Hobson's Choice: Draft talk

Posted May 6, 2014

Andy Dalton is used to getting questions thrown his way.

With our three big needs being Linebacker, Cornerback, Quarterback. Which position do you see getting drafted first? Seth Fangman, Cincinnati.

SETH: I’m not sure it matters who goes first. This is apparently a deep enough draft where you can get starters in the first three rounds and solid backups through the fourth. This run of three straight playoffs has been fueled by second-rounders like Andy Dalton and Carlos Dunlap, fourth-rounders like Geno Atkins and fifth-rounders like Kevin Huber and Marvin Jones. And as we noted a few weeks ago, the Bengals have more Pro Bowlers out of the second round than the first, so maybe we won’t have to start watching until Friday night.

I’ll quibble with your list of needs. They’ve got their three starting linebackers in Pro Bowler Vontaze Burfict, Rey Maualuga, Emmanuel Lamur, as well as a solid backup in Vinnie Rey, and a third-rounder in Sean Porter that has yet to play.
I agree at cornerback, but with Whitworth turning 33 late in the season and Anthony Collins in Tampa, I’d make offensive tackle the second priority. I can see quarterback being a need, but in the first round? A center and running back might be more of a need with new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson preaching the run.

Which gets back to the depth of this draft. If the need positions run out in the first round, they’re better off taking the best player, even if it’s a position that’s seemingly filled, i.e. Whit in 2006, Dunlap in 2010, and Tyler Eifert in 2013.

Really, they don't have a crying need. In the past, they've gotten in trouble drafting with a depth chart. They've been better off drafting the grade and not the position.

Is this talk of bengals interest in certain QB's legit? Or smokescreen! Will Koshover, Independence, KY

Never trust anything about the NFL Draft. Like a Jack Bauer ally,  you just never know. Especially here because there are so many moving pieces. There’s the question of leverage in the Dalton negotiations,  there’s no young QB with a pedigree in the wings, and they’ve got bigger needs. To borrow a phrase from Lance McAlister, it makes my head hurt.

Smokescreen! Unless it’s not.

Do you see the Bengals adding a traditional Full Back to the roster either via the draft or free agency? Don Hoskins, Cincinnati

DON: Yes sir. I’d love to see them make nose tackle Domata Peko that guy for about 10 snaps a game, but that probably won’t happen. With the way Jackson wants to run it, you’ve got to believe they’re looking to bring in somebody more beefy to compete with tight end Orson Charles for the job.

They like how Charles gives them a passing threat, but do they really need one with the two tight ends they already have, along with Giovani Bernard at running back? The thinking is there’ll be a more conventional guy competing with Charles for the job at some point. But whoever it is, Charles or that guy, don’t look for him to be on the field much more than Charles was last year when he took just 67 snaps.

What's the one thing that needs to change the most for the Bengals to become legitimate Super Bowl contenders? Ian Morris, Santa Rosa, Calif.

IAN: You’re going to get sick of me saying this, but…

Run the ball.

There’s a big difference between running the ball and being committed to the run. The Bengals run the ball. Seattle is committed to the run. There’s no way Andy Dalton should be throwing the ball 586 times. With a top ten defense and top 12 special teams, he should not have the eighth most attempts in the league.

Of course, it would help if they were more consistent running the ball. A healthier center along with the fire to run it no matter what is going to be an upgrade. And Hue Jackson is going to supply the fire. He has shown in several stops throughout the NFL that no matter what, they will run.

Everyone talks about how it’s a passing league until the last month of play. Then when the playoffs come, the teams that win usually control the game with the run. Faceless quarterbacks named Mark Sanchez and T.J. Yates have won playoff games against the Bengals with a managed running game.

Why have the Green-Dalton Bengals lost their three playoff games? Their foes have rushed for 188, 158, and 196 yards, respectively, while Dalton has thrown 42, 30, and 51 passes.

Run the ball.

Can you name one quarterback in the league with a weaker arm than Andy Dalton?
Matt Hoctor, Cincinnati

MATT: I can tell you who doesn’t have a stronger arm that Dalton. Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, but there is so much more to playing quarterback, isn’t there? I mean, Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford have better arms, but they had 46 picks combined last year.

Dalton talked about this at length after he came back from working with throwing guru Dr. Tom House, the former major-league pitcher. It’s not the strength of arm that’s the issue, it’s the mechanics. When he comes up short on the deep ball, it’s often because his legs aren’t in sync with his throwing motion. He was 12th in the league in yards per pass, which is about right because he’s probably about right in the middle as far as his arm strength. There are clearly other issues, but I don’t think arm strength is one of them.

( rated Dalton as the eighth most accurate deep passer in the NFL last season, better than Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco, both with stronger arms than Dalton. So how much does it mean?)
Can the Bengals afford Dalton,Green,& keep the defense a top 10 defense long term with the salary cap? Shawn Blankenship, Lancaster, Ohio.

SHAWN:  That’s the plan. That’s why they’ve gone after their own guys early (Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Domata Peko, Leon Hall) while continuing to try and  get deals from their young core, like Dalton and Burfict, and jumping on Green’s option year quickly. By doing these deals earlier, they’re able to spread it over the years easier.

The salary cap reportedly rises again next year ($140 million?) and while that should help, it’s not the total answer because the salaries are rising with the cap. So they’ll have to make some tough decisions and they started with not matching on slot receiver Andrew Hawkins. It’s going to have to be a balance of keeping the impact players and cycling through the other spots.

But that’s the plan.

If Bridgewater is there at 24, and we do select him. Do you see us trading Andy for a 2015 pick possibly? Therefore rolling out Bridgewater as the 2014 season starter. I understand Andy has 1 year left, but maybe a team bites on it, to get an advantage of signing him long term. David Buck, Orcutt, Calif.

DAVID:  The one thing I believe in all this, and that’s about it, is that Marvin and Hue are committed to this guy. So I don’t see Dalton going on the block. These guys think they have a shot to win it all and rightfully so after watching Seattle, simply the NFC version of the Bengals, win the Super Bowl with an excellent defense and efficient quarterback.

How do you make Dalton efficient? That’s the question. Not how long will it take to get back to the playoffs with a rookie QB. You’re already there in a division that won’t be in transition for long and now’s the time to strike. Starting a rookie QB is a setback.

I think the closest they get to Bridgewater this year is when they travel to Foxboro to play the Pats. Bridgewater is about 30 minutes away. But I've been surprised before. Hello, Ki-Jana.

What is the rehab news on Geno Atkins? I didn't see any interviews on or heard of anything during the April OTA's. Can you put fans at ease on his progress? Nikki Jones, Sandy Springs, GA

NIKKI: As you probably know, Geno doesn’t have much to say about anything and he’s been on a different schedule than most of the guys so he’s been hard to find. Believe me, when we see him, we’ll get him on camera. From what we hear, he’s doing well but we really won’t know until closer to training camp. My guess is they’ll bring his repaired ACL along slowly and keep him out of the early part of training camp and ease him into the preseason games so he’ll be ready for the start of the season.

The OTA on-field sessions don’t begin until late May. Right now they’re able to work a little bit with coaches on the field, but the practices don’t start for about three more weeks. Atkins and Hall won’t be in any of those.

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