As an extremely deep team, do not be shocked to see a second-round pick or later go toward a developmental player who will have an impact down the line, as they did in the second round with Margus Hunt in 2013.
Cincinnati simply will not find a replacement for Andy Dalton in the first round of the draft, as one has to be able to outperform him on the field right away with the team in the middle of a serious championship window.
Dalton has one year left on his contract to prove he is the answer under center, but that will not stop the Bengals from taking a prospect with major upside to groom.
The best possible player who fits this description is LSU's Zach Mettenberger, who tore his ACL near the end of the collegiate season. Mettenberger used to be widely hailed as a first-round pick, but as CBS Sports' Rob Rang details, he will likely fall into the second or third:
Mettenberger has enough quality tape that scouts won't necessarily need to see him compete at the Scouting Combine in February or during a Pro Day workout prior to May's draft to give him a high grade. NFL teams will want to see evidence that he's recovering from surgery to repair the torn ligament, however.
The concern will be whether Mettenberger will be able to participate in rookie mini camps and training camp prior to next season. If unable to do so, the team that drafts may be forced to give Mettenberger a "redshirt" rookie season in the NFL, as he'll have little time to develop the on-field rapport with his new teammates critical to taking over as a club's starting quarterback.
It does not matter that Metterberger may have to miss the entire season. In that span, he can learn the position at the pro level and eventually take over if need be. If not, he will represent an outstanding trade value that may land the Bengals a future first-round pick.
Jimmy Garoppolo, Easter Illinois
Garoppolo is still making a name for himself and may very well be off the board in the first round by the time the draft rolls around after he shattered all of Tony Romo's records at Eastern Illinois.
He has everything the NFL looks for in a franchise quarterback, with the only real question being how he would consistently perform against top-tier talent. So far, Garoppolo has done great and would be a stellar fit as a developmental player in Cincinnati.
David Fales, San Jose State
Fales is similar to Garoppolo in that he has much to prove to the pro level before he can be taken seriously as a high-end draft selection.
The physical tools are there, and what Fales lacks in arm strength, he makes up for with a strong ability to move through his reads and keep plays alive with his feet.