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Bengals Second Round Pick: Kenny Irons

Pick Player Position School NOTES
1 Leon Hall CB Michigan The Bengals fulfill a need at cornerback drafting, perhaps, the second piece of a shutdown tandem of cornerbacks.
2 Kenny Irons RB Auburn The Bengals find a need to, possibly, replace the injury-prone, Chris Perry. Overthinking: Kenny Watson is let go and Irons is a good backup to Rudi while Chris Perry takes care of passing/third down duties.

This will continue our Bengals-centric draft analysis for the weekend. Once they are picked, we'll discuss 'em. Well have more in-depth discussions during the week.

[UPDATE 8:40]: OK, thinking again. How about this? With Chris Perry having good receiving skills and Chris Henry out for eight games, why not have Perry contribute more as a third/fourth receiver? Perhaps a Reggie Bush role? (not saying Perry is Bush, just the same alignments)

[UPDATE 8:25]: It seems that Kenny Irons is a shifty running back with "inconsistent" hands. Which makes me think that the Bengals may use him until Chris Perry gets healthy again. At that point, the team could let Kenny Watson go and use Perry as a third down back and use Kenny Irons as Rudi's backup during rushing downs. Come to think of it, how best to ensure Perry remains healthy but keep Rudi Johnson's work load down? I just don't see Kenny Watson being kept over Chris Perry. And you must remember, before claiming durability issues, that Kenny Watson missed the entire 2005 season.

[UPDATE 8:10]: With the 49th pick in the NFL draft, the Bengals select... Kenny Irons.

Call me surprised. I honestly didn't see this as a need. Sure, Rudi Johnson really needs help with Chris Perry constantly hurt -- almost to the point of being undependable. Kenny Watson, while a serviceable third-down back, is immediately in danger of losing his depth spot on Irons' talent alone. With all that considered, I believed outside linebacker, offensive lineman and tight end being positions that the team would draft in the second round. But those are positions that could be addressed later during the draft.

Why not defense? There's certainly the point that could be made that this team already has tons of unproven young defensive talent. Injuries struck much of the youth last year on the line and at linebacker. Perhaps there's a lot of faith with those guys rebounding this year.

Here's the 411, from ESPN's Draft Tracker:

Strengths: A shifty downhill runner. He shows good initial quickness and burst through the hole. Is fast enough to consistently turn the corner as an outside runner. Displays impressive body control and change-of-direction skills. His vision and patience as a runner are very good and should only improve with more experience. He reads blocks very well, particularly when working in I-formation behind a fullback. Shows a second gear in the open field and also make defenders miss with effective spin-move in space. Runs harder than "measurables" would indicate. Very competitive. Drives his legs after initial contact and will break lots of tackles with his lower-body strength. Shows a knack for falling forward at the end of runs. Has upside if his route-running skills improve with more experience. He gives a good effort and will get in position as a blocker in pass pro.

Weaknesses: Lacks ideal size. Possesses decent height and below average bulk. Needs to get bigger and stronger in order to carry a full load in the NFL. Runs a bit high at times. Does not show the size/strength to consistently run over defenders one-on-one in space. Durability is a concern, especially after nagging injuries limited his carries in 2006. Gives a good effort as a blocker but struggles to hold his ground and will get run over at times by bigger blitzing linebackers. Gets knocked back into the quarterback too frequently. His hands are inconsistent and he needs work in that department. Lacks ideal experience as a receiver and still needs work in terms of his recognition skills and overall route running.

Overall: Irons originally attended South Carolina and saw action as a true freshman in 2002 in nine games, making one start. He rushed for 201 yards on 47 carries (4.3 average) and caught four passes for 63 yards and one touchdown. In 2003, Irons played in only five games with one start. He tallied 51 yards on 19 carries and one touchdown on the ground with two catches for eight yards. Irons then transferred to Auburn and sat out the 2004 season. In 2005, Irons played in 12 games and made nine starts. He finished the year with team-high totals in carries (256), rushing yards (1,293), and rushing touchdowns (13) and averaged just over five yards per carry. He also caught 14 passes for 164 yards. Irons started 11 of 13 games in 2006, missing the Buffalo game with a sprained toe and ankle and the Tulane game with a gimpy ankle, and carried the ball 198 times for 893 yards (4.5 average) and four touchdowns and caught 10 passes for 78 yards.

Irons displays an impressive combination of power, vision and speed when healthy, and he proved capable of being Auburn's premier back in 2005. However, while he showed toughness in attempting to play through nagging injuries as a senior, his production tailed off considerably. Doubts regarding his ability to carry a fulltime load in the NFL have increased. As a result, Irons' stock has dipped and he likely will slip to the bottom-half of the second round.