December 20, 2014

First Round Prognostications

We’ve finally made it!  After 3 full months of constant buzz, the 2012 NFL Draft is here.  Thank God.  Tonight we have round one, where the theoretically best 32 players will get picked.  From this group will come some busts, posers and a few kids with freakish ability but not ready for the spotlight.  It’ll also contain some solid starters, steady contributors, and a precious few pro-bowlers.  Some lucky team might even select a future Hall of Famer.

The readiness is all.  Good luck, Bengals.  For the months of agonizing and measuring, film-watching and pro-day attending, it’s really a big crap shoot.

The Basics:

The first round commences in prime time at 8:00 PM, and you can watch it on NFL Network or ESPN.  For those of you who’ve been living in a bomb shelter or on a deserted island, the Bengals have two picks in the first round. They have the 17th overall selection, thanks to the fleecing of the Raiders for Carson Palmer, and their own pick at 21.

Each team gets 10 minutes to pick, so Cincy’s first selection won’t come until sometime after ten o’clock, barring a trade.

In the debate:

There have been tons of players rumored or mocked to go to the Bengals.  Most of this is useless drivel.  Four weeks ago every expert thought the Bengals would get Trent Richardson.  Now, those same experts don’t expect him to fall past Tampa Bay at five.  Same thing with fellow ‘Bama man, Safety Mark Barron.  The Bengals were rumored to like his talents at 17 or 21, but now the latest gossip is he’ll be a top 10 pick.  Then there’s Stanford Guard David DeCastro.  Rumors and mocks have persisted for weeks that the Bengals will snag “the best pulling guard in the draft,” including reliable sources like NFL Network’s Mike Mayock.  However, guards rarely go in the first round, and the Bengals have never done it.

Then there’s the obligatory positions that are hot right now, cornerback and wide receiver.  Both are seen as primary needs at this point, and both should have a player or two available at 17 and worth the same.  The latest juiciness has Cincy taking either CB Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina or another Crimson Tide player in CB Dre Kirkpatrick to shore up the secondary, and then going wide receiver with Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd, Baylor’s Kendall Wright, or Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill at 21.

Then there’s Marvin Lewis’ comments that he likes ‘Bama DE Courtney Upshaw and feels the defense has been neglected.

So who will it be?

I’d personally prefer that the Bengals continue to focus on offense.  They struck gold last year with A.J. Green and Andy Dalton; not one but TWO franchise-quality players for the offense, making the transition away from Palmer and Chad Ochocinco easy.  But they need help.  They need some more support up front, they need some firepower in the run game, and they need another wide receiver to shift attention from Green. 

I’d love to see DeCastro and Floyd, or even Georgia’s OG Cordy Glenn and Boise RB David Martin. 

The Bengals surprised the league and made the playoffs with a stout, well-coached defense continually propping up a rag-tag, young and patchwork offense.  Had the offense been top 20, the team might have been more of a threat.  While I foresee that Dalton and Green will progress and improve and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden will improve the unit in his second year, I’d still want him to have more firepower to work with.  Gruden’s counterpart on defense, Mike Zimmer, continually finds ways to make a great defensive unit out of spare parts.   All of this makes me root for help on the offense.

But that’s just what’s going to happen.

In the first round, the Bengals will roll with the Tide

In reality, I think the love Marvin Lewis is showing for Upshaw is genuine.  I also think he has very legitimate concerns about the cornerback position, where Leon Hall is coming off devastating Achilles surgery, Nate Clements is 32 years old, and the back-ups are a question mark. 

So tonight, I expect the names called will be:

  • 17:  Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama:  Gilmore will be gone (as will top DB Morris Claiborne), leaving Kirkpatrick as the top corner left.  The Bengals will take him there, as there’s no guarantee he’ll still be available at 21.  Kirkpatrick will start the year splitting time with Jason Allen as a nickel back, but may end the season starting over Clements.
  • 21:  Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama:  Lewis gets his man at 21.  Upshaw is known for having a constant motor, and a fearless attitude.  His pass-rushing skills and big play ability at the college level are well documented.  To me, he’s Marvin’s second attempt to get a dynamic front seven guy to rush the passer and play all over the field from both a linebacker and defensive end spot.  The first attempt, Georgia’ David Pollack in 2005, never made the impact expected due to a career-ending neck injury in his second season.  Upshaw  could be the guy to give Cincinnati a real dynamic defensive star.

The team can shop for a wide-out and running back in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, and a decent guard can be found even later.

Anyway, that’s my thinking as of 5:00 PM on draft day.  By 8:00, all bets are off.