In a recent ESPN insider article, Mel Kiper Jr. broke down the draft needs and mock selections for the entire AFC North, and thanks to ESPN AFC North Blogger Jamison Hensley, we are able to get a sample size of how he believes the Bengals will attack the draft:
Rd. 1 (21) S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
Rd. 2 (37) RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin (via Oakland)
Rd. 2 (53) LB Khaseem Greene, Rutgers
Rd. 3 (84) WR Denard Robinson, Michigan
Hensley’s comment: The Bengals would be very happy if Vaccaro fell into their lap at No. 21. Strong safety is the biggest need on the team. While I agree the Bengals need to add youth to the backfield, Ball is more of an inside runner like BenJarvus Green-Ellis. North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard represents a better change of pace. Greene, who led the Big East in tackles for the past two seasons, can step in at weakside linebacker. Robinson could become a Josh Cribbs-type return man for Cincinnati. All of these picks address the top needs for the Bengals.
If Kenny Vaccaro, who’s widely regarded as the draft’s top safety prospect, was able to fall to the Bengals at pick #21, Mike Zimmer would sprint onto the stage to hand Roger Goodell the selection card. While many will claim that Montae Ball is a reach at pick #37, he still would be a solid contributor on a Bengals team in desperate need of a backup to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Khaseem Greene could easily be the Week 1 starter at weakside linebacker, so getting him at #53 would be another great pick.
Denard Robinson is a bit of a wildcard in the late third-round. Perhaps Kiper foresees the Bengals using him in a wildcat-role while helping the former Michigan quarterback transition to receiver. The problem is, that seems to be the kind of role the Bengals have planned for Mohamed Sanu, so the Robinson pick really just doesn’t make sense.
Still, to get two starters in Vaccaro and Greene in the first three rounds would be a strong start to this year’s draft.
In another insider article, Kiper makes several spot-on points at to how the Bengals should approach the upcoming draft. He notes the biggest weakness being at safety, but also goes on to point out how the Bengals shouldn’t even consider drafting a cornerback or tight end. With Dre Kirkpatick waiting in the wings at CB, as well as Orson Charles developing into a solid TE, those are two areas that Cincinnati shouldn’t even consider on draft day.
In order for Cincinnati to have a successful draft, he believes they need to get a Week 1 starter at safety to pair alongside Reggie Nelson. Most Bengals fans would agree with his assessments.