Monday, April 28, 2003

Day Two sees team turn focus to defense


Lewis finishes his first draft and says Bengals are excited

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

On Day 1 of the NFL draft, the Bengals added players that could give them a more dynamic offense. On Day 2, they drafted primarily to fill needs at fullback and on the defensive and offensive lines.

The Bengals' first pick Sunday morning - the first of the fourth round and No. 98 overall - was an attention-grabber from coast to coast. They used it on Dennis Weathersby, the former Oregon State cornerback who was shot once in the back on Easter Sunday in his suburban Los Angeles hometown.

The incident, and accompanying questions about his character, dropped Weathersby from the second to the fourth round. The Sports Xchange had Weathersby ranked as the 57th player in the draft before the shooting.

But Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said Weathersby's health and habits had been checked and double-checked.

"We're excited," Lewis said. "It would not have surprised us to see our first four picks go in the first round. For us to be able to select those guys, we feel very lucky. There were a couple of scenarios that came up that we really didn't expect, so that's been good.

"Now we have to coach them."

Weathersby, a four-year starter at Oregon State, was the Bengals' first defensive pick. The top three were all offense: quarterback Carson Palmer, guard Eric Steinbach and wide receiver Kelley Washington.

ESPN's John Clayton said the Bengals were one of six Day 1 winners in the draft - along with New England, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Dallas and Buffalo.

Day 2, other than Weathersby, featured relatively unknown players.

The Bengals' second pick of the fourth round, No. 118 overall, was 266-pound fullback Jeremi Johnson of Western Kentucky. Linebacker Khalid Abdullah of Division II Mars Hill was the fifth-round pick. The Round 6 pick was Langston Moore of South Carolina, a 303-pound defensive tackle.

In the seventh round, the Bengals had two picks: offensive tackle Scott Kooistra (North Carolina State) and defensive end Elton Patterson (Central Florida).

Day 2 picks are generally flawed. Weathersby and Johnson are said to lack motivation in the weight room. Kooistra was charged with a DUI in 2001. Scouts say Patterson spends too much time on the ground.

But in Lewis' world, second-day picks are not disposable players.

"That's what I keep trying to press," Lewis said when asked how he has turned Day 2 picks into major contributors on other teams.

"I don't want to hear about a guy being drafted to be a backup player. A guy has to have something special about him, something that makes him excel. We're looking for a guy we draft late to be a starter in his second or third year."

Lewis mentioned late-round Baltimore Ravens picks Cornell Brown (linebacker) and Adalius Thomas (defensive lineman) as players who developed into productive starters.

Here's what the Bengals see in their final five picks:

• Johnson is a blocker. The Bengals lost top fullbacks Lorenzo Neal and Nicolas Luchey in free agency, and though they acquired Mike Green (Tennessee), the position still was thin. Johnson was a member of the Division I-AA national champion Hilltoppers.

• Abdullah, at 227 pounds, is a fast, athletic linebacker.

• Moore was a dominant, run-stopping defensive tackle at South Carolina, where he started 24 consecutive games in the past two seasons and earned all-SEC and some all-America honors last season.

• Kooistra is a big guy (6-7, 316) who played left tackle at N.C. State.

• Patterson is a 271-pound left end who had 9.5 sacks last season for Central Florida and earned first-team Mid-American Conference honors.

Lewis said next year's draft would go more smoothly than this one - his first as an NFL head coach. He was hired Jan. 14 and presided over a minicamp two weeks before the draft.

Lewis also said the team added some young players in the second day who could be part of a personnel turnover in future years.

"You have to have a mix (of veterans and young players)," he said. "You have to have a cycle, and that's what we're trying to do."

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E-mail mcurnutte@enquirer.com




NFL DRAFT
A lifetime lived in 8 days
Day Two sees team turn focus to defense
Team adds fullback to mix
2 more Bearcats selected in draft
Five Buckeyes headed to NFL
Winners and losers in 2003 draft
Were there really 12 QBs better than Ken Dorsey?
Colts say draft went according to plan
With McGahee pick, Bills start new soap opera
Giants bolster defense through draft
Texans select Drew Henson
2003 NFL Draft selections
Team-by-team draft

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PLAN YOUR DAY
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