The Bengals had another successful season in 2012 thanks to not only the play of the team as a whole, but to some outstanding individual performances as well. Guys like A.J. Green and Geno Atkins had big years and that's why they're going to play in the Pro Bowl, but there were others as well, especially from the young guys.
Every year, Mel Kiper Jr., one of the foremost authorities on the draft, comes up with an All-Rookie team, composed of the best rookies from the prior year. This year, three Bengals made the list.
First was right guard Kevin Zeitler, who started at the position from day one. He was the team's second first-round pick.
Kevin Zeitler, Bengals: Another guy from the offensive lineman assembly line at Wisconsin, Zeitler was needed immediately and played at a Pro Bowl level for much of the season in Cincinnati. The Bengals lost a guard early in the year, and Zeitler's steady play was a huge lift for this team.
Trevor Robinson, Bengals: There wasn't a lot to choose from here, but Robinson stepped in to help the Bengals when Kyle Cook suffered a foot injury. The Notre Dame alumnus has a bright future.
Finally, the guy we've all been talking about: Vontaze Burfict, another undrafted free agent that started since Week 3 after the loss of Thomas Howard. He finished the season as the team's leader in tackles and tackles for loss.
Vontaze Burfict, Bengals: One of the great stories of the season not just in the rookie class but everywhere. Burfict led the Bengals in tackles playing on the weak side for them, this after going undrafted out of Arizona State. Burfict was a disaster during the draft process, and a guy I once had in my top 10 on the Big Board could have missed out on the NFL entirely. But coach Marvin Lewis clearly saw what Burfict was capable of when focused and got a steal. Burfict finished the season with 127 total tackles and has the playoffs to look forward to. Other guys in the conversation were Chandler Jones, Melvin Ingram, Miles Burris and Mychal Kendricks.
All three of these young Bengals have bright futures not only with the Bengals, but in the NFL. Zeitler and Burfict are going to be starters on offense and defense while Robinson could as well, depending on the team's thoughts on Cook. The Bengals have done well for themselves in the last few drafts and as long as they continue their success in April, they should be able to continue to play in January.