Learning lessons the hard way

While chasing the Steelers, Marvin Lewis has had no problem bringing in players of questionable character.

In the most-recent edition of The Sporting News, NFL writer Dan Pompei spoke to an unnamed general manager and asked him for the players that GM's team had taken off its draft board in the past five years.

Pompei found that the Cincinnati Bengals have drafted seven of those players, including three this year – defensive end Frosty Rucker, linebacker A.J. Nicholson and wide receiver Reggie McNeil.

This comes a year after drafting linebacker Odell Thurman and wide receiver Chris Henry in 2005.

You'd think the Bengals might have learned a lesson there, but apparently, they haven't.

Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis gave lip service to the team sliding bad character players down on their draft board. But the fact remains that the Bengals still selected those players, regardless of where they did it.

It's a risk-reward strategy at best.

Sure, Thurman and Henry played big parts in Cincinnati's AFC North championship run last season. And Thurman kept his nose clean. Henry, on the other hand, seems to court trouble, getting caught with a gun and marijuana on seperate occasions.

Lewis can talk all he wants about moving a player like Henry down on his team's draft board because of character issues, but at this point it's starting to look as if Henry was a wasted third-round pick. And third round picks aren't something you want to waste if you want to stay on top in the NFL. There are enough players who miss solely on talent alone to blow a premium pick on a guy who's been nothing but trouble.

It's a lesson the Pittsburgh Steelers learned in the late '80s when they used first-round picks on the likes of Tim Worley and Eric Green.

Having learned their lesson from wasting money and draft picks on players you can't count on, the Steelers make character a very big issue on draft day.

Do you have to pass on some good football players at times because of that? Certainly.

But when you look at the alternative, there are certainly enough other good football players available to waste time, money and a draft pick on a player of questionable character.

That's not to say the Steelers are squeaky clean. College kids make mistakes.

But in the case of Henry, all of the warning signs were there. Even though he's immensely talented, he had been suspended from the team while at West Virginia and was widely known to be a bad guy.

Maybe Lewis is taking a chance on bad character players because he feels he can change them. And Lewis is a solid guy through-and-through.

But much like the young girl hoping she can change the bad boy for the better, it doesn't always work. In fact, more often than not, it doesn't.

The Steelers learned this lesson the hard way. Here's betting the Bengals will as well.

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