With the 27th overall pick, the Bengals selected Wisconsin OG Kevin Zeitler. He was an anchor on aWisconsinoffensive line that was one of the best in the nation at running the ball, and Zeitler never allowed a sack in his 37 starts. When the Bengals opted to pass on Stanford guard David DeCastro and trade down to selectWisconsinguard Kevin Zeitler, many fans began clamoring, “What were they thinking?” DeCastro was the highest rated guard on every “analysts” board, but the Bengals felt Zeitler was the best guard in the draft, so they went with him.
Yahoo Sport’s Doug Farmer is breaking down the top-50 NFL draft picks, and today they featured the Bengals’ own Kevin Zeitler:
Strengths: Zeitler’s most obvious and positive characteristic is the leverage with which he plays. He is a leverage expert who sets a wide base, explodes off the snap with low angles, and really pushes defenders back on a regular basis. Understands and executes zone assignments very well inWisconsin’s system because he’s as fundamentally sound as most college linemen you’ll ever see. Absolute mauler as a run-blocker — Zeitler locks on to his target and pushes his man back with impressive consistency, and he’s not just picking on linebackers when he does that.
Good enough from a technique perspective to physically beat men who outweigh him. Devastating red zone blocker who will take on more than one defender at a time — considers it his obligation to hit as many people as possible with authority when a touchdown is within reach. Keeps his head on a swivel and will box out defenders away from him when defending the pocket. For all his ability to fire low off the snap, will occasionally get on top of a defender and just bury him. Great hands — will grab inside the pads and use his upper-body strength to his advantage.
Weaknesses: For all his root (and brute) strength, Zeitler isn’t always form-correct on zone slides — he’ll get a bit lost in the scrum when asked to block across the line and pick up a defender three gaps away. Seems like more of a short-area blocker in that regard, at least laterally. Great on initial hits, but will occasionally let lager guys slip back inside on delayed run plays. Pulls across gaps pretty functionally, but can be more a grizzly bear than a dancing bear when he needs to be light on his feet. Footwork on pulls and dropback in pass pro can be a bit choppy; not as smooth in space as some teams might like.
Fans can criticize the Bengals all they want for opting to go with Zeitler(and Clemson DT Brandon Thompson) over DeCastro, but the fact of the matter is they have to drastically improve the running game if they are to overtake the AFC North. DeCastro was graded so high because of his ability to pass block, something the Bengals o-line did a good job of, and his abilities as a pulling-guard, something Bengals guards don’t do a lot of. The Bengals got the man they wanted and that’s what matters.