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D-Day is for Dre (Kirkpatrick); Trade brings coveted RG

Posted Apr 26, 2012

Updated: 11:55 p.m.

For the third time in the last seven drafts the Bengals were able to snag a highly-rated cornerback in the second half of the first round when they took Alabama junior Dre Kirkpatrick with the 17th pick they secured from the Raiders in the Carson Palmer trade to give them six first-round cornerbacks.

Then the Bengals traded away the 21st pick to the Patriots for the 27th choice and came away with an offensive lineman they've coveted for months while also grabbing New England's third-round choice to go with their own when they took Wisconsin guard-center Kevin Zeitler.

And long-time Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander all but anointed Zeitler the starting right guard when ask if he'd start: "That's the definition of a first-round pick ... every one I've had has."

Alexander was referring to his first round-picks since he became the line coach in 1995: Right tackle Willie Anderson in 1996, left tackle Levi Jones in 2002, and right tackle Andre Smith in 2009. It's the first time the Bengals have ever taken a guard in the first round, but Alexander compared the 6-3, 315-pound Zeitler to the best of his guards.

"He's as tough as (Matt) O'Dwyer, as smart as (Mike) Goff, as tenacious as Nate (Livings)," Alexander said. "I haven't really had anyone quite like him. He's unique."

He's also brilliant. As well as being able to back up at center, Zeitler reportedly had a 40 (out of 50) on the Wonderlic test at the combine and he said Thursday night he had more than a 3.0 grade point average in college as well as finishing in the top 20 of his high school class in Lutheran High School in Wisconsin.

The Bengals now have 10 picks and two third-rounders to go with two first-rounders, and in Friday's second and third rounds the Bengals have three picks. It was their first Draft Day trade since the Chris Perry-Steven Jackson drama, when they traded down with the Rams from No. 24 to No. 26 and got a fourth-rounder.

Unlike when they drafted Johnathan Joseph with the 24th pick in 2006 and Leon Hall with the 18th in 2007, the Bengals don't have to rush the 6-1, 186-pound Kirkpatrick after acquiring veterans Jason Allen and Terence Newman in the last month.

Kirkpatrick, viewed as the last available corner available for the Bengals with this pick and their own at No. 21, brings swagger and the nickname "Swagga" from the Crimson Tide's history-making defense that won the national title.

"It was nutcracking time," said secondary coach Mark Carrier of the wait for Kirkpatrick. "He's the guy we wanted."

Kirkpatrick has a hard-hitting reputation, the kind of guy defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer loves offering run support. While critics like ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., are hesitant about Kirkpatrick's man-to-man coverage and shutdown skills, Carrier thinks his bump-and-run play is solid and that press coverage is his strong suit. He says the pro-style defense that Alabama runs mirrors a lot of what the Bengals do and pointed out they want to help their pass rush by playing man-to-man on the outside.

And everyone seems to like the way Kirkpatrick attacks the ball in the air and scouts generally called him one of the best zone defenders in the country while he became a first-team All-American even though he didn't have an interception last year.

Kirkpatrick says he plays with confidence, but he says he'll only talk to his teammates on the field.

"But if you talk to me, I'll probably say something back to you. But I'm not looking to talk," Kirkpatrick said of his foes.

He also said the proper nickname is "Swag."

"It's an attitude. It's a brand," he said. "It just makes you feel good."

Kirkpatrick, 22, out of Gadsden, Ala., had a much publicized brush with the law in January when he was arrested for marijuana possession, but the charges were dropped a few weeks later. Reports said he obtained a signed affidavit from a person he was with when arrested that the marijuana wasn't Kirkpatrick's and that Kirkpatrick was unaware that marijuana had been purchased.

 

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