Originally posted on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 4/29/12

When do we start talking about the Bengals in the same breath as other top level teams on draft day, or do we need to see them compete for another year or two before we make that leap?

Here is my 2012 Cincinnati Bengals Draft Grade.

First you get a physical, potential number one cornerback in Dre Kirkpatrick, who will come in and compete right away for the position.  Dre was the best CB on the board, and maybe even the best player on the board, and when you add that to the fact it was a position it just makes sense.

Fantastic short area quickness, combined with exceptional balance and change of direction skills make Dre one of the better CB prospects in the draft.

Diagnoses routes quickly and knows how and when to jump those routes in order to make an effective play on the ball.  Physical corner who is not just willing, but able to come up and play in run support, a must in a Mike Zimmer coached defense.

Lacks elite top end speed, and can get over aggressive at times, I know it’s a problem but isn’t better to have an over aggressive cornerback as opposed to a supremely gifted and athletic corner who looks indifferent throughout most of the game?

The biggest concern for Kirkpatrick is his size, he loves to play physical, but with bigger and stronger WR’s at the next level, it is a concern if his game translates, I don’t think it will be a problem I am just being fair in my evaluation Bengals fans.

Then you had a semi odd move in the Bengals moving back six spots, passing on the consensus best guard in the draft, again another need position, and instead taking Kevin Zeitler, by most considerations the third best guard in the draft.

I know a lot of Bengals fans wrote about their frustration with the pick initially, but they have since come around and now understand it, because of the player they got in Zeitler.

Zeitler is a thick, wide bodied physical specimen, who carries his weight extremely well and is your prototypical strong Wisconsin player.

Has excellent balance and footwork, as well as being able to overpower, direct and steer his defender at the line of scrimmage and in the run game.  He switches off blocks well and diagnoses pressure in the pass game.

Will struggle with quick interior defensive lineman because he is not an elite athlete.

Why did he fit as good, if not better than DeCastro?  Because he simply is a power run game guard, who is a no nonsense type, and can be plugged in and play from day 1.

It’s funny about the Bengals and how well they have been drafting lately, because when you look at the players and their “draft strategy” it lines up with those of the consistently elite, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, the Giants and the likes.  What they have done is let the draft come to them and then identify their need, and see how that lines up with the board, as opposed to looking for players that just fit that specific need.  What helps is when players like Devon Still, a potentially dominant defensive tackle, falls to you in round 2.

Still has excellent size, quickness and strength, and uses it to stand up his blocker, find the ball and get off and make plays.

The biggest issue with Still is his motor tends to run hot and cold, but in a situation where he won’t be asked to play every snap, he shouldn’t have as many problems.

I may be the biggest Mohamed Sanu honk in the draft nik community, so excuse my hyperbole when I gush just a little too much.

Sanu is a physical specimen, with a big body, long arms, and big, strong hands that allows him to pluck the ball out of the air and away from his body.  He isn’t a burner by any means, but he won’t be just a possession receiver either, running routes with effectiveness at every level on the field.

He isn’t a finished product yet, but there aren’t going to be many issues with that since he will be playing across from one of the best young receivers in the game in AJ Green, and won’t have to carry the burden of being the lone play maker at the WR spot.

Sanu is best in space, with the ball in his hands, as he runs around and through tacklers and can make people miss on a consistent basis.

Brandon Thompson was the pick that they got from the Patriots trade in round 1, and it just shows you, more and more teams are going in the direction of the Giants and going in waves on the defensive line.

Thompson is a big, quick defensive lineman who shoots the gaps well, pushes the pocket and can get after the quarterback.

Isn’t the best in pursuit or holding his ground at the point of attack because he tends to pop up once he gets into contact with his blocker as opposed to staying low.

Will come in and play opposite of Still, in that he will be used in passing situations much more than run downs because that is where he will be most effective.

It’s interesting to me that the Bengals go with TE Orson Charles in round 4, wait, no it’s not, they are clearly taking best available athlete with each pick.

Charles is a dynamic receiving threat, who runs solid routes, has good hands, and comes and gets the ball.

He is smallish and isn’t a great blocker, but he will mostly be used opposite Gresham in order to spread the field and make the passing game even harder to defend.

Marvin Jones and George Iloka are going to get talked about before Shaun Prater and Dan Herron.

While I wasn’t as big of a fan of Jones as some others in our community, there was no reason he should have been taken in round 5, with the other Patriots pick.

What I’ve said about Jones, who I had graded as a third rounder: Very good route runner, good footwork to get separation at the line of scrimmage, catches the ball away from his body with his huge hands, very good speed, not a burner, but a legit 4.4 long strider, comes from a pro style offense and knows how to run different routes at different levels. Thinly built frame that doesn’t have a lot of room for growth and can cause him to get manhandled off the line.

Then you have Iloka, another guy I had with a third round grade, who is a big, athletic and rangy safety prospect who is a willing tackler and quick in his pursuit.

He is a little stiff in his movements and slow to diagnose plays at times, but I see a guy who can come in and contribute right away.

Prater is a smallish, quick cornerback, who appears to be a sub package specialist.  He will contribute on special teams and find a place to play on this team because he works hard and makes plays when given a chance.

Herron I am a little less impressed with.  He is a smaller, finesse back who tends to hide and duck into holes rather than explode into them.  I am not sure his running style will mesh with the power scheme of the Bengals.

Overall: When we look back at this draft in three years, this is one of three drafts I am most confident I will say was an “A” draft.  While I don’t assign grades, other than “Great” “Good” and “Hey it’s still a draft” this is the type of draft that makes you scream at any network guy, “Hey, we got it right.”


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