2013 NFL Draft: Breaking Down the Cincinnati Bengals No. 21 Selection
By Sam Ingro
With the 21st pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select…the best available linebacker.
Sounds like a bit of a cop-out, doesn’t it? It really is as simple as that though. The Bengals desperately need help at the linebacker position, especially given the fact Manny Lawson, Rey Maualuga and Thomas Howard are all pending free agents. Thomas is coming off a serious injury that could hinder his play, so even if he returns, safeguarding the position should be priority No. 1 for the Bengals.
Undrafted free agent Vontaze Burfict proved draft analysts and every general manager outside of Cincinnati wrong; as he had an explosive rookie season and showed no signs of the laziness issue he was tagged with. The position outside of Burfict though was underwhelming to say the least. The Bengals will attempt to bring back Maualuga, and hope for a bounce-back 2013 campaign, but where do the Bengals look to fill in the rest of the gaps?
Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
If there is any player in NFL Draft history whose selection will embarrass fans, it is this one. It will take a strong leader to pull the trigger on an unpopular pick like the world’s latest alleged “Catfish victim.” Selling the selection to the Bengals fanbase won’t be easy, but the fact that he was the NCAA Heisman runner-up speaks volumes to his ability and potential.
Say what you will about his off-field indiscretions, but to say T’e'o is unworthy of a first-round selection is downright foolish. T’e'o is great in coverage, finishing second among linebackers in the nation in interceptions, and comes up to support the run equally well. Obvious knocks on him will come from the NCAA Championship game, where it seems like he was frozen in place at times, but being outmatched by the wrecking crew that is the Alabama Crimson Tide is nothing to be ashamed of. Te’o needs work and development still, but he could easily work his way into a starting inside linebacker role by the 2013 NFL bye week.
Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
A converted safety to linebacker, Ogletree could kill two birds with one stone for the Bengals. Weak at both spots, Cincinnati would get an athletic, explosive linebacker equally capable of dropping into coverage as well as rushing the passer. Ogletree was highly productive for the Bulldogs last season after serving a four-game suspension for violation of team rules. In just nine games, he racked up 98 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception.
At 21-years old, Ogletree could wind up being the impact player of the draft if the Bengals utilize him right. With his versatility, Cincinatti gets not only a complete linebacker, but safety help in the middle of the field. If Ogletree falls to No. 21, he should be a sure-fire pick here. If they are smart, they might want to start working those phone lines now to get up high enough to pull the trigger on this former Bulldog.
Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
If Te’o and Ogletree are off the board, selecting a safety like Vaccaro becomes the pick. Reaching on a safety like Matt Elam of the Florida Gators could be an option, but it depends on how he rates out in the Combine and team interviews. Until then, however, Vaccaro makes a ton of sense at the No. 21 spot. While Reggie Nelson can hold it down at Free Safety, the versatility of Vaccaro to step in and man the Strong Safety position becomes an instant upgrade over Taylor Mays. A physical defender, Vaccaro displays many of the same skills as the top cornerbacks in the draft this year. Rangy in coverage, he can support the run defense, while also protecting over the top.