CINCINNATI -- If you believe the mock drafts, the Bengals are interested in two players who have things in the background that could scare off teams.
A couple of mock drafts have them taking Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster with the ninth pick overall. It’s also been widely reported the Bengals are among the teams most interested in Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon.
Foster bolted the NFL Combine after an argument with a doctor and having a “diluted sample” in a drug test. Mixon punched a woman in a Norman, Oklahoma bar in 2014.
Coach Marvin Lewis does not tip his hand on the draft. But the team has a long history of giving players second and third chances. Adam “Pacman” Jones is a living, breathing example of that.
The guess here is they’d take either Foster or Mixon if they’re on top of the team draft board when the Bengals pick. The draft begins Thursday and continues Friday and Saturday.
The Bengals pick ninth in the first round. Foster rates around ninth on most draft projections, and he fills a need for the Bengals. Mixon is not a top-10 prospect, but there’s a chance he’ll be there when the Bengals' second pick comes up at 41.
Lewis spoke in general terms about the character issue, i.e., how you decide to take a chance on a player with some questionable off-the-field things in his background.
“The thing you’re evaluating is to make sure that particular player, if there are certain questions, we know everything about it,” Lewis said. “We know what we’re stepping into, getting into by bringing that young man aboard and have a plan for it if you feel like it's something that’s overcome-able. Those things are all important.
“Secondly, if you bring that person here, you’re betting on him being able to stay here and you having everything in place to help him stay here. Because otherwise, you’re passing on another player. There’s a lot of good prospects. Let’s make sure we get the right one. The ones that have an opportunity to stay and prosper. You can’t control injury. That’s part of the process. Sooner or later, they overcome it.
“The one thing you can’t (overcome) is when a guy doesn’t do the right thing to stay here.”
Again, if Foster is absolutely the best on the Bengals' board, they may find him worth the risk. It seems like an increasing number of players in the draft are tainted.
“Unfortunately, it's become a big part of it because of where we are in our society,” Lewis said. “And the fact now that news is instantaneous all the time and any misstep by anybody becomes public knowledge right away. So I think there is more that goes into it. Sometimes it's more accessible, but it's far-reaching that way. Every day there's something that -- however it happens, 'leaked' or whatever word you want to use -- comes out about one of these guys. It's kind of incredible."
It sounds like a diluted drug test is not deal breaker.
“These things can happen for a number reasons,” Lewis said. “They may have the flu, be dehydrated. You see guys come into meetings, and they’re carrying a huge gallon jug of water. They’ve been told to hydrate. It’s an intense few days for them.”
Of course, the Bengals could go in another direction. They have a lot of needs to fill. Alabama tight end O.J. Howard would give them insurance for Tyler Eifert. Wide receivers Corey Davis of Western Michigan and John Ross of Washington would take pressure off A.J. Green. Defensive linemen Derek Barnett of Tennessee and Jonathan Allen of Alabama would bolster an aging interior.
The myriad mock drafts have the Bengals taking players all over the board. Charley Casserly of NFL.com has them taking Allen. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com has them taking Foster. Peter King of Sports Illustrated has them taking Haason Reddick, a linebacker from Temple. ESPN’s Mel Kiper has them taking Reddick. ESPN’s Todd McShay has them taking Davis. Evan Silva of yahoo.com has them taking Barnett.
All of the attention is on the first round. But the Bengals have 11 picks overall -- the most they've had since 1992 when the draft was 12 rounds. A big draft like that can have a lasting impact on the franchise.
In 2012, the Bengals got Dre Kirkpatrick, Kevin Zeitler, Mohamed Sanu, Brandon Thompson, Marvin Jones and George Iloka among their 10 picks.
Lewis says this draft is deep.
“I believe there are some guys who will be picked that third day that really have an opportunity to have productive NFL careers,” Lewis said. “They have the NFL dimensions and ability and so forth. It’s the thing they do to stay here.”
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at email@example.com