The 2012 draft made it official—there has been a change of philosophy in Cincinnati. Gone are the agonizing days of hearing the commissioner announce head-scratching draft picks for the Bengals, as Cincinnati has transformed from having notoriously awful drafts to being the ideal example of building a contender with the draft.
It began with an impressive draft in 2010, followed by one of the best drafts in the NFL in 2011, to the suddenly savvy Cincinnati Bengals roaring back to relevance with arguably the best draft in the NFL in 2012.
The Bengals addressed all of their needs and stayed balanced with five offensive picks and five defensive picks, but most importantly, they drafted players with high ceilings as well as the ability to contribute immediately. It’s back to school as we grade every Bengal pick.
This was the worst pick of the entire Bengals draft, and that’s saying something, because it wasn’t a bad pick at all. I would have preferred to take David DeCastro, a beast who I believe will make a minimum of four Pro-Bowls, but the Bengals went with their most pressing defensive need at cornerback, and you can’t blame them.
Kirkpatrick was the last available elite cornerback and would probably have been taken by the Titans with the 20th pick if Cincinnati didn’t swoop in at No. 17.
The Bengals desperately needed a young cornerback that was NFL ready. Passing on Kirkpatrick and selecting a cornerback in the later rounds was too much of a risk for Cincinnati, as any other cornerback prospect on the board wouldn’t be able to contribute immediately and might not be a solid starter in the future.
So Cincinnati scorned DeCastro and chose Kirkpatrick, a physical specimen that has the ability to be a Pro-Bowler in the future. It was the first pressing need the Bengals crossed off their checklist, and with a safe start, the checks only got better.
After taking a page out of the Patriots' book and ironically trading down with the Pats, the Bengals selected versatile G Kevin Zeitler at No. 27. This pick may have initially caused a bit of the aforementioned head-scratching, but it may prove to be a home run.
Zeitler is an intelligent, bruising lineman than can play guard or center (which certainly made him more attractive to the Bengals) and is possibly the best run blocker in the draft. His pass-blocking is lackluster, but that is an area that is more teachable.
Reportedly, the Bengals had Zeitler the same grade as DeCastro, making it an easy decision to trade down to gain a third-round pick and still get their man in Zeitler. Consequently, this was an excellent pick as the former Badger has a high ceiling and will start the season at right guard and hopefully protect Andy Dalton for years to come.
Once again, the Bengals picked a player that was tailor-made to their needs with the ability to contribute immediately and grow into a great player.
After addressing their most urgent offensive and defensive needs in the first round (thanks Carson Palmer), the Bengals concentrated on adding depth to an already strong defensive line in the second. To be more exact, 6’5”, 300 pounds of depth in Devon Still.
Cincinnati was lucky that Still was still on the board and shrewd to pick him up. The Penn State product could very well have gone in the first round off of his talent alone, but a few off-the-field issues and his often questionable effort kept him out of it. The Bengals capitalized on his slide, as I think he will be a great member of the orange and black.
He is reminiscent of Carlos Dunlap in the fact that he fell to the second round due to off-the-field issues, and Bengals fans should hope he turns out as well. He should, as Still can learn from Dunlap’s example and turn himself into a great pro with all his ability.
He has freakish speed for a DT and can stuff the run as well as rush the pass well enough. Although it was a surprising choice, the Bengals continue their successful draft with a talented run-stuffer in the second round.
The Bengals should thank their lucky stars Sanu fell so far. Sanu is a prototypical possession receiver that lacks speed but more than compensates with route-running, size and smarts.
I firmly believe that a receiver’s production in college is more important than all the other tools used to assess wideouts. I don’t care that he ran a slow 4.67 40 at the combine—Chris Owusu ran the fastest (4.36) and he went undrafted. The point is that 40 times aren’t everything, and they are disproportionally valued these days.
Sanu managed to snag 115 receptions for 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns in an anemic Rutgers offense with that 4.67 speed. That’s impressive. The man has great hands and can flat out play, and the Bengals got a steal on a model possession receiver that can ease the pressure on budding superstar A.J. Green.
But it doesn’t end there, as Cincinnati continued their five-finger discount with their second pick in the third round. Although I would have liked to have taken Miami RB Lamar Miller here, Brandon Thompson is a very good value. It’s hard to say how he fell so far, as scouts all love him and he has no off-the-field issues, but everyone else’s loss is the Bengals' gain.
Clearly, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer wants to have a monstrous defensive front. His DTs were already good, and by adding Still and Thompson, the Bengals have to be in the conversation for one of the best DT rotations in the league.
Thompson is a durable, high-motor DT that is solid at just about everything except for rushing the passer. One of his best attributes is his surprisingly quick first step, and that skill will be used immediately by the Bengals as he is a third-rounder that can contribute from day one and has the chance to be a powerful force in the future.
This is the best pick of the draft for the Bengals.
Again following the lead of the Patriots, the Bengals drafted an athletic TE that will be a scary weapon for opponents. Charles can contribute right off the bat, and play Hernandez to Gresham’s Gronkowski.
The only reason for his fall is a DUI, but as long as he can stay out of trouble, this was one of the steals of the draft.
Charles was incredibly productive in Athens, as well as appearing in all 40 games of his career. He runs great routes, has excellent hands, is fearless over the middle and definitely has big-play ability.
The only downside is that he will probably never be a great blocker, but that’s not what the Bengals need him to be. I have high hopes for Charles, and you should, too. This was an awe-inspiring pick that I can’t wait to see on the field.
Much like the previous selection, Prater’s stock slid because of a DUI arrest. But Prater’s was years ago, and he interviewed well in the draft process.
He’s a very good athlete that is able to flip his hips and run with receivers without losing them on double moves. More importantly, he has great route-recognition skills that allow him to jump routes and make plays on the ball.
Now that’s where it gets less desirable, as his ball skills really need to improve if he is going to become a playmaker. Another area to work on is his block shedding and tackling, as both are mediocre.
Having said all that, all fifth-rounders are going to have areas to improve on, or they wouldn’t be fifth rounders. Prater is a fantastic value steal for the Bengals as they get a project at cover corner that could turn into an A-plus.
It’s hard to say why Jones fell to the fifth round, but I don’t explain ‘em, I grade ‘em. And let me tell you, this is a great grade.
There’s a lot to like about Jones. It starts with his solid combine numbers, including the most bench presses (22) for a WR. The reasons continue with his exact route running, solid hands and strong production despite the turmoil of Cal’s QB situation.
More importantly, he was a team captain at Cal and, by all accounts, is a phenomenal leader and motivator. And in a process where dirty secrets are relentlessly searched for, and sometimes even made public, it seems no one had a bad thing to say about Marvin Jones.
The Bengals may be facing charges for this steal—it’s that good.
Iloka was the fifth-to-seventh-ranked S on most boards, yet the Bengals were able to snag him at the end of Round 5. Are you starting to see a pattern here?
If not, let me spell it out for you. A player that plays a position of need for the Bengals for some reason or the other slips in the draft, and the Bengals pick them up. Seriously, that sentence sums up most of what Cincinnati did outside the first round, and it was beautiful. But I digress.
Iloka is a giant for a safety at almost 6’4”, 225 pounds, and he brings that frame when he hits. Although he isn’t a great tackler yet, don’t fret—that can be taught and Iloka is willing to learn as he graduated high school early to attend college.
On top of that, he’s practically Bruce Willis in Invincible, as he didn’t miss a game in his entire career on that crazy blue field (or any other for that matter). His best attributes are his coverage skills and his ability to cover those pesky Aaron Hernandez types. Iloka is a bright young safety who will have his opportunity to shine some light into a crowded secondary battle.
After failing to do what many thought the Bengals would do and draft a RB on Thursday or Friday, the Bengals drafted Dan Herron Sunday with their last pick in the draft. This could very well be the most criticized pick, especially considering Chris Polk was still available and that’s who I would have drafted; but it’s not an awful choice.
Yes, he’s had injury issues and off-the-field issues and lacks solid size and speed, but he is proficient in almost all other areas. His goal will be firstly to make the team, then find a niche spot where he excels at.
That role will be gaining tough yards, and being a totally North-South runner. I’m not ready to declare this a reach, though, because he was productive at a powerhouse program. He didn’t play the first five games of 2011 and still managed to rack up 678 yards and three touchdowns in a crowded Buckeye backfield.
This will be quite the project, but hopefully the Bengals at least pass.
All in all, the Bengals had an exemplary draft, and I would go as far to say that it was as good as anyone else’s in the entire league.
Sure, two things could have been changed subtly to make it even better, in my opinion, but the men in the War Room made the right calls. The draft filled all of the team’s needs with players that had fallen in the draft but could still contribute immediately and have the possibility of turning into a star.
I’m sure this statement will be one that will get me into trouble, but with this draft added to this young team, I believe the Bengals will compete for the AFC Crown. Just say it with me, “I believe the Bengals will compete for the AFC Crown.” Doesn’t it feel good? I know it does.
I can’t wait, and you shouldn’t be able to, either, for the Bengals to put on their new uniforms and start winning games like the orange and black striped team we all remember. WHO DEY!
Final Draft Grade: A+