Heading into the first of two bonanza draft days (Did I mention I predicted Hue Jackson would come back to Cincinnati once he screwed the Raiders out of the remaining decent picks they had? Mike Brown really is an evil genius.), the Bengals main areas of need are clear: the yearly issue of fulfilling the potential of an offensive line of maestros (Andrew Whitworth) and muppets (Nate Livings), someone to stretch the field across from A.J. Green at receiver, Cedric Benson’s long-term replacement at running back, and a secondary that lost the best corner-back tandem in the NFL to free agency and injury last year.
Here’s a brief look at my choices for first round picks, as well as some of the other options the Bengals will be considering…
17. David DeCastro, G, Standford
He may sound like an American Idol runner-up but putting DeCastro alongside Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith would give the Bengals a truly elite O-line for years to come. DeCastro has spent his formative years protecting golden boy Andrew Luck, and under the wing of perennial humiliator of the Pro Bowl selection process Whitworth he could spend the next fifteen years similarly keeping Andy Dalton’s nose clean.
DeCastro is seen as a once in a lifetime talent. He’s strong, smart, works hard, and would be a killer addition to any team, but especially one that plays in the AFC North. This kind of prospect shouldn’t drop to seventeenth in the draft, but fortunately teams shy away from guards early in the first round, which means tackles like Riley Reiff and Matt Kalil will be snapped up by teams looking for offensive line help. If he makes it past the Cardinals and Seahawks, the Bengals will have managed to land their first choice player in each of the last three drafts.
21. Dre Kirkpatrick, DB, Alabama
There are several reasons to like this pick for the Bengals. Pick your own, but mine is that he sounds like an Irish rapper. His lack of interceptions this past college season has him slipping down to Bengals territory, but Mike Zimmer’s defense isn’t built around flashy individual stats (not to mention that a college corner’s interceptions frequently drop when opponents realize they shouldn’t throw to his side of the field). Kirkpatrick has a tendency to play the man as much as the ball. He’s blessed with incredible strength for his size, reads the game well, and has the sort of hustle that opposing receivers hate. His fluidity could help to balance new starting safety Taylor Mays’s weak spot. The pot charges against him were dropped, but their very existence will keep things easy for lazy pundits who want to make Jerome “On His Way Out” Simpson jokes.
IN THE MIX
Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame. Floyd would provide a strong, physical option across from A.J. Green. Some see him as the top receiver in this year’s class (ahead of Justin Blackmon, who will have disappeared by the time the Rams have handed in their card). That said, intriguing receivers will be available in the later rounds. Despite the “losses” of Andre Caldwell and, one assumes, Jerome Simpson, the Bengals will have Jordan Shipley back. Floyd will certainly not drop to the second, and the Bengals shouldn’t draft a first round pass-catcher three years running.
Cordy Glenn. G. Georgia. If DeCastro is gone, Glenn would be the sort of mauling, brawling lineman who would suit the division. At 6’6” and 345 pounds, he’s genuinely enormous, and has experience at tackle as well as guard. He has surprisingly quick feet and agility. The Bengals have to take a first-class guard and if DeCastro doesn’t fall, Glenn could start right away.
Cedric Benson, I feel, had every right to be aggrieved throughout 2010. That said, his days have seemed numbered since he yelled in Andy Dalton’s face in the rookie’s first quarter. Going for fewer yards than me in the playoff game didn’t help. New arrival BenJarvis Green-Ellis sees himself as an every-down back. That said, Rob Schneider still describes himself as a comedian, which only goes to prove Michael McIntyre’s adage that no matter how unflattering you think your passport photograph is, nobody has ever stopped you at the border to say “This can’t be you—you’re SO MUCH better-looking than the person in this photograph!” The Bengals haven’t had a home-run threat in the backfield since, well, Corey Dillon, maybe Rudi Johnson, and would be thrilled if any of Doug Martin, RB, Boise State, Lamar Miller, RB, Miami (FL), or David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech fell into their hands. Fortunately, first round running backs are about as popular as the comedic stylings of the aforementioned Mr. Schneider, so at least one should be available in the second round. Personally, I’d take Miller, but any of the three would give the Bengals an immediate offensive threat, particularly if DeCastro was snagged in Round One.
The Bengals seem pretty much set at safety and the only first rounder, Mark Barron, SS, Alabama, won’t make it past the Cowboys. Stephen Gilmore, CB, South Carolina has shot past Kirkpatrick on most people’s boards, but if he were somehow still around would be a fantastic addition to the secondary.
Some mocks have the Bengals looking at defensive lineman, but unless an absolute stud drops further than expected, it’s not a position where the Bengals need an injection. It’s one where they need depth, but depth can be found in rounds two and three.
For me, DeCastro and Kirkpatrick would be a dream come true…on Thursday evening we’ll find out…