Could Menelik Watson Be the Man to Replace Andre Smith?

Matt GrayContributor IApril 18, 2013

September 29, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Rashad Greene (80) is congratulated by offensive linesman Menelik Watson (71) after they scored a touchdown against the South Florida Bulls during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The draft is one week away and Andre Smith still doesn't have a deal with the Cincinnati Bengals.

That isn't showing any signs of changing any time soon.

So could the Bengal's first course of action be to draft his replacement with the 21st pick next Thursday night?

If they do, Menelik Watson could be their man.

At 6'5" and 320lbs, Watson is a giant. He's bigger and leaner (if an OT can be called lean) than Andre Smith. Cincinnati are a franchise known for filling their trenches with big guys and Watson certainly fits that mould. Where Smith was more of an immovable object, Watson is an athlete.

Gil Brandt did a good job of summing up the thinking around Watson following his impressive pro-day showing:

Menelik Watson OL (6-5 ¼, 314 pounds) — He recorded a 27.5-inch vertical jump and 19 strength lifts. Watson played right tackle at Florida State but the feeling is he can play left tackle. He reminds people of boxer Lennox Lewis because of his accent and gold tooth. This is a kid who has only played one year of football. He’s from Manchester, England, and very good offensive lineman.

Watson did have a pretty deprived upbringing in one of Manchester's more unpleasant areas. His globe-trotting journey to the NFL is remarkable and best described by Les Carpenter of Yahoo Sports.

Obviously teams will be wary about a guy that has only played twelve games at the top college level. But Watson has shown in limited playing time that he is a quick learner, and has no flaws that can't be coached out of him relatively easily.

Here's Mike Mayock's analysis via Dennis Dillon of

"He is an absolute natural left tackle from a physical skill set...He's 6-5, 310 with long arms. He's got great feet. He's a natural pass protector. He's raw as can be, but the rawness shouldn't scare teams away. I don't think he's that far away from being able to step in and play left tackle in the NFL.

"The things he does wrong -- he gets bulled a little bit by the defensive end because he sets too high. Or he might overset and not see a particular stunt. But that's all about coaching and reps. And this kid has had no reps.

"When I see him run 20 yards downfield on tape against the University of Florida and bury a corner on a toss sweep, I just go, Wow. This kid can run, (has a) natural kick slide, can get to the second level in the run game because he's so athletic. He just doesn't understand angles, he doesn't have the awareness yet on stunts. This is a baby here that's going to develop into a man very quickly. I'm excited about the kid."

While Mayock touts him as a left tackle, Watson could just as easily continue to play at right tackle as he did at Florida State.

The Bengals struck gold with Kevin Zeitler at No.27 last year. It's also worth noting that Andre Smith had his best year playing alongside him. There's reason to believe that Paul Alexander would feel comfortable about the former Badger grooming a rookie like Watson to line-up next to him.

Smith was one of the last editions to a Bengals era many are still trying to forget. Despite hopeful signs in his 2012 performance, the ongoing contract drama has brought us back to reality with a thud.

Cincy's main reason for keeping Smith around is not having to play catch-up with a rookie.

That's what makes Menelik Watson an attractive prospect.

FSU offesnive line coach Rick Trickett told Dennis Dillon that in two and a half months, Watson knew his playbook back to front:

"The thing that was so shocking was we've got 24 pass protections ... and he learned everything," 

That's more than Andre Smith has managed in three years.

Given their recent prowess at drafting offensive lineman, the Cincinnati Bengals front office will certainly be taking note.