would be speaking of in those terms, I think it's good for the future of the team."

Translation: The Bengals are going to take the best player on the board at No. 21 no matter the need. The top four tackles in Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel, Central Michigan's Eric Fisher, Oklahoma's Lane Johnson and Alabama's D.J. Fluker aren't available at No. 21 in many mock drafts, so we'll find out how the Bengals feel about guys like Florida State's Menelik Watson and Syracuse's Justin Pugh.

One of the reasons the Bengals have been so successful in the past four years of drafting is the commitment to sticking with their grades instead of "reaching" and trying to fill needs with lesser players or low-impact positions. That could be seen a bit in the 2008 draft, when they took outside linebacker Keith Rivers and wide receiver Jerome Simpson in the first and second rounds, respectively.

It may have blunted their efforts to get a tight end before landing Jermaine Gresham in the first round in 2010 and the club's bid to get a running back last season, but Lewis feels like the Bengals still improved the team by sticking to the board.

"In the last few years, we have looked to get a back in the top half of the draft, and we’ve not done that. We went a few years with tight end that way, and then we finally got Jermaine where it fit," Lewis said. "Before that, we’d go to pick, there would be another guy who was playing another spot that we had ranked higher, and I would say that’s the same case (with running backs recently). I would say we probably try to hold as true to that as we can.

“I think we have enough ability to fill depth needs that no one would ever know whether we had the guy ranked here or here. They’re going to be that close. There are things that publicly nobody knows about a player -- where he is on the field and off the field, and so forth, and is he a good fit for us? That’s why sometimes the ‘experts’ feel like that guy is the best guy, and they’ll say, ‘Why didn’t they take that guy?’ Well, they probably didn’t take him because by their information, it wasn’t a good fit for them, for whatever reasons they are.”

Both Smith and the Bengals figure to revisit their own situations after the draft. The club could make a move it feels precludes a Smith signing, or it could keep talking to him, depending how the draft goes. Smith's status could be affected if another team doesn't get a tackle in the draft and it makes a run at him, which, at least publicly, has yet to happen.

But both Friday and in Tuesday's pre-draft news conference, Lewis indicated the club wants Smith back and remained hopeful it would happen before the 21st pick.

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