Among the onlookers at Auburn's pro day on March 15: Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, whose team holds the No. 4 overall pick and could go a variety of ways in Round One. Auburn's most high-profile prospect is QB Cam Newton, and the Bengals might have a pressing need at Newton's position if Carson Palmer holds firm on his threat to never play for Cincinnati again.
To date, there has been no indication Palmer will waver from this stance, and Lewis has said the team must prepare as if Palmer will not be with the club in 2011. On the other hand, Bengals president Mike Brown has said the team will not trade Palmer. Neither of the Bengals' top two backup quarterbacks, Jordan Palmer and Dan LeFevour, has ever started an NFL game, making adding a passer if Carson Palmer retires or is traded a must.
Lewis, Bengals WR coach James Urban (formerly the Eagles' QB coach), defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and DL coach Jay Hayes attended Auburn's pro day, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer, with QB coach Ken Zampese taking in Arkansas' pro day, according to the paper. Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett might be a more realistic consideration for the Bengals at the top of Round Two than at No. 4.
There's no guarantee Newton, the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner, will be selected higher than college teammate Nick Fairley, a very well-regarded DT prospect. Fairley also plays a position that the Bengals could consider addressing early in this draft. The Bengals aren't bereft of talent in the middle, with Domata Peko a solid starter and Geno Atkins and Pat Sims players who have shown promise. However, the Bengals have had only two Pro Bowl defensive tackles in their history and none since NT Tim Krumrie was honored in 1988. They have not taken a defensive tackle with a first-round pick since selecting Dan Wilkinson No. 1 overall in 1994.
In PFW's second mock draft, personnel analyst Nolan Nawrocki had the Bengals selecting Georgia WR A.J. Green with their first-round pick. And indeed, wide receiver also looms as a need for the Bengals, what with Chad Ochocinco in the final year of his contract and the rest of the depth chart featuring talented but somewhat unproven performers.