2011 NFL Draft Reviews, Volume 1 (Panthers, Broncos, Bills, Bengals)

Dan HopeContributor IIIAugust 8, 2011

2011 NFL Draft Reviews, Volume 1 (Panthers, Broncos, Bills, Bengals)

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    With all of the months of the National Football League lockout, my team-by-team reviews of the 2011 NFL Draft should have been done months ago. But having never gotten around to it, now is the time. The 2011 NFL Draft is now a thing of the past, but for the 254 players selected whose NFL careers have not even begun, it is all about the future. By reflecting back on the Drafts of all 32 teams, I will look ahead to how each team’s Draft will impact their future, and whether each team maximized their ability to draft well this year. In each draft review, teams will be assessed on how well they drafted both on board value and filling team needs, displaying both how teams made great selections, and where they made big mistakes.

    As I did last year, I will review each of the 32 teams in team-by-team reviews, in eight volumes of four. Volume One consists of the first four teams in the original draft order: the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, and Cincinnati Bengals.

Carolina Panthers: Drafting Cam Newton with No. 1 Overall Pick a Mistake

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    Great Bargains

    Round 3, Pick 97: Sione Fua, DT, Stanford (60th overall prospect)

    The Carolina Panthers had already selected one defensive tackle with the first pick of Round 3 in South Florida’s Terrell McClain, but with the final selection of Round 3, the Carolina Panthers selected a better player at the same position, Stanford’s Sione Fua.

    A very productive nose tackle for the Stanford Cardinal, it came as a big surprise that Fua nearly fell to Day 3. Fua is not a great athlete and does not have overwhelming size. However, he is a big, strong anchor who can be a very solid run stopper and starter at this position. He would have been well worth selecting with the first pick in the third round, so getting him with the last pick in that round makes him a great bargain. With a need for two defensive tackles, this pick still filled a need.

    Round 6, Pick 166: Lawrence Wilson, OLB, Connecticut (94th overall prospect)

    During his career at Connecticut, outside linebacker Lawrence Wilson displayed both consistent productivity and versatility. He comes to the National Football League as an NFL-ready player who can play in multiple defensive spots as well as on special teams.

    While Wilson is not a tremendous athlete, and may never be a starting outside linebacker, his many abilities made him well worth a fourth-round selection. By getting Wilson in Round 4, the Carolina Panthers got a bargain on a very solid prospect who should be able to make an impact both off of the bench at the outside linebacker position, and as a special teams standout.

    Quality Selections

    Round 3, Pick 65: Terrell McClain, DT, South Florida (114th overall prospect)

    Terrell McClain has shown flashes of brilliance, especially at the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl; however, he is a raw talent who should have been a Day 3 selection. McClain has the upside to be a very good defensive tackle, and with the Panthers getting a real bargain in Sione Fua at the end of Round 3, it makes the selection of the South Florida defensive tackle a quality choice.

    By selecting both McClain and Fua, the Carolina Panthers could be set with a very talented starting duo at the position for many years to come. As a quicker, athletic defensive tackle, McClain presents a perfect complement to Fua. The two picks would have looked much better had the Panthers selected Fua at 65th overall, and McClain 97th overall, but considering that they got both players and filled a major need that does not matter, and that makes this a good selection.

    Round 7, Pick 244: Lee Ziemba, OT, Auburn (176th overall prospect)

    The Carolina Panthers had many needs, but one position that was not a need at all was offensive tackle. However, Auburn’s Lee Ziemba is a tremendous bargain as one of the late picks of the 2011 NFL Draft.

    As a very poor athlete, Ziemba is not a great NFL prospect. However, his productivity as one of the best left tackles in the SEC over the past three seasons shows a lot about him. With that experience, he should at least be able to be a four-position backup at both tackle and guard spots. Getting Ziemba with a supplemental compensatory selection is a great value.

    Not the Best Pick

    Round 1, Pick 1: Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn (14th overall prospect)

    For a team with as many needs as the Panthers, I still believe that there were many better options for the #1 overall selection than Cam Newton. The defensive line was an especially pressing area of need. Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, who went 3rd overall to the Buffalo Bills, would have been a tremendous choice. So would have been Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, or Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller.

    Additionally, having drafted Jimmy Clausen in the 2nd round last year, the Panthers should have kept faith in their investment, and left Clausen in position to prove himself as the Panthers’ starting quarterback in the season to come. Instead, they effectively gave up on Clausen by drafting Newton.

    On the other hand, Newton is the one quarterback in the 2011 NFL Draft who truly has the potential to be special. For a team without a proven quarterback, they would have been hard-pressed to pass up a potential star quarterback.

    However, Newton is a big risk, and with two tremendous quarterback prospects in Stanford’s Andrew Luck and USC’s Matt Barkley likely to stand atop the 2012 NFL Draft, the Panthers could have afforded to give Clausen another year. If Clausen were to start this year and then prove he is not capable of being a starting quarterback, the Panthers would have another horrendous season. This would put them in position to select Luck or Barkley next year, a much safer selection as both have the ability to be one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.

    Given their draft just one year ago and the talent they selected in Clausen (who in last year’s Review, I claimed to be a huge steal for the Panthers, and a “true franchise quarterback”), selecting Newton #1 overall this year just was not the right selection to make, especially with so many other needs to be filled.

    Round 6, Pick 203: Zack Williams, C, Washington State (365th overall prospect)

    The Carolina Panthers needed a backup center, and got one in Washington State’s Zack Williams. However, while they got an ample backup in Williams, there was much better value available at the position, including eight of the top nine centers in the Draft (Zack Williams is the 12th-best center in the 2011 NFL Draft class). So while Williams may be an adequate backup, the Panthers made a mistake in selecting him over a much better prospect in TCU center Jake Kirkpatrick and others including Missouri’s Tim Barnes and Auburn’s Ryan Pugh.

    “What The …?” Picks

    Round 4, Pick 98: Brandon Hogan, CB, West Virginia (205th overall prospect)

    Based on talent alone, West Virginia cornerback Brandon Hogan may have been a Day 2 selection. However, there are many red flags on Hogan that should have made him far from the name at the top of the Panthers’ board when Day 3 began.

    First of all, Hogan is coming off of a torn ACL, a serious injury that he is unlikely to be able to recover from in time for the 2011 season. Secondly, and most concerning, there are major character concerns surrounding Hogan. He has been arrested numerous times for various reasons, including driving under the influence and driving on a suspended license.

    Putting all of these things together could be a recipe for disaster with Brandon Hogan, making him a player who could end up being a steal as a starting cornerback, or a player who never plays a down in the National Football League. Hogan would have been worth taking a chance on in the fifth or sixth round, but should not have been selected as the first player of Day 3.

    Round 5, Pick 132: Kealoha Pilares, WR, Hawaii (357th overall prospect)

    The Carolina Panthers needed to upgrade at the wide receiver position, but at the top of Round 5, Hawaii wide receiver Kealoha Pilares should not have been the choice. While I am higher on Pilares than many draft evaluators, and believed him to be a draftable prospect, he is coming off of a torn ACL, and is nothing more than a slot receiver.

    Considering the Carolina Panthers ended up trading away the 33rd overall selection in this year’s Draft so that they could move up and select Armanti Edwards in the third round of last year’s Draft, it is strange to see the Panthers already looking for another slot receiver, especially by taking a major reach at the top of the fifth round in Pilares. The Carolina Panthers needed to find a potential No. 1 wide receiver in this Draft, but that guy is not Pilares. There was still one potential No. 1 available on the board in Tennessee’s Denarius Moore, who was the next receiver not taken off of the board, and he would have been a great choice here.

    The Picks They Traded

    Round 2, Pick 33 was traded during the 2010 NFL Draft in exchange for the 89th overall selection in that Draft, which they used to select wide receiver Armanti Edwards.

    I criticized this trade immediately as they made it during last year’s Draft, as I was in absolute disbelief that a team would trade a second-round selection to move into the end of the third round, then use that draft pick to select a complete project in Armanti Edwards, a collegiate quarterback who has great athleticism and has potential as a slot receiver, but should have been a late-rounds selection at best.

    This trade is not looking any better now, after Edwards did nothing in his rookie season. However, he is a project who could still take a couple more years before he is ready to make a full impact in the National Football League, so he cannot be given up on yet. But considering the Panthers traded away a very valuable selection at the top of the second round, this trade still looks absolutely awful.

    For a team with many major needs, they would be much better off had they been able to select a player such as Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, UCLA outside linebacker Akeem Ayers, Texas cornerback Aaron Williams, or even Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith, rather than having used this selection as trade bait last year.

    Round 7, Pick 204 was traded in April 2009 in exchange for long snapper J.J. Jansen.

    J.J. Jansen is a steady long snapper for the Carolina Panthers, so trading away the first pick of the seventh round in this year’s Draft was well worth it.

    Overall Assessment

    The Carolina Panthers surprised absolutely no one with their selection of Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton with the first overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, but as previously stated, that selection was a mistake. The Panthers started to address their major needs on Day 2. They did a great job by selecting two defensive tackles, Terrell McClain and Sione Fua, with their two third-round selections.

    However, not having their second-round selection really hurt the Panthers, and they were unable to address their biggest need of all, which was to find a defensive end to replace a still-unfilled void since the departure of Julius Peppers. Additionally, the Panthers drafted one cornerback in Brandon Hogan and one wide receiver in Kealoha Pilares, but both were horrendous values where they were selected. Hogan will not be the shutdown cornerback they need, nor will Pilares be the number one receiver. The Panthers got two late-round bargains in Lawrence Wilson and Lee Ziemba, but the Panthers leave this Draft still covered by a vast cloud of uncertainty with major needs still unfilled, and a looming quarterback controversy.

    The Panthers have wasted consecutive second-round selections as Jimmy Clausen has been replaced, and this year’s second-round selection was traded away for horrible value. With only two particularly good selections in the first five rounds, the Carolina Panthers get a C-.

Denver Broncos: No. 2 Overall Pick Von Miller Not the Best Fit, but Best Player

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    Great Bargains

    Round 2, Pick 45: Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA (23rd overall prospect)

    Brian Dawkins is 37 years old and simply not the player he used to be. The Denver Broncos needed to find a replacement at the free safety position. When Rahim Moore fell all the way to the 45th overall selection, the draft board fell perfectly for the Denver Broncos and they took advantage. The Broncos initially possessed the 36th overall pick, but they traded down nine spots with the San Francisco 49ers, picking up fourth and fifth-round selections in the process. This trade was well worth it, for they were still able to get a first-round talent in Moore. He is a big playmaker who fills a need at the free safety position. Moore was a bargain in the middle of the second round, and getting that bargain after trading down is even better.

    Round 4, Pick 108: Quinton Carter, FS, Oklahoma (41st overall prospect)

    Having already selected the Draft’s top free safety with the 45th overall pick, the Denver Broncos used one of the other two picks acquired in that trade down to select the second-best free safety in the 2011 NFL Draft, Oklahoma’s Quinton Carter.

    While this may appear to be overkill at one position, his value as a Day 3 selection was too good to pass up. Carter may not be a big-play defensive back, but he is an instinctive, well-rounded safety.

    He will find a role within the Broncos’ secondary by converting to strong safety, for the Broncos also have a need at that spot, or as the Broncos’ third safety and special teams contributor. Getting a player of his caliber, a second-round value in Round 4, is a huge bargain.

    Round 6, Pick 189: Mike Mohamed, ILB, California (138th overall prospect)

    Making the conversion to a 4-3 defensive scheme, the Denver Broncos really needed to upgrade at middle linebacker. The Broncos found their starter at the position with the selection of North Carolina State’s Nate Irving in Round 3. They also found the perfect backup for a great value in the sixth round with the pick of California’s Mike Mohamed.

    Mohamed had a very productive career for the Golden Bears, and is a solid run-stopper who is unlikely to play on passing downs, but is a perfect fit as a backup middle linebacker and a special teams contributor. Mohamed would have been well worth a Round 5 selection, so getting him in the sixth round makes him a steal, and a great pick to continue shoring up the linebacker corps.

    Round 7, Pick 204: Virgil Green, TE, Nevada (82nd overall prospect)

    Among the most shocking players to slide in the 2011 NFL Draft was Nevada tight end Virgil Green. Green, who was a fourth-round value prior to the NFL Scouting Combine, appeared to move his way up into being a potential Day 2 selection by standing out with tremendous measurables at the combine.

    Green was a productive player at Nevada who is polished as a tight end and has high potential as a receiving threat at the position given his athletic ability. This makes it really difficult to understand how Green could fall all the way into the seventh round, but as he did, the Broncos took advantage by making him the first selection of the Draft’s final round. By adding Green, along with fourth-round selection Julius Thomas from Portland State, the Denver Broncos selected the two best natural athletes at the tight end position from this year’s Draft, which should greatly improve the Broncos’ downfield passing game, and fills a major void at the position.

    Round 7, Pick 247: Jeremy Beal, DE, Oklahoma (80th overall prospect)

    After running a horrendously slow 40-yard dash time at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, it came as no surprise that Oklahoma defensive end Jeremy Beal fell to Day 3 of the NFL Draft. Even so, it was expected that Beal, a highly-productive defensive end collegiately, would at least be selected by the fourth or fifth round.

    Instead, Beal was still available in the final 10 picks of the Draft, and the Denver Broncos recognized that his value was too good to pass up. The Broncos needed to address the defensive end position, and while Beal lacks the athleticism to be a premier pass rusher, he should be able to be a productive situational defensive end, and as a player worth taking a chance on in Round 3, he is certainly a tremendous bargain as a seventh-round pick.

    Great Value

    Round 1, Pick 2: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M (1st overall prospect)

    With the Denver Broncos switching to a 4-3 scheme, Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller is not an ideal fit for their defense, and given their needs on the defensive line, Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus may have been the best choice for them with the second overall selection.

    However, Von Miller is in fact the best overall prospect in the 2011 NFL Draft, and while he is best suited for a 3-4 team, he proved his ability to play as a 4-3 linebacker at the Senior Bowl, and he is a tremendous talent with a high motor who would excel on any team. The Broncos got the Draft’s best player, and he is going to fill a need at the outside linebacker position, so while it can be argued that he was not the best selection, it was certainly not a mistake to draft him either.

    A team does not go wrong by selecting the best player on the board, especially when they fill a position of some need, and the Broncos did exactly that. Miller will become an immediate star for the Broncos’ defense, and they will not regret this choice.

    Quality Selections

    Round 3, Pick 67: Nate Irving, ILB, North Carolina State (49th overall prospect)

    The Denver Broncos had already planned to convert to a 4-3 defensive scheme, but prior to the Draft, they had a gaping void at middle linebacker. They filled that void with a very good pick early in Round 3, with the selection of North Carolina State inside linebacker Nate Irving.

    After missing his entire junior season with severe injuries from a car accident, Irving bounced back to have a very productive senior season. He is a smart, instinctive player who tackles well, and is the right fit for the Broncos’ new defensive scheme. He was a good value early in the third round, a high-quality selection that made sense for both value and need.

    Questionable Decisions

    Round 4, Pick 129: Julius Thomas, TE, Portland State (207th overall prospect)

    With a growing trend of former basketball players becoming dynamic playmakers at the tight end position, it came as no surprise that Julius Thomas, a former basketball star at Portland State whose athleticism makes him the best such prospect in the 2011 NFL Draft, ended up as a fourth-round selection.

    However, Thomas really should not have been selected above the sixth round, for his status as a prospect is completely based upon projection, and the Denver Broncos should not have traded up into the fourth round to draft him. Granted, the Broncos did not give up that much to get him, for they traded fifth- and sixth- round selections, and also received a seventh-round selection, which they used to draft another dynamic tight end, and actually the better prospect, in Nevada’s Virgil Green.

    Thomas certainly has high potential given his combination of size and athleticism, and between him and Green, the Broncos have greatly upgraded at the tight end position, and given Tim Tebow better weapons to work with. If Thomas lives up to his upside, he could end up being a steal well worth trading up for in the fourth round; however, considering he is very much a project, trading up for him was a questionable decision.

    “What The...?” Picks

    Round 2, Pick 46: Orlando Franklin, OT, Miami (163rd overall prospect)

    The Denver Broncos needed a right tackle, and they drafted Orlando Franklin to fill that void. The problem is that while Franklin may be massive in size, he is a raw, sloppy talent who is probably best suited to be a three-position backup at right tackle and both guard spots. There are many deficiencies in Franklin’s game, making it highly questionable whether Franklin can succeed at the tackle position.

    Considering their need at the spot, Villanova offensive tackle Ben Ijalana would have been a terrific selection for both value and need. Value simply does not match up with drafting Franklin in the middle of the second round.

    The Picks They Traded

    Round 4, Pick 99 was traded in September 2010 in exchange for Laurence Maroney.
    This was a complete waste of what turned out to be one of the first draft selections of Day 3. Maroney, who likely would have been released by the New England Patriots had they not found an interested party in trading for him, was unproductive in his time with the Denver Broncos, and will not be returning to the team next season. This was a trade that the Denver Broncos most certainly regret.

    Round 5, Pick 135 was traded during the 2010 NFL Draft in exchange for two seventh-round selections in that Draft, which they used to select cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson and defensive end Jammie Kirlew.

    Syd’Quan Thompson had a productive rookie season with four interceptions, and Jammie Kirlew has potential as a pass rusher, so this trade looks like it was one worth making.

    Round 6, Pick 168 was traded in March 2010 as part of a package in exchange for quarterback Brady Quinn.

    Not only did the Denver Broncos trade away this draft selection, they also traded away Peyton Hillis, who broke out to become one of the NFL’s best power backs last season with the Cleveland Browns. All they got in return was Brady Quinn, who has now become their third-string quarterback. A horrible trade for the Broncos, and the sixth-round selection has little to do it.

    Overall Assessment

    The Denver Broncos had to fill many defensive needs in this Draft, and upgraded their defense significantly by selecting the best overall prospect in this year’s class in Von Miller, then continued to get great value while filling defensive needs throughout the Draft with free safeties Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter, inside linebackers Nate Irving and Mike Mohamed, and defensive end Jeremy Beal.

    Additionally, the Denver Broncos had a need for talent at the tight end position, and they got two very dynamic athletes to play the position in this Draft with the selections of Virgil Green and Julius Thomas. Selecting Orlando Franklin in the second round was a major reach, but at least he has some potential to fill the Broncos’ void at right tackle.

    The Broncos did fail to fill their biggest need, that being the defensive tackle position, but by significantly improving the linebacker, safety, and tight end units, Denver accomplished alot in this Draft. Overall, they grade out with a B+, for they accomplished much of what they needed to while getting good value throughout the Draft.

Buffalo Bills: No.3 Pick Marcell Dareus Will Be Impact Player on Defensive Front

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    Great Bargains

    Round 7, Pick 206: Justin Rogers, CB, Richmond (131st overall prospect)

    The Buffalo Bills ended up with an absolute steal by getting Richmond cornerback Justin Rogers in the seventh round. Rogers is a dynamic cornerback prospect who has good kick return ability, and his all-around skill set would have made him a great fifth-round selection.

    The facts that Rogers needs development as a cover corner, combined with him coming from a lesser level of competition, likely led to his slide down the draft board, but the Bills may end up with a real late-round gem in Rogers.

    Quality Selections

    Round 1, Pick 3: Marcell Dareus, DE, Alabama (6th overall prospect)

    The ideal situation for the Buffalo Bills with the third overall selection would have been for Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller to be available, but with Miller off the board, the Bills made a great selection from the talent available in Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus.

    While Nick Fairley was the best defensive tackle on the board, the Bills needed a 5-technique defensive end for the three-man front, and Dareus is better suited to make that transition. Dareus has the ability to be an impact player up front for the Bills, which they needed, and his value made him worthy of the third overall selection.

    Round 2, Pick 34: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas (54th overall prospect)

    The Buffalo Bills needed to upgrade at cornerback, and did so with their second-round selection by drafting Texas cornerback Aaron Williams. While Miami’s Brandon Harris was the best cornerback available on the board at this point, Williams was a good selection.

    Williams has the skills to be a starting cornerback in the National Football League, and as a second-round value, his value was decent at this spot in the Draft.

    Round 3, Pick 68: Kelvin Sheppard, ILB, LSU (44th overall prospect)

    With the Bills’ top three inside linebackers having been unrestricted free agent, they needed to bring in an inside linebacker in this Draft, and they got good value in the third round with the selection of LSU’s Kelvin Sheppard.

    Sheppard is a tough, run-stopping linebacker who tackles very well, and will be a good fit as an inside linebacker in the Bills’ 3-4 defense. Another high-quality selection on both value and need for the Bills in the 2011 NFL Draft.

    Round 4, Pick 122: Chris Hairston, OT, Clemson (169th overall prospect)

    The Buffalo Bills needed to address the offensive tackle position in this Draft, and given that Clemson’s Chris Hairston was one of the best available at the position, he was a solid choice late in the fourth round.

    The Bills have a need at left tackle, and Hairston is definitely better suited to play right tackle. However, without much talent still available at offensive tackle, the Bills made another quality selection here to address a position of need and still get decent value.

    Round 6, Pick 169: Chris White, ILB, Mississippi State (129th overall prospect)

    The Buffalo Bills got another inside linebacker at a very good value in the sixth round with the selection of Mississippi State inside linebacker Chris White. White is unspectacular, but he is a solid all-around inside linebacker who would have been well worth a fifth-round selection, so the Bills got another quality selection in terms of both value and need with their sixth-round choice.

    Not the Best Pick

    Round 5, Pick 133: Johnny White, RB, North Carolina (295th overall prospect)

    Using their fifth-round selection for a potential upgrade at running back was a good decision for the Buffalo Bills. However, the Bills made the wrong decision by selecting Johnny White.

    White is a decent running back prospect, but he has durability concerns, and really has nothing spectacular about his game that should have made much more than a seventh-round selection, let alone the second pick of Round 5. With much better running back prospects still available in Connecticut’s Jordan Todman, Maryland’s Da’Rel Scott, Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers, and Pittsburgh’s Dion Lewis, there were better options the Bills could have gone with on this pick.

    “What The …?” Picks

    Round 4, Pick 100: Da’Norris Searcy, SS, North Carolina (339th overall prospect)

    Da’Norris Searcy was a decent collegiate safety who is not quite big enough to play safety in the National Football League, but does not have the coverage skills or athleticism to play cornerback. At best, Searcy was worth a seventh-round selection; he never should have been drafted within the top 100 picks of the 2011 NFL Draft.

    Drafting a better safety here would have made sense, but for Searcy to go as one of the first picks of Day Three was a really bad choice.

    Round 7, Pick 245: Michael Jasper, G, Bethel (Not in Top 400)

    To be honest, I had never even heard of Michael Jasper before the Bills made him the 245th overall selection of the 2011 NFL Draft. Jasper is absolutely massive, weighing nearly 400 pounds at the time of the Draft, and that is about all I know about him.

    With many legitimate guard prospects available such as Connecticut’s Zach Hurd, Nevada’s John Bender, and Ohio State’s Justin Boren, there was no reason for Jasper to be drafted.

    Overall Assessment

    For the most part, the Buffalo Bills did a great job of addressing their needs with strong value throughout the 2011 NFL Draft. With their first three selections, the Bills filled needs by getting good value with defensive end Marcell Dareus, cornerback Aaron Williams, and inside linebacker Kelvin Sheppard.

    The Buffalo Bills made one very poor draft pick with the selection of Da’Norris Searcy to start off Day Three, but went on to get some good bargains later in the day in Chris White and Justin Rogers. The Bills did fail to address a major need at the tight end position, but for the most part, they did a very good job of addressing needs while getting good value, earning them a B+.

Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green Will Be Big Playmaker, but Who Will Pass to Him?

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    Quality Selections

    Round 1, Pick 4: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia (8th overall prospect)

    With Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco both on the way out, the Cincinnati Bengals were without any big playmakers at wideout. Therefore, while the Bengals’ passing game is still in for major problems given their lack of a franchise quarterback, the best choice here may have been to bring in a true No. 1 wide receiver for whoever the Bengals’ quarterback ends up being.

    While the best wide receiver in the Draft class, Alabama’s Julio Jones, was still available, they could be categorized as 1a and 1b at the top of the receiver rankings this year. Green is a big playmaker with great size and athleticism, and he should make a major impact in the Bengals’ downfield offense.

    Round 3, Pick 66: Dontay Moch, OLB, Nevada (71st overall prospect)

    While Dontay Moch may not fit a need of the Bengals, his tremendous upside makes him a quality third-round selection. Moch is an absolutely extraordinary athlete, who put up remarkable numbers for a defensive front seven player at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, including a 4.44 40-yard dash, 42’ vertical jump, and 10’8’’ broad jump.

    He was a collegiate defensive end who is much too small to play that position in the National Football League, but although he is very raw, his athletic potential makes him a fantastic developmental prospect for the Cincinnati Bengals at outside linebacker, and given his upside, he was a good choice in the third round.

    Round 7, Pick 207: Korey Lindsey, CB, Southern Illinois (244th overall prospect)

    The Cincinnati Bengals needed to address the cornerback position, and Southern Illinois’s Korey Lindsey was worth taking a chance on in the seventh round. Lindsey has had some problems with injuries, but at the FCS level, he had a fantastic career. Lindsey does not have great athleticism, but he is a very good tackler, and he has good upside to be a solid nickel or dime back.

    Round 7, Pick 246: Jay Finley, RB, Baylor (278th overall prospect)

    The Cincinnati Bengals needed to address the running back position, and Baylor’s Jay Finley was a good choice with one of the final 10 picks of the 2011 NFL Draft. Finley has no spectacular traits, but he is a solid all-around back who has the skills to be a solid third running back in an NFL rotation. A quality selection late in the Draft.

    Not the Best Pick

    Round 2, Pick 35: Andy Dalton, QB, Texas Christian (153rd overall prospect)

    While the Cincinnati Bengals had a major need at quarterback, TCU’s Andy Dalton was an absolutely massive reach at the second round.

    Dalton is a solid, accurate passer who would make a very solid backup quarterback, but he is no franchise quarterback. Dalton lacks arm strength, and has no spectacular qualities about his game.

    The Bengals could have made a great pick with a quarterback who has potential to be a very good starter in Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick, for he was still available. However, the Bengals clearly drafted Dalton with intentions of him being their franchise quarterback, and in that they are sorely mistaken.

    Dalton should not have been selected on Day 2 at all, let alone with the third pick of Round 2, and it will be a real surprise if Dalton succeeds as an NFL starting quarterback.

    Round 4, Pick 101: Clint Boling, G, Georgia (160th overall prospect)

    The Cincinnati Bengals were smart to upgrade at the guard position, but selecting Clint Boling early in Round 4 was not the best value.

    There were better interior linemen available at this point in the Draft including Michigan guard Stephen Schilling and TCU center Jake Kirkpatrick, or the Bengals could have addressed another need with much better value in a player such as Ohio State cornerback Chimdi Chekwa or Oklahoma State running back Kendall Hunter.

    Boling was not necessarily a bad pick to start out Day Three, but not the best choice.

    Round 5, Pick 134: Robert Sands, FS, West Virginia (161st overall prospect)

    While the Cincinnati Bengals needed to address the safety position, West Virginia’s Robert Sands was not the best choice in Round 5.

    Sands is a big, athletic safety with high upside, but for a team looking to upgrade from Roy Williams at strong safety, why would they draft a prospect that is so similar? With much better safeties in Clemson’s DeAndre McDaniel, Iowa’s Tyler Sash, and Boise State’s Jeron Johnson all still available, the Bengals could have done better here than selecting Sands.

    “What The …?” Picks

    Round 6, Pick 167: Ryan Whalen, WR, Stanford (not in Top 400)

    Ryan Whalen was a decent possession receiver at Stanford, but he did not have great productivity, and he lacks the athleticism to make much of an impact in the National Football League. Therefore, Whalen should not have been drafted, and certainly not with the second pick of the sixth round. In looking for a solid possession receiver, Ohio State’s Dane Sanzenbacher or Oregon’s Jeff Maehl would have been a much better choice than Whalen.

    Overall Assessment

    The Cincinnati Bengals displayed a poor sense of value with their selections in the 2011 NFL Draft. While the Bengals added a great playmaker in the first round in wide receiver A.J. Green, they made a horrible reach by investing in Andy Dalton with their second-round pick to be their quarterback of the future.

    The Bengals made some solid selections throughout the rest of the Draft, but the Bengals never selected a player whose overall prospect ranking was higher than the pick with which they selected him.

    The Bengals failed to take advantage of the value of the Draft, and while they did address some needs, there are still voids at middle linebacker and center. The Draft is all about finding value, and since the Bengals failed to do so, they grade out with a D+ for this Draft, salvaged from failure mainly by the addition of Green.