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May 08, 2002

Bengal Blues
By Dan Patrick's NFL draft coverage

The moment the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Arizona State offensive tackle Levi Jones in the first round of the NFL draft, I -- along with Bengals fans everywhere -- simply said, "What do you expect? It's the Bengals."

The Bengals could have gone in lots of directions, and the best direction would have been down. As in, trade down to get more draft picks plus Levi Jones.
The Bengals drafted a guy who may turn out to be a solid player -- who knows, Jones may become an All-Pro. But they could have traded down to get him (just as the Dallas Cowboys traded down to get Roy Williams). Nobody had Jones ranked higher that No. 15 on the draft board. ESPN's draft guru, Mel Kiper Jr., had him ranked at No. 17 and projected him to be drafted by the Ravens -- with the 24th pick.

But Cincinnati jumps at Levi Jones with the 10th pick of the draft.

The Bengals could have selected the best tight end, Miami's Jeremy Shockey (drafted at No. 14 by the New York Giants). Or they could have chosen a top cornerback like Miami's Phillip Buchanon, drafted at No. 17 by the Oakland Raiders -- ironically, Kiper had him rated No. 10 on his draft board. Or maybe a defensive play-maker, like another Miami standout, safety Edward Reed.

The Bengals could have gone in lots of directions, and the best direction would have been down. As in, trade down to get more draft picks plus Jones.

Of course, down is a direction Bengals fans are accustomed to. My over/under on Bengals wins each year is four. And there's that apparent aversion to making strong first-round picks.

After all, it's the Bengals.

Past Bengals' first-rounders include quarterback David Klingler in 1992, wide receiver David Verser in 1981 and defensive lineman Wilson Whitley in 1976. In 1995, the Bengals draft a good first-rounder, Ki-Jana Carter -- but he blew out his knee and was never the same.

Speaking of Cincinnati misfortune, quarterback Greg Cook took the AFL by storm as a rookie in '69 but wound up hurting his rocket-like arm. So, sadly, injuries reduced him to being a one-year wonder.

A native of Ohio, I'm old enough to have witnessed the inaugural season of the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFL (1968). And I'm old enough to have watched Sam Wyche, Bruce Coslet and Bob Trumpy play for the Bengals. Paul Robinson, the Cactus Comet, went to the Pro Bowl in 1968. I've seen 'em all.

The Bengals have also lost two of the closest games in Super Bowl history -- both times to the San Francisco 49ers, by a combined nine points. Cincy lost Super Bowl XVI 26-21 in January 1982 (Joe Montana was the MVP) and fell 20-16 in XXIII in January 1989 (Jerry Rice was MVP).

Unlucky? It's the Bengals.

Sure, Cincinnati has had some success with its drafts, but not usually in the first round. And when Levi Jones' name was called out Saturday as the No. 10 pick -- well, for Cincinnati football fans, one phrase explained it all. That's right ... it's the Bengals.

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