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Mel Kiper Jr. - Bengals Conspiracy or Coincidence?

Mel Kiper, Jr. is one of the most well-respected draft gurus out there today. When it comes to his Bengals predictions, he's had a knack of being on the money, or is there more to the story?

Mike Brown Bengals
Mike Brown Bengals
Joe Robbins

With the inundation of offseason mock drafts beginning to flow in, it’s worth taking a look back at the Bengals mock draft history. In doing so, one inevitable question emerges: is Mike Brown actually using these mock drafts as a blueprint for the team's direction?

Or maybe even better yet: is Mel Kiper, Jr. secretly employed as the Bengals' General Manager?

Before we get ahead of ourselves, note that Mel doesn’t hit all of the Bengals picks. However, there surely is a correlation based on the original Mock Guru and the Bengals first round draft choices (Apologies to those without ESPN Insider for the links).

2012: Mel eventually changed his final mock draft choice for the Bengals No.17 pick, but back in February of last year, he mailed in his choice.

Cincinnati Bengals (from Oakland)

Record: 8-8

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

The Bengals held up pretty well against the pass last year, but should look for the heir to Johnathan Joseph, whom they lost to Houston before the 2011 season. Kirkpatrick fits the bill as a big, physical corner who doesn't give up much in coverage given his size (nearly 6-foot-3), which makes him particularly good inside the red zone. He's also not one to shy away from run support. The Bengals need a running back, too, but they can find value at that position much later. Glenn is also an option if the Jets don't make that pick.

Also credit Todd McShay for nailing the Kirkpatrick pick as well.

Flashback to 2011: Kiper, Jr. nailed the Bengals No.4 overall selection:

Cincinnati Bengals

Record: 4-12

A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

Cincinnati is still dealing with a headache at the quarterback situation, but whether their answer is to trade Carson Palmer away, woo him back, or perhaps try to import the likes ofKevin Kolb, Matt Hasselbeck, Donovan McNabb or someone else, they'll need to help whoever will be throwing the ball in 2011 and beyond. By drafting the best pure pass-catching talent in the draft, they can accomplish that. Green is an immediate starter and the rare big-time, physical, fast receiver who has the route-running skills and understanding to match his skill-set.

Not only did Kiper, Jr. predict the Green pick, but also got the #35 selection correct in QB Andy Dalton!

Flashback to 2010: Kiper misses this time. His mock of Dez Bryant to the Bengals at #21 was clearly a smoke screen to throw off the scent. Still, it was widely-known that the Bengals were looking at either Bryant or Jermaine Gresham. He instead gave the Bengals actual pick to his counterpart Todd McShay:

Cincinnati Bengals

Record: 10-6 | Needs: TE, FS, ILB, DT, G/C

Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma

Flashback to 2009: Mel Kiper (Brown?) Jr. does it again, selecting OT Andre Smith with the No.6 overall selection.

Flashback to 2008: No.9 pick? No problem! Mel selects USC LB Keith Rivers to the Bengals.

Just how far does this trend go back to? Let's take a spin back to when Marvin Lewis first took over the head coaching job.

Cincinnati Bengals -- Carson Palmer, QB, USC
The Bengals identified the player they wanted and then signed him. Now Cincinnati has a potential franchise quarterback to build around. Head coach Marvin Lewis already has declared veteran QB Jon Kitna the starter for 2003, so Palmer won't have the pressure of a training-camp duel. I believe Kitna will be receptive to helping Palmer develop, and the young QB will assume the starter's role when he's ready.

It seems that the perception of the Bengals (i.e., Bungles) might be changing. Lewis was the defensive coordinator for the Super Bowl-winning Ravens, the architect of one of the best defenses of all time, and he brings credibility to the Bengals' organization. He's been able to attract free agents to Cincinnati, and now Palmer has a chance to help turn things around even further.

Ever since Mike Brown appears to have handed the keys over to Mel Kiper Jr. in 2003, the Bengals franchise has been on a roll with 3 playoff appearances in the last 4 years! It's also important to note that Kiper, Jr. has ties to the Baltimore area and is an openly avid Ravens fan. Because of this, Kiper likely pays close attention to the Bengals as well.

And if anyone should need a reminder of the Pre-Mel Kiper Days… close your eyes if you’re scared!