2012 NFL Draft: Who Will Be the Cincinnati Bengals' Answer at Corner?

Matt Gray@mattkgrayContributor IJanuary 18, 2012

LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 25: Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard #15 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers is greeted by Head Coach Bo Pelini on senior day before playing a  game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Memorial Stadium November 25, 2011 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Iowa 20-7. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

We are yet to reach championship weekend and mock draft season has already kicked into full swing. In each mock, one difference of opinion on who a certain team might select can change the way the rest of the pieces fall into place.

Yet despite the differences from one mock draft to another, there are often a lot of instances where the consensus actually come up with solid logic. 

With that in mind, the two names that seem to be cropping up most frequently in the first round for the Cincinnati Bengals are Nebraska Huskers cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and North Alabama's Janoris Jenkins.

Following the departure of Johnathan Joseph and an injury to Leon Hall in 2011, the Bengals' secondary was a patch job for the most part of the season.

Veteran Nate Clements offered stability, but will likely only be a Bengal for one more year, with age and declining speed both becoming a factor. Pacman Jones did an admirable job returning from injury to play on the left side, but struggled against some of the better receivers he lined up against.

With Kelly Jennings on much the same level as Jones and Brandon Ghee unlikely to provide a solution anytime soon, the Bengals will likely look to build some depth in their secondary this offseason, and their two picks in the first round of the 2012 draft give them ample opportunity to do just that.

So let's take a look at Alfonzo Dennard.

He is by no means a lofty corner, standing at only 5'10", but he has great bulk weighing 205  lbs. He has real speed and can turn and run with the fastest of receivers, both over long distances and in bursts when appropriate. He has the ability to play both inside and out, has great hands and can make plays on the ball. He's a strong tackler and is solid in press coverage. His vertical leap more than makes up for what he lacks in height.

However, he is a risk taker which can sometimes see him taken completely out of plays by his own doing, and his overabundant physicality see's him try to do too much and be too aggressive, becoming off balance and missing tackles.

Dennard had four interceptions and six pass break-ups in 2011.

Janoris Jenkins seems to be the other name doing the rounds this week, and his story couldn't be more apt for a potential Bengal.

The North Alabama corner saw his time at the University of Florida cut short after Mike Muschamp booted him from the team following two separate marijuana busts during the offseason. After eschewing the supplemental draft in favor of one more year in school, Jenkins will enter the 2012 draft and could fall to the late first round.

Jenkins is an athlete in every sense of the word. He is as loose as they come and his movements are extremely fluid. He impressed against the likes of A.J. Green and Julio Jones at Florida, diagnosing plays early and making solid tackles. Jenkins is a really competitive guy and he has a willingness to mix it up with the big guys in the trenches when tackles need to be made.

Unfortunately Jenkins has off-the-field issues abound, which some might say makes him a top candidate to be a Bengal in 2012. With two offseason busts for marijuana, there is an indication that he does not learn from his mistakes and has a general lack of discipline (but I'm sure him and Jerome Simpson will hit it off!).

There is also the possibility that playing for a lackluster team this year against weak opponents has caused Jenkins to level off. He had 53 tackles and two interceptions this year at North Alabama.

Like Dennard, Jenkins' aggressive style of play can take himself out of the game, and he has been known to jump a few routes that he shouldn't, giving up big plays as a result.

Both could well be available when the Bengals are on the clock at Radio City, and right now I have to give the edge to Alfonzo Dennard. Following the Andre  Smith debacle that dragged on through much of 2009/10, Marvin Lewis will be wary of taking someone with character issues in the draft when so many stand-up guys are available.

Unfortunately for Jenkins, his reckless behavior is something the Bengals are trying to avoid, and while they often take a chance on troubled free agents, Cincy will be unlikely to take such a risk via the draft.

Dennard is a good character guy, a steadfast worker and with appearances at the Senior Bowl and an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine confirmed, he is sure to make up for the disappointing end to his college career that saw him ejected from the Capital One Bowl. 

Jenkins shouldn't be thrown under the bus just yet, but it will be up to him to rehab his image in the coming weeks and months, as his potential ceiling is a lot higher than some of his competition.