The Bengals have begun their rebuilding effort with the fourth overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. They will have to part with some longtime Bengals that once gave the franchise a glimmer of hope. Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco have more or less demanded their way out of the Queen City, but the Bengals' chances of winning a Super Bowl with either weren't getting any better.
The Bengals prepared for life sans Ochocinco by drafting Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green with their first overall selection. Green was rumored to be the Bengals' top choice for some time now, even though it was thought Blaine Gabbert could fall to them at their position.
There is no sure-fire equation for finding a star franchise quarterback, but no one can argue that quarterback is not the most important position in football. The Bengals must not have seen what the Jaguars, Titans or Vikings saw in their quarterback picks.
The Bengals could have been hoping one or two of the quarterbacks drafted would still be available when the team is called again in round two. If so, they will now have to change their tactics.
The Bengals could also have been trying to move down in the draft, as was speculated by some leading up to Thursday. If they were needing to trade down that badly, however, they could have made the same trade with the Falcons that the Browns did. Granted, the two picks higher would have been of greater value than what Cleveland received in return for No. 6, but it still wouldn't have been a bad decision.
In the end it looks like Green was the Bengals' top priority from day one.
A.J. Green is an amazing athlete from the University of Georgia. His size will cause a mismatch with any cornerback in the NFL, but don't get Green confused with a burner. His top speed is very good, but AFC North fans won't be getting Green and Mike Wallace confused any time soon. Green has been banged up before, but no injury lasted more than a single game. In total, Green missed only three games from injury. He was suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season, however, for violating NCAA rules.
Green is exceptional in every way an NFL receiver must be. He can create separation from the best cornerbacks out there, and his ball skills are remarkable. It may be tough fielding passes from Jordan Palmer, but one thing the Bengals will now have up their sleeves will be jump balls in Green's direction. His size and hands give him the advantage every time. Green can move quickly after the catch but won't make too many tacklers miss. His deep-ball potential is there because of the separation skills, but against faster cornerbacks he'll be blanketed deep.
Green is a solid A, no matter how you look at it. He is similar to Calvin Johnson in skill set and scenario. Johnson is a freak of nature, rated as the top receiver, and was drafted by a poor team without a solid quarterback at the time. Johnson has been one of the best receivers in the game since entering the league, and Green looks like he could be the same.
The Bengals' decision to pick a receiver so early could come back to bite them if they do not find a quarterback to target their new weapon. Right now I can only give the Bengals a B for their selection of Green; I think they could have done better for themselves by either trading down or taking a pass rusher that could shine on his skills alone, independent of corresponding parts on defense.
Green could be as good as Calvin Johnson has been in Detroit, considering their similarities. Bengals fans will love that upside. But the fact remains that Calvin Johnson has posted inconsistent years and, more importantly, has never seen the postseason.