Help for the secondary, and help for the offensive line. Two needs addressed by the Bengals in the first two rounds of the draft.
CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals didn’t go the sexy route in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft on Thursday night, April 26. They injected their young playoff team with a stiff dose of substance. Oh, yeah, and a little swagger.
Knowing the NFL has blossomed into a passing league, the Bengals plucked Alabama cornerback Dre “Swagga” Kirkpatrick with the 17th overall pick, then gave quarterback Andy Dalton and the running game some much-needed support by selecting versatile Wisconsin guard-center Kevin Zeitler at No. 27.
Cincinnati held the 21st pick, but traded it to New England for the Patriots’ first- and third-round choices. Look for the Bengals to get offensive with a wide receiver when the second and third rounds unfold tonight in New York.
Kirkpatrick’s entrance marks the third time in seven years the Bengals took a cornerback with their first pick, joining Johnathan Joseph in 2006 and Leon Hall in 2007. However, in a shocking turnabout in philosophy, Zeitler becomes the first guard the Bengals have ever selected in the first round.
“We feel really good about this first round,” head coach Marvin Lewis said. “We came in here hoping to cover a couple of needs for the future in the first round. I think we’ve been able to do that in picking the cornerback and the interior offensive lineman.
“Dre Kirkpatrick is a guy that really played at a very high level. He’s a guy with great length, has played a lot of bump-and-run and a lot of different, intricate schemes at Alabama. He’s been a physical player and is a guy that’s played on special teams. He has an opportunity to learn from some great veteran players to get him up and running as quick as we can.
“Kevin Zeitler comes out of that Wisconsin offensive line group, which as we know has been outstanding year after year after year. The guy has versatility. We can use him to play guard and as a backup at center. He really has done a great job in the gap-blocking, zone-blocking and pulling. He’s one of those guys who, when you put the tape on, really stands out.
“We were able to slide back (trading the No. 21 pick to the Patriots for Nos. 27 and 93). We obtained another pick and still were able to choose the same guys.”
The Bengals now have six cornerbacks who were first-round draft picks — Hall, Nate Clements, Adam “Pacman” Jones and free-agent newcomers Terence Newman and Jason Allen. Kirkpatrick was a necessity because Hall is recovering from a torn Achilles, and the other veterans are aging with short-term contracts.
“Oh, man, I just feel great,” Kirkpatrick said. “It was a great pick and I’m happy that they chose me. Some guys come in and have to play with young guys. One of my main focuses is to go in and learn — learn the system and learn from the veterans. I’ll learn a lot from those guys. That’s an advantage that I have.”
Kirkpatrick said Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer reminds him of his college coach, Alabama’s stone-face Nick Saban. He’ll try to show the same “Swagga” he displayed for the national champion Crimson Tide. What’s the origin of the nickname?
“The fans gave it to me,” Kirkpatrick said. “I mentioned it in a previous interview and they ran with it. It was something that the fans and I had going on.”
Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander felt like a proud professor when speaking about his new prize pupil in Zeitler.
Toss Matt O’Dwyer, Mike Goff, Eric Steinbach and Nate Livings in a blender, press the puree button and pour out the 6-foot-3, 315-pound “hog.”
“I don’t think we’ve had a guy quite like this, really,” Alexander said. “He’s unique in a lot of ways. He has the toughness that O’Dwyer had. He has the consistency that Goff had. And he’s a very smart guy.
“The smartest guy I had was Goff. They’re very similar that way. He plays with the same tenacity that Nate did. He can pull, but he can’t pull as well as Steinbach can. But he’s a good puller. He has a lot of good traits of a lot of different guys we’ve had. He’s kind of his own guy. I can’t think of a guy that’s really like him.”
Zeitler and Alexander hit it off when the Bengals worked out the big Badger.
“My agent talked to (Alexander) after he worked me out and told me that he liked me,” Zeitler said. “It turned out to be pretty good. I’m ecstatic. I’m very excited to get (to Cincinnati), get to work and help the team in any way I can.
“I know they got to the playoffs last year with Andy Dalton at quarterback and A.J. Green at receiver. That’s really all I know. I have a lot to learn.”