Sunday, April 18, 1999

Bengals turn down treasure chest of picks for Smith

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Akili Smith gets used to stripes.
(AP photo)

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        The Bengals turned down the most attractive trade offer in their history Saturday to select Oregon quarterback Akili Smith with the third pick in the NFL draft.

        After the Cleveland Browns chose Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch No. 1 and the Philadelphia Eagles took Syracuse quarterback Donovan McNabb at No. 2, the New Orleans Saints made one last-ditch effort to trade up from No. 12 and take Texas running back Ricky Williams.

        With the Bengals on the clock, the Saints offered them nine picks: all of their picks this year, their first-round picks in 2000 and 2001, and a second-rounder in 2002.

Mike Brown explains his decision.
(Tony Jones photo)

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        Calling it the best offer he's ever had, Bengals President Mike Brown still opted to go for the 6-foot-2, 221-pound Smith and his spectacular senior season of 32 touchdown passes.

        “It was a generous offer, but we felt now is the time to get the quarterback. We've been saying that all along,” Brown said.

        Still, it left the Bengals open for the second guess. After the Saints dealt with Washington to move up to No. 5 and take Williams, UCLA quarterback Cade McNown, a player coveted by some Bengals coaches, was still available.

        "We didn't know he (McNown) would be there," Brown said.

        “The guy we took we feel has an excellent chance to be a long-time good quarterback. We think he has a better chance than anyone we could pick in the position after him, and maybe before.”

        Coach Bruce Coslet backed the move and was tired of hearing about high first-round quarterback flops.

        “I'm tired of hearing about David Klingler,” Coslet said. “Why don't you guys write about John Elway and Dan Marino? The story of this draft is we got Akili Smith and a lot of people had him No.1 on their boards. I'm very pleased.”

        Saints coach Mike Ditka figured Smith was No.1 on the Bengals' board.

        “I don't know how anyone could have turned us down,” Ditka said. “But if you've got a guy you want, no deal is good enough.”

        The Bengals addressed another need in the next two rounds by drafting defensive secondary help. They took cornerback Charles Fisher from West Virginia in the second round and safety Cory Hall from Fresno State in the third round.

        The draft continues today with Rounds 4-7. The Bengals have one pick in Rounds 4-6, and three picks in Round 7.

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