CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 11: Dre Kirkpatrick #27 and Shaun Prater #38 of the Cincinnati Bengals look on during a rookie minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium on May 11, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Earlier this week we examined different scenarios with two of Cincinnati's first-round draft selections from this year's NFL draft. We argued that cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick isn't likely to start the season against Baltimore, provided injuries aren't the cause for any temporary first-team promotion. However of the entire 2012 Bengals draft class, Kevin Zeitler has to be viewed as a virtual lock to start at right guard during the team's Monday Night opener. But what about the rest of the team's rookies?
Defensive Tackles Devon Still and Brandon Thompson: We grouped Still and Thompson into the same conversation because like Kirkpatrick, we're not expecting either defensive tackle to start the regular season opener due to the personnel occupying spots over them on the roster. Some may argue that they might not start any of the team's regular season games this year (save for injuries, but you can use that term throughout the entire posting).
Further compounding the issue is Pat Sims, who they signed to a one-year deal over the offseason, who likely starts if Peko or Atkins can't go, provided Sims makes the 53-man roster. Domata Peko and Geno Atkins combined to start 31 games last year at nose tackle and defensive tackle respectively. Sims, with 23 career starts in four seasons, replaced Atkins as the starter against the Indianapolis Colts. But anything could happen for someone to start a game, especially throughout the season. To start the regular season opener against the Ravens, it's almost certain to be Peko and Atkins.
Wide Receivers Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones: We view someone like wide receiver Mohamed Sanu in the middle of the spectrum. The centralist. Not extreme liberal, nor extreme conservative. What? Alright. If he competes for the No. 2 wide receiver position, he's facing similarly inexperienced and (largely) unproven receivers like Armon Binns, Brandon Tate, as well as fellow rookie Marvin Jones.
But then if he competes for the slot receiver position, it's a matter of Jordan Shipley's rehabilitation, Andrew Hawkins and Ryan Whalen (who may also throw his name into the No. 2 competition). Sanu could be a factor at either position, increasing his likeliness of starting against the Baltimore Ravens. Either way, he could start. Or he could not start. Middle of the spectrum.
Tight End Orson Charles: Save for injuries during training camp and preseason, we don't see Charles surplanting Jermaine Gresham as the team's starting tight end. At least not this year. Now if the Bengals come out with a double-tight formation with the first play of the season against Baltimore, Charles gets credit for the start.
However consider this. Of the last three opening regular season games, the Bengals started two tight ends once when Colin Cochart played as an extra blocker during Cedric Benson's seven-yard off-tackle.
Safety George Illoka, Running Back Daniel Herron, Cornerback Shaun Prater: Prater and Herron could be bubble players respectively while George Illoka, having played most his collegiate career at free safety, isn't likely to replace either of the projected starting safeties.
Besides Zeitler, which Bengals rookie from the 2012 NFL draft has the best shot to start the regular season opener against Baltimore?