March 7, 2012; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler works out for the NFL scouts during pro day at the McClain Center. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-US PRESSWIRE
Lettered grades are simply a nondescript way of evaluating prospects, draft classes or rounds -- and really, can you grade a draft months before prospects even put on their pads for the first time? No. You can't. But we can judge based on the team's needs and how the prospect fits into the team's philosophy.
Cincinnati's first-round selections weren't sexy; they didn't rumble the Brent Spence Bridge into a swaying orgasm of awesome. But they are solid, solid selections, anticipating two players that could be mainstays for this team for a long time. Sports Illustrated offered instance reaction to Cincinnati's selections:
They write of the Dre Kirkpatrick selection at No. 17:
The Bengals have a lot of potential on their young offense and needed to go defense. They were 0-8 last year against teams that reached the playoffs and surrendered an average of 24.4 points in those games. Kirkpatrick was a shutdown corner rated on many boards as 1A behind No. 6 overall pick Morris Claiborne. Great potential for the Bengals with this pick.
Finally with the team's No. 21 pick, turned No. 27 after swapping first-round selections with the New England Patriots, selecting Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler.
The Bengals, on the cusp of being a legit contender, could have a game-changing draft. They landed a potential shutdown corner at No. 17 then lulled the Patriots into trading away their first- and third-round picks to move up to Cincy's No. 21 spot. Zeitler, meanwhile, was the top lineman for Wisconsin's unstoppable run game last year. He could prove a great needs-based pick. The Bengals struggled badly to run the ball last year, averaging just 3.9 yards per attempt (27th).