Heading into the regular season three years ago, the Bengals sported a safety roster with Roy Williams, Chris Crocker, and Chinedum Ndukwe. My goodness. Nothing recalled from that season (2010) had much appeal in reflection. Cincinnati supplemented the secondary roster with six cornerbacks, including David Jones who was buried deep on the team's depth chart.
The Bengals, identifying a need at safety days before the regular season began, went into action.
Following a disappointing three-season campaign in Jacksonville, the Cincinnati Bengals acquired former first-round safety Reggie Nelson via a trade that packaged cornerback David Jones to the Jaguars. Nelson solidified and eventually enhanced the safety position, opening his Bengals career as a backup safety and special teamer before earning his stripes (cliche alert) in the starting lineup.
On March 18, 2012, the Bengals signed Nelson to a four-year deal worth $18 million.
WHY HE RANKED HERE:
No one will confuse Nelson as one of the best safeties in the game, but he's clearly one of the best on the team. He led the team in interceptions (4) in 2011, interception return yards (115), and scored a 75-yard touchdown.
And his follow-up campaign in 2012 was his greatest impact yet.
Nelson finished the season tied for the team-lead in interceptions (three), ranked third in tackles (84), and helped propel the Bengals into the postseason with a clutch interception against Pittsburgh that setup a game-winning field goal.
WHY HE SHOULDN'T BE RANKED HERE:
There are spells that Nelson tends to disappear and he's had coverage difficulties in the past. Against Cleveland, he gave up a 71-yard touchdown.
But the truth is that Nelson had his best season in 2012, and there weren't many weaknesses from his game last season. And if he continues to improve, he has plenty of Pro Bowl arguments -- provided that he can unseat the other cool kids in the popularity contest for the all-star game.