Going into the 2012 NFL Draft, the Bengals were sitting pretty. They were fresh off of an improbable Wild Card berth in 2011 and had a plethora of young talent on both sides of the ball. A big reason for the excitement in that draft was because of the Carson Palmer mega-deal, which gave the team two first round picks to add more elite, young talent. Bobbie Williams was a fan favorite and a mainstay at right guard. Unfortunately, injuries and age caught up to him and Williams departed for Baltimore, much like Willie Anderson did a couple of years prior.
If you followed the mock drafts that offseason, most pundits had Cincinnati going with cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick of Alabama, and offensive guard David DeCastro of Stanford. Sure enough, the Bengals took Kirkpatrick with the No.17 pick that they received from the Raiders in the Palmer deal and were ready to use their own pick just a few spots later. Surprisingly, with DeCastro still on the board, the Bengals moved back from No.21 with New England back to No.27. To the subsequent chagrin of Bengals fans, DeCastro went to the rival Steelers at No.24. The pick that the Bengals acquired to move spots with the Patriots became defensive tackle, Brandon Thompson who was selected in the back of the third round.
At No. 27 the Bengals seemingly took the offensive guard consolation prize in Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler. The Bengals liked a couple of things about the former Badger. Not only was Zeitler versatile, but offensive linemen out of Wisconsin's program are known for becoming solid professionals because of their solid college coaching. Though not the most athletic lineman, he is a fluid technician with great strength. Offensive line coach Paul Alexander had DeCastro and Zeitler ranked evenly, so if that is/was true, the Bengals got a heck of a deal.
When it was all said and done after the 2012 season, DeCastro injured his knee in the preseason and barely played, while Zeitler made a number of the media's All-Rookie teams and played at a near-Pro Bowl level.
WHY HE RANKED HERE:
One could argue that Zeitler was the most consistent and able lineman of the 2012 unit. Though ProFootballFocus ranked Andre Smith higher than Zeitler, the Bengals' right guard had a solid ranking as well. Beyond that, Zeitler impressed the coaches enough to entrust him with a starting job from day one. Zeitler's response to that trust? He had only two penalties called against him in 2012.
WHY HE SHOULDN'T BE RANKED HERE:
Though there isn't much going against Zeitler's performance as a rookie, the argument could be made that he only has the one year to stand on. It's tough to put a second-year player in the top-ten, even if that first year was an outstanding one as Zeitler's was.
After just one year, it seems as if the Bengals' choice of Zeitler was better one than DeCastro, though there is still a lot to play out there. If the Bengals offense continues to improve, Zeitler remains healthy and continues to play at the same high level, we could be seeing a Pro Bowl guard in the making.