Cincinnati Bengals: Grading the Team's First Round of 2012 NFL Draft

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistApril 26, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26:  Dre Kirkpatrick of Alabama holds up a jersey as he stands on stage after he was selected #17 overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of during the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 26, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The first round of the 2012 NFL draft has finally concluded for the Cincinnati Bengals, and what a round it was. 

The Bengals entered the round with clear needs at running back, cornerback, wide receiver and guard. With two first round selections at 17 and 21, the Bengals were in a position to find two immediate starters.

At 17 the Bengals did just that by selecting Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. It's a very important selection because the Bengals only have Jason Allen and Leon Hall under contract after next season.

Kirkpatrick is a large, physical corner that excels in any type of coverage. He'll fit nicely into the AFC North because of his physicality in the running game.

Kirkpatrick also has the ability to play safety, which is something that will allow defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to get creative.

Kirkpatrick will be a part of the rotation this season and an immediate starter next year. He’ll have the chance to learn from a variety of veterans and one of the best defensive coordinators before claiming the starting role.

After taking Kirkpatrick the Bengals were slated to pick 21st until the New England Patriots came calling. Cincinnati traded the selection to the Patriots in exchange for the 27th overall pick and an additional third round selection (93rd overall).

After moving down the Bengals elected to address the hole at right guard by selecting Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler at 27th overall.

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 10:  Offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler #70 of the Wisconsin Badgers blocks against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on October 10, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Zeitler is a mauler of a guard that excels in pass protection. He’s also athletic enough to be effective in run blocking. He’ll fit right in at right guard next to tackle Andre Smith.

At Wisconsin, Zeitler was a standout on the line dominating the Big Ten with ease. He now makes the transition to the AFC North where he’ll have no qualms with competing with massive nose-tackles like Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata.

After addressing the cornerback and offensive guard positions, the Bengals now have major holes remaining at the wide receiver and running back positions. The upcoming second and third rounds would be a good way to upgrade both.

Taking into consideration what the Bengals have openly said about their confidence in their receiving core, one has to think the second round selection will be a starting-caliber running back.

In the second round, a good option at running back would be Boise State’s Doug Martin or Cincinnati’s Isaiah Pead.

After moving back in the first round the Bengals also picked up another third round selection, bumping their total to two. It would be a great time for the Bengals to find a number two receiving option across from A.J. Green.

The third round could also see the Bengals pick up a pass-rushing defensive end now that the team elected to no-pick Alabama pass-rusher Courtney Upshaw twice.

To conclude, the first round went exactly as the Bengals organization and their fans could have hoped. They addressed not only immediate needs but needs for the future as well.

Kevin Zeitler can be a starter on the Cincinnati offensive for a long time. Dre Kirkpatrick has the ability to be a fixture in the Bengals’ defensive secondary for just as long.

Not only did the Bengals hit both major needs, they managed to trade down and pick up an extra third-round pick in the process. There’s only one grade to give the Bengals for these feats.

Final Grade: A