The Cincinnati Bengals were looking to do something unprecedented, backing up two consecutive successful drafts with a third. The Bengals franchise has not exactly been the NFL standard for successful drafting, but Marvin Lewis and his staff put together a tremendous selection of new players for the third year in a row.
The Bengals had three essential needs going into this weekend: strengthen their interior line, replace departed wide receivers and strengthen the secondary. Not only did they accomplish those tasks, but also picked up some great value picks along the way.
Kevin Zeitler joining the offensive line in tandem with the signing of Travelle Wharton during free agency solved the issues on the interior line. Zeitler was the only offensive lineman picked, but the team had added plenty of depth through free agency already in addition to re-signing their own veterans like Anthony Collins and Dennis Roland.
Replacing the departed Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell was a bigger challenge. The Bengals responded in spades. Cincinnati got Rutgers WR Mohamed Sanu with their first pick in the third round and a tremendous value with Cal wideout Marvin Jones in round five. It was the suprise pick of Geogia tight end Orson Charles that really made the difference.
Charles, a converted wide receiver, brings the ability to line up in the slot at times. Jermaine Gresham can do the same, and did on occasion last year. This gives the Bengals a new offensive package that could include up to three tight ends in short yardage situations. Normally when teams go to a three tight end set, a run is guaranteed. The Bengals now have the credible option of running play action off those situations if opposing safeties get to close to the line of scrimmage.
Sanu and Jones will be upgrades from Simpson and Caldwell. Both are as athletic as the former wide receivers and are already more accomplished route runners. Andy Dalton will certainly appreciate having his receivers running crisp, precise routes. Add a recovered Jordan Shipley to the mix and the Bengals now have the division's best collection of receivers.
Picking Dre Kirkpatrick with the first pick gives the Bengals a physical presence on the corner they've been lacking. They backed that up by using one of their fifth round selections on Iowa corner Shaun Prater. Prater seemed to be an extraneous pick there, but he provides the Bengals some special teams depth and insurance against Leon Hall's recovery and pending 2013 free agents.
The Bengals may have gotten another steal with their final fifth round selection, Boise State safety George Iloka. At 6'4" Iloka gives the Bengals another physical specimen in the mold of Taylor Mays. Iloka can be a force against the run as well as in coverage against opposing tight ends.
Cincinnati closed out the 2012 Draft by selecting Ohio State running back Daniel Herron. "Boom" Herron is coming off a season cut short by suspension. His junior year, however, he was an All Big 10 selection, rushing for over 1000 yards and 16 touchdowns. Herron gives the Bengals another option between the tackles. Unlike BenJarvus Green-Ellis, however, Herron has the straight line speed to take it to the house once in the defensive backfield.
Give the Bengals and A+ for the 2012 draft. They've already fielded four Pro Bowl players in the past two drafts, most in the NFL. This year's draft looks certain to produce more. Perhaps it may even produce 53 Super Bowl players.
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