Bengals grab Perry, Ratliff

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 25, 2004

CINCINNATI - Rudi Johnson has some fast company in the Bengals' backfield.

Unable to get one of the cornerbacks they coveted, the Bengals traded down and took running back Chris Perry in the first round Saturday, an intriguing choice for Corey Dillon's former team.

Rudi Johnson won the job and won over fans last season when Dillon got hurt. Coach Marvin Lewis thinks Perry can complement the power runner rather than replace him immediately.

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The Bengals view Perry as another weapon for Carson Palmer, giving the first-year quarterback another option when no one is open downfield.

''It's got nothing to do with Rudi,'' Lewis said.

The rest of the day picks had everything to do with defense.

Cincinnati passed on Ohio State cornerback Chris Gamble in the first round - he went to Carolina two picks later. Instead, they took a different cornerback from Columbus with their first pick in the second round.

Keiwan Ratliff grew up in Youngstown, went to Whitehall-Yearling High School in Columbus and was recruited by Ohio State as a defensive back. He chose to go to Florida as a receiver, but got moved to cornerback anyway.

His size was the main thing that worked against him in the draft.

''Chris (Gamble) is a great athlete,'' Ratliff said. ''Chris is 6-foot-2 and I'm 5-foot-10. A lot of people like hype and some of those things, but the Cincinnati Bengals like what I had to offer. I'm Keiwan Ratliff, with or without the hype.''

Using the pick they got from New England in the trade for Dillon, the Bengals took free safety Madieu Williams from Maryland later in the second round.

With their two third-round picks, the Bengals got two undersized linebackers: Caleb Miller from Arkansas and Landon Johnson from Purdue. Both lack bulk but are quick, and should add speed to the defense and special teams.

The Dillon traded affected what the Bengals did to open the draft. They needed a backup for Johnson, who could be a free agent after next season.

Perry wasn't the fastest runner available, but the Bengals rated him as one of the most complete. He was a dependable receiver at Michigan, one of the major factors in his favor.

''It's like ice cream,'' running backs coach Jim Anderson said. ''Everybody likes a different flavor, and Chris Perry is our flavor.''

The Bengals faded to an 8-8 finish last season, barely missing out on the playoffs, because their defense collapsed. It's the main area that Lewis hopes to upgrade in his second draft with the Bengals.

Cornerback was a priority and the Bengals had two in mind, but DeAngelo Hall went to Atlanta with the eighth pick and Dunta Robinson was chosen by Houston with the 10th pick.

By the time the Bengals got to choose with the 24th overall pick, they had decided to take Perry. St. Louis offered to swap positions, and Lewis went along because he knew that Perry still would be there at No. 26.

The Bengals like Perry's ability to avoid tackles. He repeatedly made defenders miss during Michigan's 35-21 victory over Ohio State in Ann Arbor last November, which clinched the Big Ten title for the Wolverines.

Perry ran for 154 yards and two touchdowns and had 55 yards on catches in that game.

''I think it really showcased that ability,'' Perry said. ''I did it throughout the season, but I think that a game in such a big setting with so many people watching let everybody know I can make people miss.''

The Bengals started with the 17th overall pick in the first draft, but traded down to 24th two weeks ago in a deal with Denver that brought them cornerback Deltha O'Neal.

As a result of all of the maneuvering - something the Bengals never would have done before Lewis took over - they wound up with eight choices in the first four rounds and a chance to remake the roster.

''We're excited about the way things are unfolding,'' Lewis said. ''As we've said all along, there's some depth in players in this draft. I think today has turned to our advantage so far.''