Sunday, April 20, 2003

Pick Palmer, pray he doesn't play



map
The best thing Carson Palmer has going for him is Jon Kitna. Kitna will play while Palmer learns how. The Bengals should draft the Southern Cal QB and Heisman Trophy winner because sooner or later, Palmer's young-adult brain will catch up to his fully grown body. And just maybe, the Bengals will have the quarterback they've sought since Boomer Esiason.

Kansas State cornerback Terence Newman is not the first overall pick, even with his Deion potential. Sanders was the best cover corner ever, but Prime Time was never more than a best supporting actor to Steve Young and Troy Aikman. Great corners are easier to find than great quarterbacks.

You could argue that Newman gives the Bengals the best chance to win now. Don't get ahead of yourself. They aren't ready to win now. Marvin Lewis could be a very good coach. He isn't bringing loaves and fishes.

Palmer looks like he came from the QB Factory: Six-five, 235, cut like Adonis. Big enough to shrug blitzing defensive backs, strong enough to zip a 15-yard out pass. Unlike the Bengals' previous two first-round QBs, Palmer is also a football wonk. "He should have laces in the back of his head," says Petros Papadakis, USC's tailback between 1998 and 2000.

Ask Papadakis what Palmer likes to do away from the game, Papadakis says: "Find someone to catch the ball. Or watch tape." Maybe this wasn't the answer you got when you asked people about David Klingler and Akili Smith.

Palmer also has had practice wearing the hero suit. The Trojans were a mess when he got there. He started the last half of his freshman year, broke his collarbone in the third game the following season, then led the Pacific-10 in interceptions in 2000. Blame that on former coach Paul Hackett's West Coast offense, which looks great when Joe Montana runs it. Don't expect a college kid to master it.

As Papadakis puts it, "It was raining cats and dogs, bad stuff, when Hackett was at SC."

Let him watch, learn

Palmer emerged from the hype and confusion to be the best college QB in America last fall. "When he got there, the (offensive) line was bad, the situation was bad, (Hackett's) offense was too much for him to learn. But he handled the whole situation with the utmost poise," says Papadakis.

The Bengals twice have mishandled first-round quarterbacks. But Kenny Anderson isn't here anymore, and the team isn't as desperate for good news as it was in those cases. The team (mis)used Klingler and Smith to peddle hope. They've got Lewis to sell hope now.

Given their failures with Klingler and Smith, you have to believe the Bengals wouldn't rush Palmer. If you're looking for warning signs, there are a few: Pac-10 defenses are leaky on the whole. And Papadakis adds, "(Palmer) has trouble with decision-making." A few years watching and learning might cure him of that.

As good as Newman might be, if you think the speed of the NFL confuses a QB, try talking to a defensive back after his NFL debut. He's spinning like a top. Would Newman be better this year than Artrell Hawkins? Nope.

Take a stab at potential very good-ness, at the most important position on the field. Then give the kid some serious clipboard time. He actually might have a future here.

---

E-mail pdaugherty@enquirer.com




REDS SUNDAY GAME
Reds 7, Expos 5
Reds box, runs

REDS SATURDAY GAMES AND NEWS
Reds off course in the Caribbean
Career takes another left turn
Reds chatter
Reds Q&A
Down on the farm: Hamilton regroups
Reds notebook: Boone tinkers with lineup

OTHER BASEBALL
Braves encounter unknown
Wrigley epitomizes what's best about baseball
MLB power rankings
NL: Benitez blows fourth save
AL: Yankees' starters now 12-0
Notes from Saturday's games
Players vow they'll defend their turf
Everett struck by fan's thrown cell phone
IL: Louisville 3, Durham 2

BENGALS
Last No. 1 pick didn't help Bengals
Daugherty: Pick Palmer, pray he doesn't play
Where are they now?
Bengals Q&A

OTHER FOOTBALL
Swarm put on show - and a game, too
Reading grad Wynn in running at Florida
All draft options have Rogers smiling
Getting to know: Zach Thomas
Early guide to the NFL draft

UC BEARCATS
Ex-Bearcat held on weapons charges

NBA
Nets' Kidd shows up mentor
Three Bucks players surrender on assault charges
Wizards in need of major repairs

HOCKEY
Stars finish off Oilers, eye Ducks

PREP SPORTS
KHSAA considers change of FB venue
Neltner, Hanser will lead local All-Stars
Prep results

GOLF
Kung wins first LPGA Tour event

HORSE RACING
Scrimshaw's victory sends Lukas to Derby

AUTO RACING
NASCAR's All-Star event to pay $1 million to winner
Formula One: Brothers qualify 1-2 in Italy

SUNDAY SPOTLITE
Athletes and sitcoms: Real shining moments
Page Two power rankings

Return to Bengals front page...