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Draft day: Cincinnati bungles

National | April in the NFL brings football fans back to one of the sport's great recent mysteries: How can the Cincinnati Bengals squander so much draft talent?

Issue: "Iraq: After the rout," April 26, 2003

April in the NFL brings football fans back to one of the sport's great recent mysteries: How can the Cincinnati Bengals squander so much draft talent? While NFL general managers scour numbers in preparation for the NFL's college draft, some pundits are lying in wait for this year's draft foibles.

The Bengals are set to make the first selection in this year's NFL draft. That's bad news for potential draft pick Carson Palmer because the Bengals often collosally fail with first-round picks. They selected Akili Smith over Daunte Culpepper or Ricky Williams in 1999. Cincinnati blew two overall No. 1 picks on Ki-Jana Carter and Dan Wilkinson. How do the Bengals keep getting it wrong? In 1997 they used their first-round pick on Reinard Wilson, a defensive end who scored lower on his pre-draft IQ test than any other player drafted. Mr. Wilson has started just five games in the past four years.

It's true that many championship teams are built in late April. But it's also true that more teams cement their place as cellar-dwellers by bingeing on the draft equivalent of junk food. After all, the Bengals are still bloated by the empty calories of drafting Mr. Wilson and the salary-cap flab of Akili Smith's $10.8 million signing bonus. -

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