We've entered the post-NFL Draft period. That means grades, evaluations, 20/20 hindsight, and no more mock drafts. And so far, the post-draft period has been very kind to the Bengals. Almost every expert has given the Bengals a grade of "A" for their draft efforts, and the talent level Cincinnati brought in is truly encouraging. The praise continued today. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. listed six offensive impact players from the first round: two quarterbacks (Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III), two running backs (Trent Richardson and Doug Martin), one wide receiver (Michael Floyd), and one Cincinnati Bengal Kevin Zeitler. On Zeitler, Kiper says the following:
The Bengals didn't quite crack four yards per run last year (3.9) and it was a combination of issues. They clearly lacked explosiveness at running back with Cedric Benson, but I thought the guard play was pretty weak too. They just didn't get enough push, or get to the second level. Zeitler is a really good player, and I think the Bengals will see a difference in the run game as he develops.
The run game that Kiper discusses underwent some major shakeups this offseason. Cedric Benson is gone. In his place is the fumble-proof BenJarvus Green-Ellis, most likely a part of a rotation with Bernard Scott. Nate Livings is also gone, replaced by former Dallas Cowboy Jacob Bell and new draftee Kevin Keitler. Zeitler has been described as a "plug and play" guard, and he is expected to be the starter in 2012. If these players perform up to their expectations, and the run game does indeed improve, then the Bengals offense could be a true force in the AFC next season.
Also of note: not listed by Kiper is Pittsburgh Steeler selection David DeCastro. The Bengals could have selected DeCastro, as he was available at Cincinnati's original draft position of 21, however Cincinnati elected to trade down and take Zeitler.