When the Bengals drafted Devon Still and Brandon Thompson in the second and third rounds of the 2012 draft, they doubled up on the defensive tackle position, opting to look to the future, rather than fill any immediate voids on the roster. The team had just lost veterans Jonathan Fanene and Frostee Rucker to free agency, but re-signed run-stuffer Pat Sims and also returned their starting duo of tackles in Geno Atkins and Domata Peko. Consequently, neither Still nor Thompson saw much of the field last year, despite their lofty draft slots.
In a similar vein, first-round cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and fifth-rounder Shaun Prater also had redshirt seasons, although theirs were due to injury, not depth. Kirkpatrick was the first player selected by Cincinnati in the draft, but due to a lingering knee issue, and later concussions, he only managed 43 snaps all season. Prater was more of a long-shot, but still showed enough potential to merit a closer look when healthy.
In a sense, all four of these players "are almost like additional members of this year’s upcoming rookie crop," according to Dan Hoard via Bengals.com. Their inaugural seasons were all wiped out for various reasons, but with a year in the system under their belts, all four could be in line for major boosts in playing time. If the Bengals continue their recent success of drafting well to fill immediate needs, then the team will essentially have two draft classes contributing to their on-field success.
In an interview with Hoard, both Still and Thompson agree.
"In a sense it was a redshirt year," said Still. "It definitely wasn’t what I expected. It definitely humbled me and let me how hard I have to work to stay on the field... Now that Pat is gone, it opens that door wide open for a third man in the rotation on the inside of the defensive line. I’m going to go as hard as I can to get that spot."
"Even before Pat left, I came in thinking that I had an opportunity," said Thompson. "I want to come in, play hard, and work myself into a role... Hopefully I can use what I learned last year to have a great year."
The draft opens in less than a week now and the Bengals have four picks in the top 100. With new addition James Harrison also in fold, and the prospect of adding essentially two draft classes in 2013, it's a pretty darn good time to be a Bengals fan.