Bengals Fans Vote for OT at 6, But Raji Shakes Things Up


The Cincinnati Bengals should take an offensive tackle with the sixth overall selection in the coming NFL Draft, stripehype.com readers say. An overwhelming 70% chose OT in our online poll, against 18% favoring linebacker and 7% running back.

OT makes sense from almost any angle. Current Bengals left tackle Levi Jones hasn’t really been healthy since the 2006 season, and right tackle Stacy Andrews is a free agent rehabbing a torn ACL, so OT is definitely a need. This year’s draft is flush with quality tackles: Andre Smith, Eugene Monroe, Jason Smith and Michael Oher. At least two of those names should still be on the board when the Bengals pick. The money is right. Whoever gets taken at six is going to get a deal north of $50 million, and OT is one of the positions where top-tier players command that kind of coin. And finally, OT is a reasonably safe selection. While tackles have been known to bust, they can typically still contribute at guard in such a case.

Indeed, barring a big free agent signing or trade that impacts these arguments, I think it’s highly unlikely that the Bengals go in any other direction in the first round. But another name and another position has unexpectedly thrust itself into the mix: Boston college DT B.J. Raji.

While I agree that fixing the o-line is job No. 1 this offseason, I don’t share kirk’s objection to James Walker’s suggestion of DT in the first. Why? Well, if the o-line is job 1, then boosting the Bengals’ anemic pass rush is job 1a. Despite paying a combined $60 million-plus to defensive ends Robert Geathers and Antwan Odom, the Bengals generated just 17 sacks last season, which tied with the Browns for second-worst in the league. Cincinnati’s desperate need for pressure is what points some fans and observers toward picks like DEs Brian Orapko or Everett Brown, or an LB along the lines of Aaron Curry. But I think a very strong case can be made for bolstering defensive tackle as the way to improve the rush. And that case can be summed up in two words: Albert Haynesworth.

Odom wasn’t as successful last season in Cincinnati as he was in 2007 in Tennessee in part because the Titans have Haynesworth. He commands constant double-teams, which in turn create many more opportunities for the players on the edges. The Bengals have no such monster in the middle, and in general fans covet one badly. In fact, signing Haynesworth himself is a persistent pipe dream in Bengaldom.

But that isn’t going to happen, even if Haynesworth is a free agent come March, and Bengals fans, including yours truly, had paid little attention to the possibility of DT in the first because this year looks to be a weak one at the position, with no defensive tackle worthy of a top 10 pick. I didn’t even include DT on this blog’s poll for precisely that reason.

All that changed with the emergence of Raji in Senior Bowl practices this week. Raji routinely owned even top interior offensive line prospects like Alex Mack and Max Unger. Already seen as a mid-to-late first round pick going into this week, Raji is now starting to pop up in the top 10. For example, in his most recent mock, Walter Cherepinsky has him going to the Packers at nine, and after seeing him work in Mobile, gbnreport.com chief scout Jon Cozart declared Raji a top five pick.

Now, huge caveat here: a few good practices does not a future Pro Bowler make. The Great Draft Hype Machine is just getting into gear and Raji is only the first of many players whose stock will soar because of a good practice or pro day or 40 time at the combine. But that said, Raji was a first-rounder even before the Senior Bowl, and I think his performance there has certainly earned him strong consideration by the Bengals. And with the 2009 draft boasting a deep class of offensive tackles — deep enough that a good player will be there in the second — I find myself suddenly tempted to address the other line in the first.

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  • Rob

    With all due respect, stay focused on one of the stud OTs at #6. With the 6th pick in the 2nd round, go defense with DE/TE Connor Barwin since C Alex Mack is probably off the board. Take hometown boy C Eric Wood in the 3rd. There still will be interesting DTs like Ziggy Hood or Fili Moala up for grabs in late 3rd or early 4th when we have a supplemental pick to spend. Also, it’s not too much to hope that Ocho Cinqo can be dealt, say to the Giants who have two 2nd rounders. They need a good, experienced wideout since Plaxico is nuts and Rolle is old.

  • http://stripehype.com/ David

    Like I said, I expect they’ll go OT at 6. But they’ve invested heavily in the D in the draft for the last four years, it’s finally starting to pay off, and I’m extremely reluctant to take my foot off the gas now. And I’m definitely not interested in another “interesting” day 2 defensive project. The Bengals have enough of those guys already. They need a stud defender who scares the crap out of opposing OCs. Barwin’s a good prospect but tweeners never work out in Cincy. He’s better off elsewhere. Wood gives me Ghaicuic vibes.

  • G-Money

    I agree with O-Tackle at 6… but I would rather trade down. I think Rey Maliluga (USC…spelling?) would be awesome for our squad. So trade down, get the next Ray Lewis and still have another pick (this year or next) to get that OT.

    Maybe it’s a pipe dream, but could you imagine trading down for 2 later 1st rounders and still getting an OT and Maliluga, or Maliluga and Raji?

    Any rumors on what Ocho Cinco is worth this year. Hindsight is 20/20, but we should’ve taken those 2 1st rounders from the ‘Skins last year!

  • http://stripehype.com/ David

    I have this pipe dream about Philly falling in love with someone at the top of the draft and offering up their two firsts and their third for the 6 overall and our fifth rounder. Never happen, of course…

    My guess on Chad is maaaaaaybe a second but more likely a fourth…assuming anyone is interested at all, of course.

  • jason c,

    I’m perplexed why everyone is so in love w/ a takcle @ 6. Are we throwing in the towel on our 2002 1st? Is Levi really done? What about Collins who looked pretty good? What about Whit who played only T in college. Here’s the thing- none of these high rated tackles are flawless. Theres no Thomas or Ogden in the bunch. Oher comes closest yet he comes w/ motivation issues. PLEASE NO. The last thing we need is a guy who needs motivated.
    Build the D. Mauluga, Curry, Orakpo- all will be impact players. and upgrades over what we have. You’ll get almost as good of a prospect T in the 3rd. What we really need is a C that can stand up to a bull rush. There’s my FA wish. (Jeff Saturday?)
    Here’s hoping Favre retires(for real) and the Jets come calling for that 6th pick. I’m guessing Brownies’ thinking the same thing.

  • http://stripehype.com/ David

    I don’t know if Levi’s done but he’s yet another player who clearly doesn’t want to be here.

    I don’t think the Jets have the trade firepower to move up that far.

  • G-Money

    David

    Yeah, I know its a pipe dream, but the Bengals have so many holes to fill, or areas where we could improve that I think getting a tackle at #6 doesn’t fix us. Hell I’d give the #6 up for a #17 and a top of the 2nd round. We need the middle linebacker, but we can’t pay top 10 $ for it… so trade down, get away from that overly expensive #6 and get what we really need… a stud LB. Then get tackles and centers in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th round (where you’re suppose to build your line).

    I agree with a previous poster who said that we can’t take anymore ‘projects’. Jerome Simpson… he maybe great and man do I pray that he is, but a project like him is for a different team. We need great players from great programs. PLEASE BENGALS, NO MORE PROJECTS! (Askew, Henry, Simpson, etc. etc. etc.)

  • James

    If the same bums are drafting again this year, expect another bust! How about that second rounder with one catch for two yards! 5-1-10 will be a successful year by bungle standards. Why is Marvin Loser still here? He created this mess! Oh, I guess I am use to it by now. We will watch another Steelers Super Bowl victory, Ravens in the Championship game and the Browns rebuilding. I guess fourth place isn’t that bad in the division.

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