2012 NFL Mock Draft: Bengals Select Safety In First Round In SB Nation's Latest

Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

According to SB Nation's latest mock draft, the Cincinnati Bengals will select Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro with the No. 21 overall pick.

According to SB Nation's Dan Kadar, the Bengals will select Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft. Grabbing Vaccaro would fill the void at strong safety, which the Bengals have attempted to fill over the past couple of seasons with Taylor Mays, Chris Crocker and Jeromy Miles.

Among the Bengals' biggest needs, along with linebacker and running back, is safety. They need to find someone to play alongside Reggie Nelson. Kenny Vaccaro grades out as the top safety in this class due to his strong play at the line of scrimmage and his range and coverage ability in the secondary.

The Bengals have neglected the safety position over the past few seasons in the draft. They had selected George Iloka and Robert Sands over the past couple years, but both players were late-round picks and haven't been able to make it onto the field for any substantial playing time. They also traded a draft pick for Mays, who started the 2012 season but lost his starting job after just a couple of weeks in the regular season.

The team's free safety, Reggie Nelson, has played consistently well over the last two seasons but his play is hampered by the lack of a good partner at strong safety. If the Bengals can grab Vaccaro in the first round, and if he's a capable starter at strong safety, and if the Bengals can either re-sign Terence Newman and Adam Jones and get Dre Kirkpatrick on the field, the team's secondary could be in the better shape than it has been in recent years, freeing up the front seven even more.

There are other needs, though. Depending on free agency, the Bengals could find themselves in desperate need of an outside linebacker. Rey Maualuga, Manny Lawson and Thomas Howard are all free agents, and while the Bengals are expected to move Vontaze Burfict to middle linebacker, letting Maualuga leave, they don't have a ton of help at outside linebacker. Both Georgia's Alec Ogletree and Kansas State's Arthur Brown have been mocked to the Bengals over the last couple months.

There are also those that think the Bengals could select a running back in the first round to help boost the offense's ground game. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a god season in 2013, but the team has made it clear that they're in the market for a speedier back that can complement Green-Ellis. We've seen a lot of mock drafts in which Alabama running back Eddie Lacy will be selected by the Bengals.

The Bengals have four picks in the first three rounds of the upcoming draft, which should help them fill some positions of need and add depth and talent to the roster. However, it's always the team's first pick that gets the most attention as the player selected is expected to make an immediate contribution.

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