The Cincinnati Bengals showed the NFL how to draft this past weekend. They may not have selected collegiate superstars, or even the best player on the board. Picks were simply based on one question, "Who fits what we are trying to accomplish?"
Every selection by the Bengals has potential to start during the 2012 season. Think of it as NFL Moneyball 101, you get what you need for the right price and are able to use it accordingly. A page out of the Patriots book.
The Bengals are in the money.
So I decided to break down the picks for all the people scratching their heads, concerned with 40 times and character issues. This is Cincinnati, and this is how we play football.
Pick 17: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama- "Dr. Dre" is not a moniker I would give him. Doctor implies that the man has learned over a long period of time. Kirkpatrick is known for his size and shut down zone coverage, but his instincts are what show on the field. The man finds the ball and attacks it every play of every down, and that is exactly what Mike Zimmer was looking for. Kirkpatrick will see a lot of time on the field and benefit from the veterans the Bengals acquired via free agency.
Pick 27: Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin- Bengals fan were disappointed when Cincy made the trade from 21 to 27 with Stanford Guard David DeCastro still on the board. That opinion will change come September when Zeitler becomes an anchor in the lack luster Bengals rushing attack. Zeitler is a bruising guard from the Big Ten, where he helped Wisconsin's elite rushing attack last year(Wisconsin rushed for over 3300yds in 2011). Zeitler is a smart player, and a good fit for the AFC North's predominantly physical nature.
Pick 53: Devon Still, DT, Penn St.- This pick is a perfect fit for Mike Zimmer. He uses a constant rotation on the defensive line, and was in need a player with similar talents to Geno Atkins. Still provides that plug if needed, and will do so successfully. A leader on Penn State's defense, also dealt with adversity extremely well. He's consistantly pushing lineman into the quarterback's face, which is a must have in a division so quarterback heavy.
Pick 83: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers- The prank on Sanu will soon become an irrelevant topic. Jay Gruden must have had a big smile on his face when he learned that Sanu was still available in round 3. Sanu fits his system well, and has the perfect play style to compliment the other side of the field. The former Rutgers star is physical. He makes plays in the middle of the field and has SURE hands. Draft experts will tell you that his 40 was slow, but watch his highlight tape and you can see the explosion and power he plays with.
Pick 93: Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson- Just like Still, Thompson is a presence inside. That is where the similarities end. Thompson loves to force rushes outside, and does so very easily. Look for Brandon to sub out with Domata Peko and take on the same responsibilities.
Pick 116: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia- Why would you take a Tight End when you have Jermaine Gresham? The Patriots went to a Super Bowl with 2 Tight Ends and no receivers (and Tom Brady). I see Gruden using similar packages with Charles on the roster. Charles could have a huge rookie season with defenses trying to cover Green, Gresham, and whoever else the Bengals decide to plug in at the #2 receiver spot. Orson Charles comes from the SEC, has great speed and power, and can contribute immediately on the other side of the offensive line.
Pick 156: Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa- Another treat for Zimmer's defense. Yes, I said defense. Most people assume that due to his size, Prater can't hang with the big boys in the NFL. That is not the case. He is perfect for Zimmer's nickel schemes, showing quick hips and a nack for being on the football, watch closely for Prater's name towards the end of the season covering crafty slot receivers.
Pick 166: Marvin Jones, WR, Cal- This may be the steal of the draft. Marvin Lewis Jones, that is his real name, is almost 6'3 and 200lbs. And he wants the ball. Just like Sanu, he is a very physical receiver with great hands and a relentless attitude when the ball is in the air. He ran a better 40 than Sanu, and has all the tools to press the issue of who will own that #2 spot. He was inconsistant in college, but he dealt with the never ending merry-go-round that was Cal's quarterback ensemble. He played very well on the big stage, and will play even bigger in Cincinnati.
Pick 167: George Iloka, FS, Boise St.- George Iloka will remind Bengals fans what they had with Ndukwe a couple years ago. He's a physical specimen, 6'3 225lbs, looking more like a UFC fighter than a football player. How he fell that far in the draft is beyond me. Iloka is a lot like Taylor Mays, whom also graces the Bengals roster, and gives a clear indication what is expected from Cincinnati's free safety position. They want somebody big and physical, and Iloka fits the mold. Not to mention his coverage skills are much better than he was given credit for, having had to have played corner for the final 3 games of Boise State's season last year. He's going to need those tools when facing AFC tight ends.
Pick 191: Dan "Boom" Herron, RB, Ohio State- Have you noticed the trend? Physical is the future of Bengals football. And when you have the nickname "Boom", that's what we expect. Herron is an ode to the Marvin Lewis way of running the football. Stellar in between the tackles and amazing lateral movement, Herron looks like the perfect fit.He also has great hands out of the backfield which the Bengals have lacked for the past decade. Even with the signing of BJGE, Bengal's fans might see Boom rise quickly on the depth chart.
UDFA:Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State- Burfict fell off every NFL team's draft board this off-season. A true talent at linebacker was caught up in the excitement and was miserable at the combine. We've heard the stories and drank the Haterade, but let me tell you why he was picked up almost immediately after the draft ended. When Burfict is standing in the middle of a defense, teams don't go there. If he was a weapon, he would be a 20x53.5 yard land mine. He attacks an offense with such ferosity that most teams were worried he would draw too many penalties in the NFL. Vontaze racked up 16 personal fouls while at ASU in 2011. I don't see a trend, I see an emotional leader trying to get his team fired up. That's why people compared him to Ray Lewis. That's why he was a free agent all of 5 minutes on Saturday.
I will make this very clear, these are all best case scenarios. Of their 10 picks, 6 had off the field issues going into the draft. We will have to wait and see if these Rookies can hold up to the team's new standards regarding the "Cincinnati lifestyle".
So what can you expect this upcoming season in Cincinnati? That's the beauty of the draft. We are stuck again under the big looming black cloud that is "A Playoff Win". Last year was a testament to what Marvin Lewis and his staff can do with a talented young team, even after fans wanted to run him out of town for the 2010 season. This year, we hope to see the same and more, but we won't know until September.