2012 NFL Draft: The Cincinnati Bengals Are Setting The Stage For Another Good Draft Class

Apr 27, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals first round draft pick cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (right) and head coach Marvin Lewis (left) speak during the press conference at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

Three rounds up, three rounds down. It started with the team selecting Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and Wisconsin offensive guard Kevin Zeitler during the first round on Thursday. Though the selections weren't sexy, prompting over-joyous celebrations in the streets of Cincinnati, they found two players that could start the first game of the regular season as rookies.

On Friday the Bengals focused on improving the overall talent level with the interior portion of the defensive line, grabbing Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still (No. 53) and snatching Clemson defensive tackle Brandon Thompson (No. 93). Both players generated high grades among draft experts with Thompson promoting late-first to second round projections.

Though one could question the decision to draft two defensive tackles with their first five picks this year, don't question Marvin Lewis' vision to become bigger and stronger.

"Today's 3 picks we got bigger and stronger. What we've done thus far has helped us play the physical (football the way) we want to play."

In a division that recently witnessed the Cleveland Browns upgrading their overall rushing offense with Alabama's Trent Richardson and the Steelers upgrading their offensive line, the Bengals clearly reacted favorably in an attempt to neutralize those efforts. We're not saying that they're reacting to those selections, but they're reimaging the team back to a philosophy that fits with the division's charactoristics.

Mohamed Sanu's weekend, going from a prank phone call during the first round by a man claiming to be with the Bengals organization, to Cincinnati actually selecting him at No. 83, is poetic. As a possession-style receiver to complement the speed of A.J. Green, the Bengals have a legitimate player that could take up the mantle as the No. 2 receiver.

However the one position that's confusing some is the lack of a running back selected through the first three rounds. Though we've identified running back as a need, in the sense that we'd like to see it upgraded, we also acknowledge that infusing the position with new talent through the draft would be more of a luxury.

Think of it this way. Was Cincinnati's poor rushing offense the result of poor running backs or disasterous rush blocking? Football is always about the trenches and the Bengals, at least on paper, aggressively addressed last year's poor rush blocking.

Now if there was someone on their board that they liked, willing to put Bernard Scott, Brian Leonard and Cedric Peerman on notice, they would have done exactly that. Yet is it really that big of a deal when the team readdressed the offensive line, which should, by default, help the rushing offense substantially. Homerun-hitting running backs are beautiful. Consistancy, especially in short-yard situations is critical. And that only happens with maulers opening passage.

At the same time, much of how the Bengals drafted was enhanced by the sudden attention, if a running back was indeed a targeted need, of the Doug Martin and David Wilson selections that concluded the first round.

This hardly suggest that the Bengals won't have opportunities to improve the running back position, with the University of Miami Lamar Miller and Washington's Chris Polk still on the board. And if the team successfully drafted either running back, then the team improved their defensive line while also selecting a running back at a position that could use a little improvement. That's efficency and foresight. Good for them for not reaching, if indeed their board was setup the way their selections were directed.

There will be questions about this draft (should the Bengals have selected David DeCastro over Zeitler, drafted a running back, traded up for Stephon Gilmore), but it's hard to logically and intellectually dispute where they're mind is and how well the draft has played out in their favor.

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