AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 26: Dont'a Hightower #30 of the Alabama Crimson Tide calls the defense against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
We're in the middle of the NFL Combine which means that some prospects, depending on how they perform in drills and interviews, are improving their draft stock while others are hurting theirs. In reality, we won't get a really great idea of how the 2012 NFL draft will play out until free agency begins and teams start to fill holes with veteran players, but that doesn't stop analysts from pumping out mock draft after mock draft.
All of the mock drafts are starting to blend together, but SB Nation's latest mock draft is a little different and stands out, and it's worth a look.
Alabama running back Trent Richardson.
The Bengals have two first-rounders this year, and with Richardson slipping out of the top five, they opt to send their 17th and 53rd selections, plus a sixth-rounder, to Carolina for the eighth overall pick, which they use on Richardson. Cincy has a need at corner, what with Nate Clements being old and Leon Hall being hurt. However, the free-agent market for corners is deep, and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer knows how to squeeze blood from a stone at that position. With QB Andy Dalton maturing into a potentially elite passer, it only makes sense to surround him with elite talent on offense. Richardson is that kind of talent.
Richardson has been considered the best running back prospect to come out of the draft since Adrian Peterson, who, I think we can all agree, is a beast for the Vikings. Richardson would be a massive upgrade over Cedric Benson and could be a major boost to the Bengals running game and offense overall. However, many feel that the team needs to address their offensive line problems before the select a running back and Richardson's minor knee surgery has many worried.
The Bengals still have another first-round pick, and at No. 21 in this particular mock draft, they select Alabama inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower.
Marvin Lewis finally gets the Ray Lewis-type linebacker that he's always coveted. Lots of questions surround the state of the Bengals' linebacking corps, which some believed underachieved last year. Hightower (6'4, 260 pounds) would provide a big answer.
Bengals middle linebacker Rey Maualuga is potentially in legal trouble and could be facing a suspension. If the Bengals select Hightower, and he is able to step in and start in Mike Zimmer's defense right away, the Bengals could bounce Maualuga back out to outside linebacker where he played his first two seasons and have a solid group of linebackers.
The problem with this mock draft is that since the Bengals will have traded away their second-round pick to get Richardson, they wouldn't be able to address the guard or cornerback positions until the third round when many of the top players at those positions would be off the board. For that reason, I don't like it.
What do you think?