I recently interviewed Scott Wright of DraftCountdown.com. Because we're still so far away from that fateful April day when Mike Brown will randomly choose some fine players whose career he will ruin, I tried to stray away from asking too many questions about where players will go, who should we draft here, etc. We're hoping to do this a few times in the leadup to the draft. A transcript of the interview follows, and afterword I'll elaborate on one point he makes that I liked. If you have anything you'd like us to ask him in the future, let us know in the comments or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Scott Wright: Well, right now running back is their biggest need since Cedric Benson is set to become a free agent but it looks like he will re-sign. Next up is the offensive line, where they could use help specifically at offensive tackle and center. I also think they could use another impact player at linebacker and safety and perhaps an upgrade at tight end as well.
WDR: All Bengal fans, myself included, love Housh. He never stops competing and really deserves to be on a better team. That being said, I'm probably one of the only people in the Bengals blogosphere against giving him what he'd get on the market. If Lee Evans can get 4 years and $38 million, I don't even want to think about what TJ's worth. Do you think giving a 32 year old wideout that kind of money would be a mistake? Or do you think he's worth it, even if he doesn't perform at an elite level for the last year or two of his deal?
SW: Well, that's the big question. The biggest mistake the Bengals made last offseason is not trading Chad Johnson when the Washington Redskins reportedly offered two first round picks for him. If they had done that they couldn't loaded up in the draft and would have had plenty of money to resign Housh. If Cincy doesn't franchise Houshmandzadeh he will likely garner a big offer on the open market that the Bengals probably won't be willing to match considering his age and the franchises, let's call it thriftiness. The good news is they did use two early round picks on Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell last year so they do have some talent in place if Houshmandzadeh does leave.
WDR: Coming into the season, Michael Oher was looked at as a consensus top 10 pick. Now, I've seen some major sites have him near the bottom of the 1st round. You have him currently listed 13th on your big board. I felt like he played just as well last year as he had ever had. Why has he dropped? Did his play actually slip? Do you think it's possible draft experts have just gotten tired of him and found reasons to downgrade him? Is there any way he's the first offensive tackle taken in April?
SW: Michael Oher's stock really hasn't dropped all that much, at least not in my eyes. He has just gotten pushed down by the influx of underclassmen (Andre Smith) and the emergence of Jason Smith. I have always been a big Oher fan but watching him in Mobile for a week at the Senior Bowl I saw why some have concerns. A lot of the time he was dominant but then for some reason he'd have lapses and get beaten by inferior talents. In terms of sheer talent Oher might be the most impressive blocker in this draft but the intangibles are a question mark. He is a boom or bust prospect but there is no way he should fall out of the top half of round one in my opinion.
WDR: Various media seemed to praise Marvin Lewis and his staff for how they handled Senior Bowl practices. What did you see from them?
SW: I think the Bengals ran some well-structured and organized practices, especially compared to the way Jacksonville handled the South squad. Granted the North lost the game but that was more a case of sheer talent winning out rather than anything Lewis or the Bengals did wrong.
WDR: Of all the players at the top of the draft, the player who has helped himself most since the end of the season is BJ Raji. Talk about what you've seen from him up until this point.
SW: After a fantastic senior campaign Raji's stock was already on the rise but he really took it to the next level at the Senior Bowl. After weighing in at 6-1 5/8 and 334 pounds Raji dominated the week from start to finish and was almost unblockable. Everybody knew what an outstanding run stuffer he was but the fact that he was able to beat some very good centers with his quickness as a pass rusher was a surprise. Raji is now a legitimate Top 10 possibility and has the ability to fit in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme.
WDR: There are three defensive ends that everyone seems to have in their top 20: Brian Orkapo, Everette Brown, and Aaron Maybin. Which one do you think has the brightest future?
SW: Personally I give the slight edge to Brian Orakpo, with Everette Brown a very close second and Aaron Maybin a distant third. Maybin might have the most long-term upside of the bunch but he is extremely undersized (236 pounds!), doesn't have much of a track record and will require considerable development. He will likely go quite a bit higher than my rankings might indicate but that will be a mistake. Orakpo and Brown should both be Top 10-15 picks and they have the ability to be 4-3 defensive ends or 3-4 outside linebackers.
WDR: You've been following the draft for a long time. Tell me, have you ever met a Bengals scout? If so, have you ever met a Bengals scout not related to Mike Brown?
SW: Honestly I don't talk about scouts I know or for which teams they work. If I did it would not only damage my relationship with them but also potentially put their jobs in jeopardy.
WDR: Honestly, how big of a joke is Bengals management in league circles?
SW: Well, on the bright side the Raiders are actually the butt of more jokes these days but Cincy might be a close second. That's probably not much of a consolation to Bengal fans though.
WDR: The Bengals coaching staff is essentially does all the scouting for the team. Do you think it's even possible to work 80-100 hours a week during the season on the actual games, then turn around in January and effectively scout for the draft?
SW: Absolutely not, the Bengals are understaffed and everybody knows it. Even so that still isn't an excuse for some of their mistakes. Even with their limitations my budget and resources aren't anything close to what Cincinnati has at their disposal yet I knew about all of the off-the-field issues with their draftees. I have to think they had the information to make the right decision in a lot of cases, they simply ignored it for one reason or another.
WDR: Please tell me you have some funny Bengals story about them not knowing vital information about a player, or not having a guy at the combine, or making a potential draftee pay for a meal. Please?
SW: The thing that gets me is they are still making the same mistakes. Even after all the trouble they have had with guys running afoul of the law they still drafted arguably the biggest character risk in the entire draft last year. Just look at a portion of my scouting report on Jason Shirley, which was posted well before the 2008 NFL Draft:
"Was suspended for the first two games of 2007 for conduct detrimental to the team...Was suspended again in October '07 after he crashed his car into an apartment building and left the scene while driving drunk...Was allowed back on the team after just four weeks but was ultimately dismissed once and for all after being cited for driving with a suspended license"
In fact, at the time of the draft I believe Shirley still had some legal issues that weren't resolved and he wasn't even on most teams draft boards. Yet the Bengals saw fit to take him in the fifth round. Those who don't learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them. (end)