Jan 07, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) attempts a pass during the first quarter of the 2011 AFC wild card playoff game against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE

Franchise Development 7 of 32: The Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals went 9-7 with another rookie QB at the helm. Andy Dalton did the one thing Cam Newton couldn’t do despite all the heroics.

Dalton led the team to the playoffs.

He paired up with fellow rookie WR A.J. Green from Georgia who had a 1,000 yard initial season. Those were the headlines for the team for last year. Let’s look at their draft:

1 17 Dre Kirkpatrick CB Alabama
1 27 Kevin Zeitler G Wisconsin
2 53 Devon Still DT Penn State
3 83 Mohamed Sanu WR Rutgers
3 93 Brandon ThompsonDT Clemson
4 116 Orson Charles TE Georgia
5 156 Shaun Prater CB Iowa
5 166 Marvin Jones WR California
5 167 George Iloka FS Boise State
6 191 Dan Herron RB Ohio State

I wasn’t sold on the Bills’ 10th overall in Stephon Gilmore, and I’m not sold on Kirkpatrick. He’s got the height, but that’s not everything.

The team needed help on the inside on the offensive line and got Kevin Zeitler from offensive linemen U. Devon Still was a good value pick where they got him, and should help seal up that middle. The defense got gashed in the playoffs, so they drafted Sill and Brandon Thompson from Clemson.

The big story of the draft for the Bengals was 3rd rounder Mohamed Sanu. Some sicko called him and impersonated someone at the Bengals draft room saying he had been drafted with the 17th pick.

Okay, so he’s prone to getting Punk’d, but wound up with the team in the third round anyway. If he can be anything like the steady TJ Houshmazadeh from a few years back, he’ll give Dalton a very nice pair of receivers to throw to. There’s a little mini-camp buzz around the guy, so watch out.

It appears they’ll take a typical running back by committee approach with workhorse back Cedric Benson gone. They did pick up the Law Firm from New England in the offseason, so a committee approach should suit Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis just fine.

Despite “appearances,” the roster has changed quite a bit from last year’s squad. They think since Ellis is a better receiver from the backfield than Benson ever was, they can use him in the West Coast Offense of theirs.

The AFC North is getting rather crowded with talent. The Bengals will need that DT help with the running backs in the division. Sure it’s a passing league these days but the Bengals are the only team in this conference to get that memo.

They also took a chance on a troubled young man with amazing talent in Vontaze Burflict.

Pittsburgh’s Reshard Mendenhall is coming off injury and won’t start out the season but is a formidable force when he’s on the field. Baltimore’s Ray Rice has made a huge name for himself, and Cleveland rookie Trent Richardson is being touted as the best RB to enter the league since Adrian Peterson. The Bengals need to stop the run. Period.

They ranked 7th overall last season, but towards the end of the year and in the playoffs, they struggled some. Taylor Mays will be asked to come in and work one of the safety spots. That’s their weakness on defense. Otherwise, they’ve got good talent all around. DT Geno Atkins got injured but was named to the Pro Bowl anyway.

Two things are going on here: The Bengals look to be a hot, young, up-and-coming team. The bad thing is the Bengals have a history of making spotty one-year wonder teams. They’ve been doing it going back to the Sam Wyche days. Which direction will the 2012 team go?

This team does have the core talent – at QB and WR – to be a ten-year force in the league. QB Andy Dalton lacks arm strength to wow, but he has the poise, accuracy, and leadership you want in a franchise QB. WR AJ Green was a player I was high on from the start. Everyone raved about Julio Jones and his 4.38-40 at the combine, but I’m an SEC fan and Auburn alum. I saw AJ green as a guy who would take over games in college on a regular basis. Julio Jones really did not do that much. Mohamed Sanu looks to be a nice snag and could start.

With the draft they had, they got good value at positions of need. They play in a bruising division. With that in mind, I say…

Two steps forward. Next, the Cleveland Browns…

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Tags: AJ Green Andy Dalton Cincinnati Bengals Devon Still Kevin Zeitler Mohamed Sanu Taylor Mays

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