Final Bengals Draft Thoughts

Time to close the book on the Bengals 2012 draft.

The team is getting rave reviews from the national pundits. Practically everyone is giving them an A or an A+. CBS’s Pete Prisco wrote that the Bengals had the best draft in the NFL.

I don’t pay close enough attention to know if that’s true or not. What I do know is this looks like a very good draft. Despite what I think of as the David DeCastro Incident, the first round netted two very fine players in Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick and Wisconsin G Kevin Zeitler. Penn State DT Devon Stills was a fine pickup in the second round, and the third round netted Rugers WR Mohamed Sanu and Clemson DT Brandon Thompson. I’m still not sure getting Thompson was worth giving up DeCastro, but I would be happy to have Mr. Thompson prove me wrong, especially if he can do it by pancaking Mr. DeCastro when we play the Steelers.

The third day brought the Bengals an interesting variety of players. The two most intriguing to me are fifth-rounder Cal WR Marvin Jones and sixth-rounder Ohio State RB Dan Herron. Both guys walk into situations where the competition for their respective positions are wide open.

Overall, the Bengals did a fine job of drafting 10 players who fill needs and, in theory, make the team better. It was a good draft.

If anything worries me it’s not taking a linebacker. After they traded away OLB Keith Rivers, they left themselves thin behind starter Thomas Howard. MLB Rey Maualuga expressed relief on the team’s official website that competition for him wasn’t drafted after he had a second brush with the law. He also struggled last year after getting injured. The starting unit looks fairly solid, but who’s behind them?

Still, Stills and Thompson upgrade the line, and Kirkpatrick improves the secondary. Perhaps that’s enough.

As the draft moves into history and the players and coaches look ahead to OTA’s, one thing noted by Bengals.com editor Geoff Hobson struck me. Cincinnati has endured a lot of criticism for bad drafts, but the real problem has been injury. 2004 first-round pick Chris Perry never recovered from a sports hernia that wiped out his rookie season. 2005 first-round pick David Pollack broke his neck the second game of his second season. 2008 second-rounder Kenny Irons blew out his knee on his third NFL carry. In 2009, first-rounder Keith Rivers broke his jaw halfway through his rookie season. Even 2003 first-overall selection Carson Palmer suffered a season-ending knee injury on the second play of his first playoffs game in 2005 and was lost for the season to an elbow injury after four games in 2008.

It’s tough for your drafts to be productive when the guys at the top get hurt and never develop into the kinds of players you envisioned when you took them so high.

By way of contrast, Cincinnati drafted four Pro Bowlers in 2010-11 — the most in the NFL according to ESPN. One gets the feeling Mike Brown and company do, in fact, know what they are doing when it comes to evaluating talent. It also raises yet another specter in an endless game of Bengals What-if’s.

  • What if Carson Palmer hadn’t blown out his knee in the playoffs game? Would the Bengals have cruised to the Super Bowl like the Steelers did?
  • What if Chris Perry had become the dynamic change-of-pace back and receiving threat he showed flashes of being the few times he was healthy?
  • What if David Pollack became one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL like he was showing signs of becoming?
  • What if Keith Rivers had become the latest example of USC linebackers doing #55 proud in the NFL?

The Bengals had a good draft this past weekend. It’ll take three years to know how good, but here’s toasting both the decisions in this draft and the health of the players selected for a long time to come.

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