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2015 NFL DRAFT

Projecting the Draft: Cincinnati Bengals

By Dane Brugler | NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst
Despite being considered as a “rebuilding team” last year, the Bengals finished 9-7 and earned a spot in the playoffs. And with the future very bright because of the young pieces in place on the roster, it's easy to believe Cincinnati should only improve in 2012.

The Bengals hit a home run last year, drafting Pro Bowl receiver AJ Green fourth overall and waiting to pick up quarterback Andy Dalton in the second round. And if Cincinnati can find similar success in the 2012 NFL draft, the Bengals will be legitimate contenders to knock off the Steelers and Ravens as the favorites of the AFC North.

Along with the Patriots and Browns, the Bengals have a pair of first round picks, their own (21st overall) and the Oakland Raiders first round selection (17th) acquired in the Carson Palmer trade. And with nine total draft picks to work with next weekend, the Bengals will look to keep their positive drafting momentum going.

These are five prospects the Bengals should consider on draft weekend:

CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama (NFLDraftScout.com ranking: 16)
They don't usually make cornerbacks that stand 6'2” and play with a linebacker mentality, but that is Dre Kirkpatrick. He is tall and lanky with good arm length, but needs to get stronger and add bulk, lacking ideal strength to consistently reroute receivers at the line. Kirkpatrick brings a rare combination of speed, closing burst and fluidity for his size and possesses an intriuging skill-set worthy of top-15 consideration. The Bengals are a little crowded on the depth chart at cornerback with Leon Hall, Nate Clements, Jason Allen, Terrence Newman, Adam Jones and Brandon Ghee, but there are questions about each player and new blood with the talent of Kirkpatrick would be a welcomed addition. He does have some minor character concerns, but projects as an impact starter in the NFL.

WR Kendall Wright, Baylor (NFLDraftScout.com ranking: 18)
The Bengals have their No. 1 wideout (AJ Green), but need to add a secondary option to compliment him on the outside. And if Kendall Wright is still on the board, he makes a lot of sense to Cincinnati with their second first rounder at No. 21. He is an all-around athlete who explodes to full speed with the body fluidity and foot agility to burst in any direction with exceptionally quick footwork, getting upfield in a hurry. Wright is able to create separation with his dynamic qualities and was Baylor's go-to target for the last four years, leading the team in receiving each season. He lacks ideal size and there are some questions about his work ethic, but he is a playmaker with the ball in his hands, making things happen at all levels of the field. Wright, who also played on the Baylor basketball team earlier in his career, would give second-year quarterback Andy Dalton another consistent weapon on offense.

RB David Wilson, Virginia Tech (NFLDraftScout.com ranking: 42)
The Bengals chose not to re-sign Cedric Benson and added BenJarvus Green-Ellis to the backfield, but the running back position is far from settled. David Wilson is a borderline top-40 pick, but could very well still be on the board when the Bengals select in round two. He is an explosive player with impressive quickness, agility and body strength, running fast and strong with the rare ability to either make defenders miss or run through them. Wilson is way too patient between the hashmarks and is much more comfortable bouncing outside and working in space. He accelerates in a flash with plus speed, but needs to improve his instincts and there are strong concerns about his feel running between the tackles. Wilson has impressive athleticism and physical tools, but some immaturity and ball security questions could hurt his long-term upside.

S Brandon Taylor, LSU (NFLDraftScout.com ranking: 93)
Despite re-signing Reggie Nelson, the Bengals are unsettled at the safety position as they aren't ready to commit to Taylor Mays and need an upgrade over Chris Crocker. Brandon Taylor, whose older brother Curtis was also a DB from LSU and was drafted in the 2008 NFL Draft, wore the prestigious #18 jersey at LSU, which is a recent tradition that goes to the player who most represent what it means to be a Tiger on and off the field. He has quick read/react skills and is at his best with the play in front of him, but needs to do a better job securing tackles in space. Taylor plays fast with an attacking attitude, but has some tight movements and leaves production on the field. He has the skills to fight for playing time at the next level and will impress with his strong leadership and character.

OL Quentin Saulsberry, Mississippi State (NFLDraftScout.com ranking 208)
The Bengals made several free agent acquisitions to the offensive line, but still have some depth concerns, especially in the interior. Quentin Saulsberry doesn't have ideal size, lacking overpowering brute strength, but makes up for it with his tenacious and feisty playing style, taking pride in finishing his blocks. He is a sticky blocker who looks natural pulling and blocking in motion, but his best attribute might be his impressive collegiate résumé as a four-year starter in the SEC, staring 50 career games between four different positions (19 RG, 13 LG, 12 RT, 6 C). Saulsberry projects best inside to center but has the skill-set to help out at guard and is reminiscent of a poor man's Rodney Hudson.
 
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