Over the past 13 months, the Cincinnati Bengals have maneuvered the NFL draft as well as any team in the National Football League.
While it is tough to evaluate the success or failure of a draft class after only one season, the Bengals appear to have hit a home run with their first two picks of the 2011 draft; wide receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton had tremendous rookie seasons.
The Bengals made another tremendous move in October when they traded quarterback Carson Palmer, who had effectively retired from the NFL, to the Oakland Raiders for their 2012 first-round pick and a 2013 conditional second-round pick. That pick ended up being the No. 17 overall selection in this draft, and they will continue to reap the trade’s rewards in next year’s draft.
Then, there are the selections that the Bengals actually made in the 2012 NFL Draft. Did they make selections that should continue this line of drafting success? Read through the following slides to find out.
Round 1, Pick 17: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 14
Kirkpatrick has tremendous size for a cornerback at 6’2’’, and he uses his size well. He is a physical, instinctive cornerback who tackles well. He lacks elite speed, but he has the athleticism and size to match up with any wide receiver in man-to-man coverage.
Kirkpatrick has character concerns following a marijuana-related arrest in January, but dealing with character concerns is nothing new for Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. He has proven in recent years that he can bring in players with troubled pasts and find success with them, and he could end up with a terrific playmaker in the secondary with Kirkpatrick.
Round 1, Pick 27: Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 68
Zeitler is a tough, physical and mauling guard prospect who is typical of a Wisconsin offensive lineman. Zeitler is not special as a pass blocker, but he has a solid all-around game that should lead to a steady career as a starting NFL right guard.
Round 2, Pick 53: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 28
Still is a big, powerful and disruptive force at defensive tackle. He is not a great athlete by NFL standards, but he is strong and explosive. His game does not stand out, which kept him from being a first-round selection, but he should be a very solid starting defensive tackle.
Round 3, Pick 83: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 102
Sanu is an exceptional route-runner with natural hands, making him a very solid possession receiver who gets open consistently. He lacks speed for an NFL wide receiver, and he is not a dangerous playmaker in space, but he can be a solid addition to the Bengals’ receiving corps.
Round 3, Pick 93: Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 26
Thompson is a big, strong and explosive defensive tackle with good athleticism and is a very effective penetrator at the line of scrimmage. Thompson’s game is still somewhat raw, but he has the potential to be a real difference-maker on a defensive front.
Round 4, Pick 116: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 67
Charles is a skilled receiving tight end and is also an adequate blocker. Nothing stands out particularly about his game, but he is well-rounded and was productive in the SEC.
Charles’s stock dropped due to serious red flags, including a DUI arrest in March and a very disappointing Combine performances. Like Kirkpatrick, Charles is a player with character concerns who the Bengals could get at great value if they can work through his issues.
Round 5, Pick 156: Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 56
Prater’s numbers dropped between his junior and senior seasons, but mainly because he was targeted less often. He is not a big-play corner, but he is a consistent cover corner who rarely gets beat. Prater is athletic and physical, and has the skill set to be a starting-caliber cornerback.
Round 5, Pick 166: Marvin Jones, WR, California
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 122
Jones was a productive wideout at California who has a solid all-around game with an intriguing combination of size and speed. Nothing stands out particularly about Jones’s game, but he has great hands and is a fluid route-runner, and he should be a solid third or fourth receiver.
Round 5, Pick 167: George Iloka, FS, Boise State
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 107
George Iloka is actually a very similar prospect to Taylor Mays, who interestingly enough will be Iloka’s competition to start at safety next to Reggie Nelson.
His productivity never lived up to his potential, and he is not a consistent playmaker. That said, he has a tremendous combination of size and athleticism for a free safety, and he is a sound tackler who is solid in coverage. Boom-or-bust prospect.
Round 6, Pick 191: Dan Herron, RB, Ohio State
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 191
Herron is a solid, shifty running back who also has the size and physical toughness to run between the tackles. There is nothing spectacular about Herron’s game as it projects to the next level, but he should contribute as a solid rotational back.
The Bengals received Round 1, Pick 17 along with a 2013 conditional second-round selection from the Oakland Raiders in October 2011 for quarterback Carson Palmer.
For all the “convict” jokes that the Bengals have been hit with over recent years, the Bengals got away with grand theft in this trade.
Having refused to continue playing with the Bengals, Palmer decided to retire as Bengals owner Mike Brown refused to trade him. This seemed ridiculously stubborn on Brown’s behalf early on, but Brown looked great in the end. When Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell suffered a season-ending broken collarbone, they got desperate for a quarterback and made the Bengals an offer they would have been crazy to refuse.
For a quarterback who was likely never going to play another down for the Bengals, they received a first-round pick and another selection that will at least be a first-round pick in 2013. Of all the blockbuster trades that were made in the 2012 draft, this was the best deal.
The Bengals traded Round 1, Pick 21 to the New England Patriots for Round 1, Pick 27 and Round 3, Pick 93.
This was a very questionable trade down for the Bengals. At the No. 21 overall selection, they had a chance to fill their biggest need and draft one of the best players available in Stanford guard David DeCastro. Instead, they traded down and settled for another guard in Kevin Zeitler.
Zeitler should be a solid starter, but they had a chance to draft a potential future All-Pro in DeCastro. On the other hand, the Bengals still addressed their need and added a third-round pick used to draft a tremendous third-round steal in Brandon Thompson.
All things considered, however, the Bengals should not have passed upon the opportunity to draft DeCastro. The Bengals got two quality players in Zeitler and Thompson instead, but DeCastro was the ideal selection for them.
The Bengals received Round 5, Pick 166 and a 2013 sixth-round selection from the New England Patriots in July 2011 for wide receiver Chad Ochocinco.
Ochocinco only had 15 catches during the regular season last year for the Patriots, and his one reception in the Super Bowl was his only postseason catch. It appears that his best days are well behind him, so the Bengals made a good move by getting two picks in return for him.
The Bengals received Round 5, Pick 167 from the New York Giants for outside linebacker Keith Rivers.
This trade comes as a disappointing end to Keith Rivers’s time as a Cincinnati Bengals. Rivers’s career got off to a promising start for the Bengals, but he has been plagued by injuries and he missed the entire 2011 season with a wrist injury.
He is still a talented player who would have been worth more than a fifth-round pick had he been healthy, but it is hard to blame for the Bengals for moving him in the final year of his contract. Still a disappointing depreciation in value after he was their No. 9 overall pick in the 2008 draft.
The Bengals traded Round 7, Pick 228 to the Jacksonville Jaguars for free safety Reggie Nelson.
Nelson may be the only starting-caliber safety on the Bengals’ roster, and they got him for a very low price. Nelson has really started to reach his potential in Cincinnati, so they made a great move when they acquired him in this trade.
The Bengals may have gotten more total value out of the 2012 draft than any other team, ending up with nine of the top 122 prospects in the draft class.
The Bengals’ biggest reach of their draft was the first-round selection of Zeitler, and they should have selected DeCastro when they had the chance rather than settling on a player of lower value in Zeitler. That said, the Bengals acquired the pick used to draft Brandon Thompson, who was an absolute steal in Round 3, in that trade down, making it much more valuable.
Thompson was far from the only steal in the Bengals’ draft. Still was great value late in Round 2. In the fourth and fifth rounds, the Bengals drafted four players who all came into the draft as legitimate potential Day 2 selections in Charles, Prater, Jones and Iloka.
The Bengals appeared to draft on value over need, and with many picks to work with, they are likely to end up with a tremendous crop of talent from this draft class.
The Bengals addressed two of their biggest needs, cornerback and guard, with their first two draft selections in Kirkpatrick and Zeitler. Kirkpatrick was a cut above all other cornerbacks available in the first round, and although they passed up the best guard in DeCastro, they still found a quality starter. The Bengals added another quality cornerback later in Prater.
The Bengals’ other pressing need was at safety. They did not address that position early, but did get good value on a player who should compete for immediate playing time in Iloka.
Defensive tackle was not a need for the Bengals, but they employed the strategy of feeding their strengths with the additions of Still and Thompson, which should give the Bengals an elite interior defensive line rotation led by Geno Atkins.
Depth was needed at the offensive skill positions, and the Bengals found four players who should all end up as solid contributors. Charles can be a quality backup tight end to Jermaine Gresham, Sanu and Jones are quality addition to the receiving corps and Herron is a good addition to the running back rotation.
The Bengals addressed all of their major needs, and added players who fit into their roster well.
By preliminary evaluation, the Bengals may very well have struck gold yet again with their 2012 draft class. The Bengals found great value in all six rounds that they had picks in, and added players who fit in their roster well and will improve the roster in areas that needed improvement.
The Bengals’ secondary got much-needed help with the selections of Dre Kirkpatrick, Shaun Prater and George Iloka. Adding more offensive playmakers will also help the Bengals’ offense go from good to great, and they did that with the selections of Mohamed Sanu, Orson Charles, Marvin Jones and Dan Herron.
The Bengals’ only questionable move was trading away from the opportunity to draft David DeCastro, but Kevin Zeitler should fill their need at right guard. Additionally, the Bengals should have a very strong defensive line rotation next season with the additions of Devon Still and Brandon Thompson.
Thanks for reading!
Throughout the month of May, I am reviewing one team’s draft each day, in the order of the original 2012 NFL draft order.
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