Past Drafts Part III: Who Dey

Ah, the Bengals. As a self-proclaimed die-hard Reds fan, it’s always interesting to write about that Cincinnati football team that I happen not to be a fan of.

Cincinnati has done well in the past two draft classes, having selected their franchise quarterback in Andy Dalton and a dominant receiver in A.J. Green in 2011, then following that in the 2012 draft class with several solid contributors, including corner Dre Kirkpatrick (even if injuries derailed his rookie season).

The Bengals could ensure another playoff run in 2013 with a strong showing in the draft, with the possibility of challenging the Super Bowl champion Ravens for the AFC North title.

2012:

  • 17th overall: Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick

Kirkpatrick is in a tough situation following a bust of a rookie season. The 17th overall pick was slotted to start as soon as he got a grasp of the defense, yet injuries limited him to only parts of five games in 2012  with only four tackles to show for his time on special teams as as depth at corner. Kirkpatrick will need to establish a healthy string of practices if he’s going to contribute from the start in 2013, but he has the potential to be a starter–and the Bengals are counting on him with regardless of the status of incumbent starters Terrance Newman and Adam Jones.

  • 27th overall: Wisconsin OG Kevin Zeitler

Zeitler is more of an immediate success story in 2012 for the Bengals. Originally projected a bit higher in the draft, Zeitler wasn’t alone as guards fell to later picks (the Steelers took top-ten projected guard David DeCastro only a few picks earlier). From the start of camp, Zeitler was installed as the starting right guard, and there he remained throughout the season. Pro Football Focus gave Zeitler a very positive grade for 2012, ranking as the 12th best guard in the league as a rookie. With 16 starts under his belt at only 23, Zeitler should be a big part of the Bengals’ offensive line for years to come.

  • 2nd round, 21st pick: Penn St. DT Devon Still

Scouts pegged Still as a capable run-stuffer who was significant for his ability to rush the passer coming out of Penn State. While it may be clear from Still’s playing time that the talent is there, the coaching staff’s decision to only keep three tackles active per week limited Still’s time on the field as a rookie. With Domata Peko the clear nose tackle in Cincinnati and Geno Atkins the opposite tackle, the Bengals had to decide who would be active on game-day between veteran Pat Sims, Still and fellow rookie Brandon Thompson. While Sims missed time on the PUP list, Still and Thompson shared time on the roster while the other sat on the sideline as a healthy inactive. In parts of eight games, Still managed 14 tackles with .5 sacks and a forced fumble. Still will likely have a much more active role on the defense now that Sims has departed Cincinnati.

  • 3rd round, 20th pick: Rutgers WR Mohamed Sanu

What happened to Sanu on draft day was a bit of a mystery, as many draftniks had projected the Rutgers receiver to go in the early first-round, only for him to fall to the second day of the draft. Sanu came on slow at camp, behind roster bubble players Brandon Tate and Armon Binns as he struggled to get integrated into Cincinnati’s offense. However, as the season progressed it seemed that Sanu had established himself as the clear-cut number two to A.J. Green–only for it to be announced in November that Sanu would miss the remainder of the season due to a stress fracture in his foot. Sanu finished the season with 16 catches for 154 yards and four touchdowns in parts of nine games (three starts). Heading into 2013, Sanu is a big piece of the passing offense, entrenched as either the number two or slot receiver.

  • 3rd round, 30th pick: Clemson DT Brandon Thompson

The other rookie victim of Cincinnati’s crowded defensive line situation, Thompson was only active for three games in 2012. Originally projected as a middling first-round pick, Thompson was considered a steal by the Bengals in the third-round. However, Thompson has only one tackle and 13 healthy game-day inactives to show for his rookie campaign. This offseason will likely determine Thompson’s future with the team, as starters Domata Peko and Geno Atkins still remain with the team, as well as second-round rookie Still. Thompson does have the added bonus that Atkins is headed into a contract season and may be departing Cincinnati following the 2013 season.

  • 4th round, 21st pick: Georgia TE Orson Charles

Charles is an example of how a player can go from a possible late first-round pick to an afterthought in only a matter of months. Between changing agents, showing poorly at Georgia’s pro day and refusing to participate in much of the NFL combine only to get arrested for a DUI weeks later, Charles quickly went from the second tight end on the board to a fourth-round pick. That didn’t keep Cincinnati from using Charles in 2012, as he was an eight game starter and active for all 16 games. Used as more of a number two and blocker to Jermaine Gresham, Charles managed only eight catches for 101 yards. He’s got the potential to replace Gresham should the veteran continue to underachieve at the professional level.

  • 5th round, 21st pick: Iowa CB Shaun Prater

A small corner out of Iowa, Prater’s size (5’10″) limits his coverage abilities. Cincinnati grabbed Prater as a run-stopping corner who’s experience on special teams would ensure a roster spot as a reserve corner and kick coverage gunner. However, Prater missed the entirety of the 2012 season after being placed on injured reserve, and thus has little to show the coaching staff heading into 2013. Prater is likely on the roster bubble, especially given his lack of man coverage abilities.

  • 5th round, 31st pick: California WR Marvin Jones

Although Jones ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in 2012, he has been criticized as not playing up to his speed and having difficulty separating from corners. However, Jones is also 6’2″ with a good vertical that lets him jump over coverage to get the ball. Jones pounced upon the opportunity to start when Mohamed Sanu went down, as he started the final six games of the season (including the wild card game versus Houston. Overall, Jones finished the season with 18 receptions for 201 yards and a single touchdown while fighting for targets with A.J. Green and slot receiver Andrew Hawkins. With Sanu cemented in the lineup as either Cincinnati’s number two or slot receiver, Jones will likely head to the fourth receiver role in 2013.

  • 5th round, 32nd pick: Boise St. S George Iloka

Iloka entered the draft as a potential second-day pick due to his coverage abilities and size (6’4″). Iloka played mostly special teams in his seven active games in 2012, racking up only two tackles. As a true center fielder-type safety, Iloka may be able to crack the starting roster in 2013 if he can beat out the struggling Taylor Mays (and the Bengals decide to pass on safety in the draft).

  • 6th round, 21st pick: Ohio St. RB Dan Herron

Herron was added in the sixth-round as a long shot to make the roster out of Ohio State. Cincinnati already had Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis, Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard assured to make the final roster, while Herron had to compete with Cedric Peerman for a spot. Ultimately, Herron was waived and added to the practice squad at final cuts. The Bengals finally called up Herron in December, and he finished out the season with four carries for only five yards in parts of three games. Herron is unlikely to survive cuts again in 2013.

2011:

  • 4th overall: Georgia WR A.J. Green

To say this pick paid off is an understatement. Green stepped in and immediately formed a rapport with Dalton, putting up 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns on 65 receptions in his rookie season. With a sophomore season line of 97 receptions for 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns, Green proved that his performance was no fluke. There’s little to say here other than Green has a very, very bright future ahead of him.

  • 2nd round, 3rd pick: Texas Christian QB Andy Dalton

In a quarterback-heavy draft class, many forgot about small-school Dalton. Who were the three quarterbacks who went before Dalton? Jake Locker (Titans 8th overall), Blaine Gabbert (Jaguars 10th overall) and Christian Ponder (Vikings 14th overall) were all first-round picks, while Dalton and sophomore phenom Colin Kaepernick were taken back-to-back in the second-round. Dalton’s rookie season saw the Bengals reach the playoffs with a 9-7 record, good for the second AFC wild card. In 16 starts, Dalton’s stat line was an impressive 300/516 (58.1 completion percentage) for 3,398 yards with 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Dalton’s 2012 was even better, posting a 62.3 completion percentage (329/528) for 3,669 yards with 27 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. The Bengals went 10-6 and earned a playoff berth with Dalton under center once again. He also added four touchdowns on the ground in his sophomore season. Between Dalton and Green, Cincinnati has an offensive duo to build around.

  • 3rd round, 2nd pick: Nevada-Reno OLB Dontay Moch

Cincinnati followed up two on-target picks with what many consider to be a complete dud in Moch. Coming out of Nevada, Moch posted an incredibly fast 4.44 40-yard dash time at the combine–which combined with his 6’2″ 248 lb frame makes for a scary mix of size and speed. Expected to contribute on special teams on rookie as he picked up the defensive scheme and transitioned to linebacker from defensive end, Moch suffered a broken foot in the preseason opener and proceeded to be inactive for his entire rookie campaign. Moch’s 2012 started on a similar note, as he missed four games due to a PED suspension. Moch was ultimately only active for one game before being put on the reserve/non-football injury list with recurring migraine symptoms. It’s unclear if Moch has a future with the Bengals at this point.

  • 4th round, 4th pick: Georgia OG Clint Boling

Boling was drafted with the intention that he start at guard for the Bengals from the first game as a rookie. He did indeed start the season opener at right guard, but only lasted three games before being benched for poor play. Boling would only last two more weeks on the active roster before spending the remaining of the season as a healthy inactive. With the departure of veteran starter Bobbie Williams prior to the 2012 season, Boling was inserted into the starting lineup and started all 16 games in his sophomore campaign. Boling graded out favorably in pass-blocking in 2012, but poorly in run-blocking, according to Pro Football Focus. He should keep his starting job opposite 2012 rookie Kevin Zeitler moving forward.

  • 5th round, 3rd pick: West Virginia DB Robert Sands

A free safety at West Virginia, many pundits expected the Bengals to convert Sands to strong due to his size (6’4″) and suspect coverage skills, yet Sands was made a free safety and has stuck. His rookie season saw healthy inactives in all-but one game, where he failed to record any stats. Sands’ sophomore campaign was a wash, as he suffered a season-ending chest injury during the preseason, landing him on injured reserve (possibly saving him from final cuts in the process). In addition to a lost season, Sands was arrested on Jan. 6 with assault and domestic violence–further endangering his NFL prospects.

  • 6th round, 2nd pick: Stanford WR Ryan Whalen

Whalen beat the odds as a rookie out of Stanford, as the possession receiver was expected to miss the cut in a crowded receiver corps. Active for four games in 2011, Whalen recorded four receptions for 27 yards while mostly playing on special teams. After a largely-unremarkable rookie campaign, Whalen entered the 2012 preseason clearly on the roster bubble. Once again, Whalen beat the odds and managed to be active for nine games in 2012, recording seven catches for 53 yards. It’s up to Whalen to beat the odds once again in 2013 if he’s going to make it through final cuts.

  • 7th round, 4th pick: Southern Illinois DB Korey Lindsey

Under-sized and coming from small-school Southern Illinois, Lindsey was considered an under-the-radar ball-hawk by scouts. So far, Lindsey has done nothing to prove these scouts right–he’s on his fourth team (Bengals, Cardinals, Colts and Redskins), and has been waived five times (twice by the Cardinals). At this point, there’s little hope for Lindsey’s NFL prospects.

  • 7th round, 43rd pick: Baylor RB Jay Finley

There’s a reason Finley was a seventh-round pick–he can do almost anything required of an NFL quarterback…but then again he can’t do any of it all that well either. Undersized and lacking speed, he has a knack for the hole, but he doesn’t have breakaway speed and isn’t known for breaking tackles. Originally waived with the intention of being added to the Bengals’ practice squad, Cincinnati later changed their minds and let him hit the open market. Finley spent part of the season on the Seahawks’ practice squad, but he’s been out of football since the end of the 2011 season.

That’s it for the Bengals. Next up in the Past Drafts series will be the Cleveland Browns.

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