There were many fans and experts who expected former Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron to go earlier than the fifth round (164th overall) of the 2014 NFL draft, but his eventual landing spot with the Cincinnati Bengals is ideal for the prospect.
McCarron needs a lot of work before he can be considered a viable starter in the NFL, but he will have the opportunity to grow on the job in Cincinnati under the tutelage of head coach Marvin Lewis and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
First and foremost, McCarron is a winner. He racked up an incredible 36-4 record in 40 career starts at Alabama—each of the four losses came against opponents ranked in the Top 15—and was the team captain.
Add in two national titles as the starting quarterback, and there is no denying his ability to win.
SportsCenter’s official Twitter account breaks down McCarron’s college success:
One of the biggest issues the Bengals have faced over the last several seasons has been the lack of playoff success. In contrast to current starter Andy Dalton's 0-3 record in the postseason, McCarron will be looking for the opportunity to thrive under pressure.
McCarron told Coley Harvey and Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com about how he views the opportunity presented to him by the Bengals:
I'm confident in myself, but at the same time I know Andy (Dalton) is the QB up there. And I respect that. All I want to do is go in and help us in whatever way I can. If that means me holding the clipboard for a couple of years and giving Andy reports during the week, or watching film with him and helping him out in any way I can. I'm just ready to do it. I'm excited about this opportunity, and I just can't wait to get up there and get to work.
The former Alabama star also took to Twitter to share his joy:
In the ultimate show of solidarity, starting quarterback Andy Dalton welcomed McCarron via Twitter with open arms:
There are many questions about whether Dalton is really the quarterback of the future, and the doubts have only gotten louder as Cincinnati enters the final year of the QB’s contract without having a deal done.
If Dalton struggles and McCarron steps up in training camp, at practice and in meetings, this could be the ideal chance for the former Crimson Tide starter to prove he has what it takes to lead an offense in the NFL.
According to Mike Mayock of NFL Network, McCarron has some serious flaws, but also has the potential to develop into a starter with the proper time to develop:
He has the athleticism to move in the pocket and buy himself more time to make a throw. I get frustrated with his mechanics; sometimes he gets sloppy. The Bengals have Andy Dalton, who has played at a very high level but is 0-3 in the playoffs. The question in Cincy is if Dalton is worth a huge contract number when his rookie contract is due. McCarron has starter capabilities and traits in the NFL.
As draft analyst Ryan Lownes stated, expectations are lowered due to his unquestioned role as backup:
Slept on it. I'd be stressing if AJ McCarron was the #Bengals future, but I think he's going to be a heck of backup to Andy Dalton.— Ryan Lownes (@ryanlownes) May 11, 2014
There is no doubt that with elite tangibles (6’3” and 220 lbs) and a great intelligence for the game, he will learn fast at the next level. Add in a potential starting job that could open up if Dalton falters, and McCarron couldn’t have found a better landing spot.
As a fifth-round pick, few fans expect much from the Alabama star. If he blossoms into a star over time, though, Cincinnati will be credited with the steal of the 2014 NFL draft.
*Stats via NFL.com.