Bengals Get Lineman They Wanted
Apr. 20, 1996
CINCINNATI (AP) _ There was no hesitation Saturday when the Cincinnati Bengals got their turn. The player they wanted was still there.
The Bengals chose offensive tackle Willie Anderson of Auburn in the first round of the NFL draft, taking only a few minutes of their 15-minute allotment before speaking his name.
``We made this decision really a while back, and we stuck to it,'' coach Dave Shula said.
Last year, the Bengals traded up from the No. 5 pick so they could take running back Ki-Jana Carter with the first overall choice. This year, they got two calls from other teams about trading their No. 10 pick overall, but neither offer interested them.
``We were very content to stay where we were,'' president and general manager Mike Brown said.
After years of allowing the offensive line to deteriorate, the Bengals have made it a priority in the last two drafts. They took tackle Melvin Tuten from Syracuse with their second pick _ in the third round _ last season.
Anderson is the first offensive tackle that the Bengals have spent their top pick on since Anthony Munoz in 1980. Only one other offensive lineman has been a No. 1 pick since then _ center Dave Rimington in 1983.
Jonathan Ogden, the most highly rated tackle available, went to Baltimore with the No. 4 overall pick Saturday. The Bengals had figured he would be gone and Anderson would still be there when their turn arrived.
``He was the second-best offensive lineman in the draft,'' Shula said. ``For two years now, we've taken a position that was inarguably a position of great need to where we have young players who we can build on for a long time.''
Tuten played in all 16 games last season, starting two because of injury. Anderson, 20, is expected to be a backup for at least the first year.
The 6-foot-5, 325-pound college junior was prized for his strength and balance, which allowed him to hold off strong pass rushers. Inexperience is considered his major shortcoming.
Initially, he will be a backup to right tackle Joe Walter. Returning starter Kevin Sargent and Tuten are at the left tackle spot.
``He will have a lot to learn,'' Brown said. ``I'm not expecting him to come in here and supplant Joe Walter. Joe's in the golden years, but he's still a fine player. They'll work together and eventually there will be a transition.''
``Coach Shula said he has no time limit on when I'm going to play,'' Anderson said. ``I know it's going to be tough to come in and be an immediate starter. I come with the attitude that I'm going to work hard and try to push somebody for a job.''
Anderson was comfortable with the Bengals long before they picked him. Most of the draft projections had him going to Cincinnati.
``I was kind of banking on Cincinnati,'' Anderson said. ``When people would come up to me and say, `Where are you going?' I'd say Cincinnati.''