Marvin Lewis: First-Round Picks To Be Given The Chance To Start

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: Dre Kirkpatrick of Alabama and the #17 overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round greets Bengals fans after he was picked of during the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 26, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Fan opinions on yesterday's draft picks seems to vary widely. The Bengals succeeded at filling the most gaping holes on the team, but some fans are upset with not taking the supposed elite offensive guard David DeCastro when they had the chance at both 17 and 21. Instead, the Bengals took the guy that they had ranked equally in Kevin Zeitler, and took an extra third round pick in the process. Time will tell if the Bengals made the right choice here.

It looks like fans will fins out the answer shortly, because Head Coach Marvin Lewis thinks that Dre Kirkpatrick and Zeitler will contest for playing time right away:

"We came in here hoping to cover a couple of needs for the future in the first round. I think we’ve been able to do that in picking the cornerback and the interior offensive lineman," Lewis said. "In both players, they have opportunities. If they’re good enough to start, they will. If they’re in their (learning) process as they go, they’ll have an opportunity to work their way into the lineup. But we drafted them to play, and I expect them both to be able to."

Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick fins himself in a nice situation, where he has the veteran experience of Leon Hall, Nate Clements, Adam Jones, Terence Newman, and Jason Allen surrounding him. All five of these players were former first round picks, but none of them are younger than 27.

"That’s one advantage I do have. Some guys come in and play with young guys. I can come in and learn the system from veterans," Kirkpatrick said. "I’m going to learn how to manage the field, win on press coverage and how to watch film."

Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler will certainly like his situation too. He will probably be starting day one for the Bengals at the right guard spot, though he will be competing with the newly-signed Jacob Bell, as well as former mid-round draft picks Clint Boling and Otis Hudson. With Kyle Cook and Andre Smith surrounding him, after the seasons they had in 2011, Zeitler should have a smooth transition to the NFL.

It seems Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander had a slight man-crush on Zeitler, whom he sees "ranked equally" versus David DeCastro. Many media members and fans had David DeCastro as the stand-alone number one guard in this draft, but is it possible that they overlooked Kevin Zeitler, who reportedly never allowed a sack in his career at Wisconsin? The NFL's scouting reports vary greatly from what we, the fans, actually see. Zeitler's run-blocking is his biggest asset, and the Badgers run a very similar system to Cincinnati. I hold the opinion that the Bengals got the better end of the deal, with the extra third rounder being the tipping point for me. What do you think?

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