Bengals get CB Kirkpatrick, add guard in 1st round
CINCINNATI (AP) — The Bengals love those first-round cornerbacks.
Cincinnati added to its already bursting collection of top cornerbacks on Thursday night by taking Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick with the 17th overall pick. This one will have a little time to work his way into the starting lineup.
He’ll have to leapfrog a bunch of other first rounders to get there.
It marked the third time in the last seven years that Cincinnati chose a cornerback with its top pick. The Bengals also took first rounders Johnathan Joseph in 2006 and Leon Hall in 2007, giving themselves one of the league’s best tandems. Joseph left for Houston as a free agent after the 2010 season, and Hall tore an Achilles tendon last year.
It was time to draft another one.
This one came courtesy of the Oakland Raiders, who gave up the 17th overall pick as part of the deal for quarterback Carson Palmer. So far, the deal has worked out much better for the Bengals — Oakland failed to make the playoffs, and Cincinnati was able to replenish its pass coverage.
“He played a lot of bump-and-run, a lot of intricate schemes at Alabama,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “So, we really feel good about him.”
The Bengals also had their own pick at No. 21. They traded it to New England and moved down to the 27th spot, where they got versatile guard Kevin Zeitler from Wisconsin. Cincinnati also received the Patriots’ third-round pick to move down.
They needed an offensive lineman after Nate Livings, their starting left guard each of the last two seasons, went to Dallas as a free agent. Right guard Bobbie Williams broke his right ankle in December and is an unrestricted free agent.
They also lack a backup center. Zeitler played the position when he got to Wisconsin and could fill the role.
“We were hoping to cover a couple of needs for the future in the first round, and we feel we were able to do that,” Lewis said.
At both spots, they have a bunch of 30-something players who can break in the new guys.
Kirkpatrick joins Hall and other first-round cornerbacks Nate Clements (Buffalo 2001), Adam “Pacman” Jones (Tennessee 2005), Terence Newman (Dallas 2003) and Jason Allen (Miami 2006). How it fits together is unclear.
“You know what?” defensive backs coach Mark Carrier said. “It all remains to be seen.”
The Bengals think Kirkpatrick can eventually move into a starting role opposite Hall, who is expected to be ready to play next season. They’re trying to get better pass coverage to help a defensive line that showed it can pressure the passer.
“We’ve got a good rush group,” Carrier said. “We want to give the guys up-front more time to get to the quarterback.”
Kirkpatrick was nicknamed “Swagga” for the confidence he showed as a young baseball player in Alabama. He liked it, and it stuck with him through college.
“The fans gave it to me,” he said, on a conference call. “I mentioned it in a previous interview, and they ran with it. It was something that the fans and I had going on.”
Zeitler impressed offensive line coach Paul Alexander with his consistent play, rarely making a mistake.
“He’s a very, very efficient blocker,” Alexander said. “You don’t realize he’s in there because you don’t see a lot of error.”
The Bengals hadn’t picked a guard in either of the first two rounds since they chose Eric Steinbach in the second round in 2003. They signed free agent guards Travelle Wharton from Carolina and Jacob Bell from St. Louis as stopgap measures.
When Alexander worked out Zeitler, he quickly became fond of his personality.
“If you went fishing and you’re sitting on the lake all day, some guys after a half-hour you want to throw them in the water,” Alexander said. “This guy, you could sit out there with him all day.
“He’s a wonderful guy. He’s as good a guy as there is, and a good player. When you get a guy like that, it helps your whole team, not only his spot.”
Zeitler didn’t get much chance to fish while in college. He knew the Bengals were interested after Alexander worked him out and passed along praise to his agent. He’s going to a team that’s unfamiliar.
“I know they got to the playoffs last year,” Zeitler said on a conference call. “I know they have Andy Dalton at quarterback and A.J. Green at receiver, and they were effective last year. That’s really all I know. I have a lot to learn.”
The Bengals still need to get help at receiver. Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell — the second and third wide receivers last season — left as free agents and haven’t been replaced. The extra pick in the second round could help with that position.