The Cincinnati Bengals are on the clock with the 4th pick of my top six picks for next week's draft. The Niners Nation community was in complete agreement with me in regards to the top three picks.
1. Carolina Panthers: QB- Cameron Newton, Auburn
With that said, the Cincinnati Bengals are an intriguing team heading into the draft. There remains uncertainty in regards to Carson Palmer and his demand for a trade. Additionally, the CBA issue clouded the situation even more. This team was a complete disaster in 2010 and there really isn't a great idea to which direction they are going to look in the draft. Cincinnati's needs completely depend on the ideology of the front office. As of right now quarterback and wide receiver wouldn't seem like huge needs. However, this all depends on what the front office plans on doing when the CBA is eventually resolved.
For the purpose of this article I am going to take an educated guess that the Bengals are going to look for a quarterback of the future in the near future, whether or not they plan on trading Carson Palmer this off-season. I will take into account other variables such as Terrell Owens not returning to Cincinnati in 2011 and Chad Johnson's age.
Cincinnati Bengals 2010 Team Statistics
Passing Yards: 235.4 (13th NFL)
Rushing Yards: 95.1 (27th NFL)
Passing Defense: 216.8 (14th NFL)
Rushing Defense: 115.2 (19th NFL)
As I mentioned above the Bengals situation is probably among the weirdest in the NFL. This team has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, but hasn't been able to put it together. Carson Palmer made things more difficult by demanding a trade and threatening retirement. Terrell Owens is not going to return in 2011 and Chad Johnson seemed to lose a step last season. Cedric Benson had a decent season, but really nothing to write home about. Every single aspect of the Bengals roster underperformed last season, so it is hard to gauge exactly where they need the most help.
2010 was a complete disaster for a team that has 19 players that were originally drafted in the first two rounds. The talent is there, but they just couldn't do anything with it. There is way too much talent to go through a 10 game losing streak like Cincinnati did last year. Cincinnati was 25th in the NFL in point differential at -8PPG. The utter disaster continued all throughout the season as Cincinnati's defense gave up over 350 total yards eight different times, half of their games. Additionally, the Bengals failed to rush for 100 yards in ten different games; a lot of that had to do with imbalance on the offensive side of the ball. Caron Palmer averaged over 36 pass attempts a game, compared to 20 rush attempts per game for Cedric Benson
#1: Quarterback: Even if the Carson Palmer situation didn't play out like it did, Cincinnati would be in the market for a QB of the future. Since coming back from injury in 2009 Carson Palmer is 14-18 as a starter and has regressed a great deal. He has thrown 47 touchdowns compared to 33 interceptions following the injury. Additionally, during the same span Palmer is right in the middle of the pack with an 83.0 QB Rating. If you compare those stats to Alex Smith over the same period it is interesting. The 49er QB has a +10 TD/INT ratio and a QB rating of 82.0 during that span. Another thing that has to be considered is the fact that Palmer is extremely unhappy in Cincinnati. As someone that rarely speaks out against his franchise, Palmer caught a lot of people off guard by his comments this off-season. That said, Chad Johnson has stated that Palmer's frustration with the direction of the franchise has existed for the better part of the last few seasons. I am under the impression that once the CBA ends that Cincinnati is going to listen to offers for Palmer. It is incredibly difficult to have an unhappy QB starting for your team. He is supposed to be the leader of the team on and off the field. If that isn't the case Cincinnati may be forced to cut ties.
Top Available Quarterbacks
1. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
2. Christian Ponder, Florida State
3. Jake Locker, Washington
#2: Wide Receiver: Cincinnati's leading receiver, Terrell Owens, will not be returning to the team in 2011. Also, Chad Johnson has continued to regress over the last couple seasons as his age appears to be catching up with him. He has had only one 1000 yard season since 2007 and is coming off one of the worse seasons of his career, and at 33 is past his prime. Without Terrell Owens and an extremely productive Chad Johnson; the Bengals are left incredibly thin at the receiver position. Jordan Shipley had a great rookie season, compiling 600 yards receiving. However, he is never going to be a #1 receiver in the NFL. I look for him to be more in the mold of a Wes Welker, Santana Moss or Ed Mcaffrey. Beyond that you are looking at an extremely limited Andre Caldwell and inexperienced Jerome Simpson. What was a strength entering the season has become a major weakness for this franchise.
Top Available Wide Receivers
1. A.J. Green, Georgia
2. Julio Jones, Alabama
#3: 4-3 Defensive Tackle: Cincinnati has an incredibly strong linebacking group against the run, yet they gave up over 115 yards per game. This is a direct result of the interior linemen not being able to stop the run. Domato Peko and Pat Sims are not great defensive tackles. In fact, I believe that neither are starting quality tackles in the 4-3 scheme. In the type of defense that the Bengals run, they do not expect a lot of pass rush from the LBs. This means that they have to make up for it on the defensive line. With the exception of Carlos Dunlap, who had 9.5 sacks, that unit did not bring any pressure.
Top Available Defensive Tackles
1. DT- Nick Fairley, Auburn
2. DT- Corey Liuget, Illinois
Niners Nation Poll Results
1. Carolina Panthers QB Cameron Newton Auburn
2. Denver Broncos DT Marcell Dareus Alabama
3. Buffalo Bills LB Von Miller Texas A&M
My Pick: WR- A.J. Green, Georgia: The Bengals are picking at a point of strength in this draft. They really do have three solid options at their positions of need. There could be a solid case made for them taking Green, Blaine Gabbert or Nick Fairley. In fact, I believe that any of the three would fit well into what the Bengals are attempting to build. That said, they have to look at need and find a happy medium between that and BPA. Of the three it is obvious that A.J. Green is the best player available. Cincinnati will be picking at the beginning of the 2nd round and could find a QB there. A.J. Green represents great value with the 3rd pick in the draft. Also, there is a dramatic drop-off from Green and Julio Jones to the second tier receivers in this draft. Having a receiver that can not only make game changing plays but play consistently will only help whoever they have under center in 2011. Additionally, drafting Green may help Carson Palmer change his mind in regards to demanding a trade and threatening retirement.
For the purposes of the article I am going to include Patrick Peterson in the poll option, because he is obviously the best player available at this point. However, with Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall as their starting QBs, there is no need to draft another corner that high. Coincedentally, both were 1st round picks.