The following is an expansion of a comment I made about 2 months ago, which got some positive feedback:
This year's draft will be an interesting one for the Cincinnati Bengals, who as we all know have two first-round picks (the 17th and the 21st overall). Most commentators cite the same four or five positional needs for the team: running back, cornerback, safety, offensive guard, and maybe an extra wide receiver or defensive tackle.
The B*S National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide have churned out a dozen or so NFL prospects, inluding three who would fit a need for the Bengals.RB Trent Richardson was a Heisman Trophy candidate, and he's been instrumental to a team that's relied on defense and mistake-free football to win. Richardson has been the primary weapon on offense all season, and is considered the best 2012 RB prospect by a fairly large margin. He's unlikely to fall to No. 17, but if he does, you'd think the Bengals would take him in a heartbeat.
Corner Dre Kirkpatrick was long considered a top prospect for any needy NFL secondary until he was recently busted for marijuana possession. This little mishap dropped him out of the top 10, and possibly into Bengals draft territory. Kirkpatrick is considered a top 5 talent on some boards, and he'd be an excellent replacement for Johnathan Joseph, who walked in free agency in 2011.
Safety Mark Barron would also fill a need the Bengals have ignored for years. He's a big hitter who is a terror against the run, and he has decent coverage skills for a strong safety. Chris Crocker badly needs to be upgraded. He was terrible in the playoff loss at Houston.
Andre Smith has slowly turned into a contributor for the Bengals, but it took him a while, and he's still nowhere near a Pro-Bowl level. He's an OK player, but as a top-10 pick, he's been pretty much a bust..
When the Bengals selected Smith with the sixth overall pick in 2009, Bengals Nation groaned as heavily as Andre does when he sees that pizza is not for dinner. The Bengals' organization was somehow duped into believing Smith could be a hardworking contributor on this football team. How?
Nick f***ing Saban. That's how. Saban and his
lying coaching staff convinced Marvin Lewis and the Gang that Smith was worth taking. Saban knew Andre wasn't a hard worker, but he needed to boost his reputation in the recruiting circuit, so he made sure Andre Smith was taken in the top 10. He gave the Bengals very positive reviews of Smith's abilities, including his work ethic. In retrospect,the Bengals can now see what a mistake it was to listen to the Godfather of Making Sh*t Up.
From the link (Peter King's July 2010 Training Camp Report):
Lewis is not happy with Andre Smith, the second-year tackle from Alabama. He doesn't think Alabama shot him straight with its pre-draft info (the kid's work ethic leaves a lot to be desired) and Smith was not diligent enough in the offseason rehabbing a foot injury.
I don't think this will completely rule out Alabama players getting drafted by Cincinnati, but it certainly hurts their position on the Bengals' Big Board. Marvin Lewis and Mike Brown won't be too eager to pick guys out of Tuscaloosa unless they really think they can play. Moreover, they won't trust Saban & Friends for a minute.
This probably won't hurt Richardson's chances of getting drafted by the Bengals. He's too good to pass up if he somehow falls to No. 17. But Barron wasn't a sure-fire first rounder in the first place. I don't think the Saban Factor bodes well for him.
Kirkpatrick, however, might get completely passed over by the Bengals now. His possession charge is going to kill his draft stock, and one of the biggest factors in rehabilitating a problem player's reputation is a good word from a coach. Coming from Alabama, that word will mean nothing to the Bengals. Zero. If the Bengals want a top-flight corner at a bargain price, ignoring off-the-field issues, they'd just as well go for Janoris Jenkins. He got kicked out of Florida, but I don't think that's a whole lot worse than any problem child from Bama. Lewis just doesn't want to deal with that again. He knows what he's getting from Jenkins. He can't say the same for any of the Crimson Tide.
This is just projection, but I see the Andre Smith debacle hurting the new Alabama prospects' chances of going to Cincinnati. It's not a sure thing for most players, but I really do believe it's a factor. Interested to read your thoughts. Rec it if you like it.