NFL Players I Would Pay to See: 2011 Cincinnati Bengals (Part 2 of 32)
Larry French/Getty Images
Every team has those few players that people love to see. Sometimes they help fulfill the goal of winning, sometimes they don't. Regardless these players get fans excited about the team, they sell jerseys, and most importantly they sell tickets. In a 32-part series I list these players for each team. Sometimes there are many, sometimes (Bengals) there are few.
Over the next few days I will make the rounds for every team. I began the series with the Chicago Bears: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/706229-chicago-bears-players-i-would-pay-to-see-part-1-of-32. The Bengals are an interesting case for this story. As a Steelers fan I will do my best to avoid bias. Enjoy.
Now that's optimism
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Few would argue that the Cincinnati Bengals are not one of the worst franchises in the NFL. I think it's amazing that, given the setup of the NFL, the Bengals are typically one of the poorest performing teams almost each year since the early 90's. Between the salary cap, easier schedule, and draft order; the NFL is set up to avoid having teams like the Cincinnati Bengals.
For the Bengals it all starts at the top, in ownership. Mike Brown has to be considered one of the worst owners in the league. Each year, fans support and invest in the team and each year, Mike Brown puts together a terrible product. Between dealing with low character players, not hiring a 'football guy' to run the team, and not investing in a good scouting department; Mike Brown seems set in his ways of doing the exact opposite of the good NFL owners.
It seems for the past few years the Bengals have the talent yet, with the exception of a couple years, they once again seem to be picking early in the NFL draft.
This new year seems to be a big change for the team. I'm not sure if it's for the better or not, but I feel somewhat optimistic for the Bengals. In April the team put together, what seems like, a successful draft. As hard as this may seem, let's take a look at the team's most exciting players for 2011. The ones whose jersey are worth buying. These are the Cincinnati Bengals who are most likely to bring me to the stadium in 2011...
Larry French/Getty Images
It's safe to say Carson Palmer doesn't make this list. If you went to see him play this year, you wouldn't be sitting in Mike Brown Stadium.
Chad Ochocinco is another player most likely not playing in Cincinnati next year. In fact, I think he's got a better shot playing for Sporting Kansas City than the Cincinnati Bengals. Even if he does play for the Bengals, I wouldn't want his jersey and wouldn't pay to see him play. Of course this doesn't mean he's not exciting and I wouldn't go see him. I'd pay to see him attempt soccer or get stepped on by a bull, but not play football.
I've also excluded Jonathan Joseph and Cedric Benson from this list as they're both unsigned for next year, and if I were them I'd probably look elsewhere.
There aren't any players that I truly feel deserve this list. In all honesty if these players were on most other teams they would likely be excluded, but nonetheless here we go...
4. Jermaine Gresham
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Last year's 1st round draft pick, Jermaine Gresham is a player I feel has a great deal of potential. I feel if Andy Dalton proves to be a quality quarterback, Gresham could have quite a career.
Gresham is a prototypical tight end. He's 6'5" and has a big frame. He can both block and catch. After a monster college career at Oklahoma, he went on to have a very good rookie season on a very under-performing team.
I feel this year can be a huge year for Gresham. A good tight end is a young QB's best friend. With the addition of A.J. Green, Gresham could see a lot of balls coming his way.
3. Carlos Dunlap
Last year proved to be a very good draft for the Cincinnati Bengals; they picked up two very exciting young players. With their 2nd round pick it appears the Bengals found a star in DE Carlos Dunlap. Dunlap had a stellar career at Florida and it seems like he will bring some much needed talent to the Bengals' defense.
Last year, Dunlap proved to be a monster and a terror for NFL quarterbacks. Despite not starting Week One and playing just 12 games, Dunlap recorded 9.5 sacks.
Building a strong defense starts up front and Dunlap seems like a player to build a defense on. If I were a Bengals fan I would love to watch Dunlap wreak havoc in other teams backfields.
2. Leon Hall
In the NFL, a good cornerback is hard to come by. The Bengals seem to have that in Leon Hall. Since Hall was drafted from Michigan, he's seemed to improve year by year. Still young, Leon Hall looks to be blossoming into quite a good young player.
Hall's talent isn't limited. I like Hall for being an all-around corner. He covers well, he makes interceptions, he tackles well, and he forces fumbles. This is a very talented young player.
I hope the Bengals are able to resign Joseph to a contract as these two could make quite a duo. During the '09 season Joseph and Hall had a fantastic year with Hall being snubbed from the Pro Bowl that year. Peter King even listed the two "the best cornerback tandem in the NFL."
Leon Hall has quite a career ahead of him, as well as behind him. I only hope the Bengals can put a good team around him so that he can experience greater success.
1. A.J. Green
Quite fitting that the number 1 player on this list hasn't played for the Bengals yet. Honestly with this team the mystery box is a more exciting option than the current Cincinnati Bengals.
However, even though the other players on this list are very good, A.J. Green's placement ahead of them is more of a testament to how great and exciting he looks to be. I would argue that A.J. Green is the best player in the 2011 NFL draft. The sky is the limit for this rookie receiver.
A.J. Green was absolutely phenomenal for Georgia. He's got the height, he's got the hands, he's got the speed, and he's a playmaker after the catch. WR seems to have the greatest learning curve for rookies in the NFL. I feel he's the most NFL ready WR out of the draft. If Dalton can prove a worthy quarterback, I feel A.J. Green could have an amazing year and the potential to be one of the best wide receivers in the NFL.
Be sure to check back for this ongoing series with the Buffalo Bills being up next.