With the 21st pick in the Sports Media 101 NFL mock draft, the Cincinnati Bengals selected linebacker, Luke Kuechly, from Boston College. This pick was a surprise to both us at Bengals 101 making the pick as well as to fans. Nobody anticipated Kuechly being available this late.
Such is the fluid nature of the NFL Draft. After getting their top target in Stanford guard David DeCastro at 17, Bengals 101 turned our attention to another area of need, cornerback. South Carolina's Stephen Gilmore was all but written on the draft card, ready to turn in. But then Kuechly became available.
When the St. Xavier High School product wasn't picked by either San Diego, Chicago or Tennessee, the Bengals had to move.
Besides being a great "local kid makes good" story, Kuechly would address a growing area of concern for the Bengals at middle linebacker. Dhani Jones retired prior to last season to pursue his television career and Rey Maualuga was moved to the middle, the position he patrolled with great skill at USC.
Maualuga's performance was somewhat underwhelming in 2011. He had a tendency to overrun plays and not get off blocks. He's also looking at a likely suspension from the league for an alleged off the field assault charge that occurred in January.
Kuechly is one of those players with an instinct for the football. He has led the nation in tackles for consecutive seasons, averaging 16 per game last year as a junior. He won both the Butkus Award and Bronko Nagurski award last season at Boston College. He leaves the program as its all-time leading tackler, besting the total of Bill Romanowski.
If this pick comes to fruition, the Bengals will have majorly upgraded their interior on both offense and defense. In the AFC North, a strong interior on both sides of the ball has been the hallmark of its champions.
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