Quite often during the draft, the Bengals are a team that could be designated as "second round benefactors". Sometimes that can be attributed to the fact that they have a high draft position because of a poor prior season, while other times it's just a matter of a quality player slipping to them later in the round. More often than not, a second round choice is relied upon to become a quality NFL starter.
The Bengals have struck gold in this round in their recent history with the likes of Eric Steinbach, Andrew Whitworth, Carlos Dunlap and Andy Dalton. What do these players have in common? They were fringe first round talents that slipped because other teams reached for players or there was a run on certain positions that was unexpected. As we've discussed here over the past few weeks at Cincy Jungle, there should be a number of solid talents that fall to the Bengals in the second. NFL.com's Charley Casserly made a short list of some of those players today. Let's take a look:
Of the six players that are Casserly's second round watch list, four have been connected to the Bengals as draft possibilities. Let's start with the ever-polarizing Boise State running back, Doug Martin. Casserly has this to say about the "Muscle Hampster":
Doug Martin, RB, Boise State: I have him rated as this draft class' No. 2 running back (behind Trent Richardson). Martin's a fine all-around back with the tools to succeed at the next level. He's a physical inside runner who has good vision and can accelerate through the hole. On outside plays he, can stretch it to the corner and has a good feel of when to cut it up. In the passing game, he displays good hands and is an effective runner after the catch.
While Casserly's observations are spot-on, the assessment of Martin being a second round back is "iffy". As the opinions continue to grow that Martin is the second best back in the draft, the likelihood of him slipping into the second is questionable. There's a gauntlet of teams that sit from Nos. 21-32 in the first round that could use a back like Martin. Then again, most people thought that Dalton was going to go in the first but he landed at the beginning of the second last year and he plays the most important position on the field. We'll see.
Casserly also mentions the big guard prospect, Amini Silatolu out of Midwestern State. We've reported that the Bengals are apparently very high on the kid, as well as that their coaches personally worked out Silatolu at his Pro Day.
Amini Silatolu, OG, Midwestern State: Silatolu lined up at offensive tackle in college, but I think his athletic ability makes him a better guard prospect for the NFL game. He's a powerful player who dominated Division II, knocking overmatched counterparts off the ball. In addition to his physical nature, he's also very good at pulling and blocking in space. He shows enough foot quickness to pass protect at effectively at the guard position. At the NFL Scouting Combine, he displayed the athletic movement to play in the NFL. In fact, he moved as well as any of the offensive lineman in Indianapolis during drills.
He's a bit raw, but is known as a mauler and could be a good value in the second for the Bengals, given his upside. Silatolu is one of roughly a half a dozen guard prospects that have been talked about as draft possibilities for the team.
Another guard prospect linked to the Bengals made Casserly's list in Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler. If you remember, the team showed interest in Zeitler over the Combine week and they also attended his Pro Day workout.
Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin: Zeitler is a classic Wisconsin lineman: a strong and physical blocker. He can move defenders and sustains blocks very well at the line of scrimmage. He also does an above-average job of sustaining blocks in space. He moves his feet well as a pass blocker, sliding to mirror the defender. He can effectively anchor against the bull rush. Zeitler has also worked out as a center during the pre-draft process.
It's that versatility that both Marvin Lewis and Paul Alexander love in their linemen. Nearly every starter on the line has the ability to play another spot and Zeitler would be no exception. Should they draft him in the second round, he would likely come in at take over the right guard spot.
Lastly, there's Notre Dame's Harrison Smith. He's a strong, heady safety, who is also a sure tackler. He played some outside linebacker for the Irish and had seven interceptions in 2010 (none in 2011). Of his abilities, Casserly offered:
Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame: Smith has very good size (6-2, 213 pounds) and speed (4.57) for the position. I like his range and instincts against the run and pass. He is aggressive against the run, but must do a better job of breaking down before attempting to tackle a ball carrier. Even though there is some tightness to him, I believe he will be able to cover most tight ends because of his speed.
He's not the athlete that incumbent safety Taylor Mays is, but he likely has a firmer grasp on the mental aspects of the game and could provide a nice option for competition at the open strong safety spot. While Smith would provide pretty nice value in the second, the Bengals aren't a team that uses too many high picks on the position.
The other two players on the list are Stanford tight end, Coby Fleener, and Marshall defensive end, Vinny Curry. It's not completely out of the realm of possibility that those two would be on the Bengals' radar in the second if they feel that they're the best available players.