2011 NFL Draft

Cincinnati Bengals trading up for Andy Dalton?

The Cincinnati Bengals have been linked to Andy Dalton for the past week or so, stemming from a report that new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden covets him.

With Dalton still on the the board, and plenty of time to discuss a trade today, it would make sense for the Bengals to move up to ensure he’s available.

According to Chris Mortensen the Bengals discussed a trade with the Packers last night, with Dalton likely being their target. Now the Patriots – clearly a willing trade partner – sitting on the clock at No. 33, we could see the 2nd round kicked off with a trade.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Bengals Comments Off

Draft Needs: Cincinnati Bengals

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Cincinnati Bengals. [full archive here].

Season Recap – The Cincinnati Bengals entered the 2010 season with very high expectations after finishing 10-6 and sweeping the AFC North in 2009, but failed to live up to the hype and ended with a 4-12 record. With the likes of Chad Ochocinco, Carson Palmer, Terrell Owens, and Cedric Benson, the Bengals were supposed to have a potent offense but it never came together. Cincinnati faces many question marks with players on the current roster: Terrell Owens will not return, Chad Ochocinco could be traded, and Cedric Benson will become a free agent. Carson Palmer publicly demanded a “trade or retire” request, and figures to be the main issue for the Bengals this offseason. Newly hired offensive coordinator Jay Gruden brings in a West Coast offense and will look to improve the offense, especially the running game, which finished the season ranked 27th.

1. Running back – Cedric Benson is scheduled to become a free agent, and the Bengals are most likely going to go in another direction. With Jay Gruden now set to run the offense, the Bengals must find a starting running back to help keep pressure off of Carson Palmer. Read more

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Bengals, Draft Needs - 2011 1 Comment

Bengals targeting a RB in the draft?

I’m still shocked that Jay Gruden – with nothing more than a part-time gig under his brother in Tampa on his NFL résumé – is the offensive coordinator of the Bengals. But there was a press conference yesterday, so I guess its really happening.

The biggest news from the conference was that Gruden will install a west coast offense. He also stressed running the ball:

We have to run the ball between the tackles. We have to be a physical team up front. We’re going to challenge our offensive line to be physical… I intend on pounding the ball.”

Those are interesting comments considering the Bengals ran the ball almost exclusively with Cedric Benson in 2010, who is now a 28-year-old free agent coming off a disappointing year.

This past year Benson carried the ball 321 times, becoming the 36th running back over the age of 27 with at least 300 carries in a season over the past two decades. Of the previous 35, only 13 times [by eight different RBs] has that player carried the ball at least 200 times while averaging at least 4.0 yards per attempt the following year – Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Curtis Martin, Tiki Barber, Ricky Watters, Thomas Jones, Jerome Bettis and Priest Holmes.

Even on his best day, Benson doesn’t compare anyone in that group. More than likely he goes the route of some of the other names on the list such as Lamar Smith, James Stewart, Terry Allen and Anthony Johnson.

With that in mind, the Bengals would be wise to target a running back in this year’s draft and Gruden’s comments lead me to believe they could already be considering their options.

There isn’t a running back worthy of a top-10 pick, although I wouldn’t put it past the Bengals front office (a.k.a. Mike Brown) to take Mark Ingram 4th overall.

However, it’s more likely they address this situation in the early 2nd round. It’s possible that Mikel LeShoure could fall to the 2nd day of the draft. LeShoure is a powerful between-the-tackles runner who would seem to fit perfectly into Gruden’s game plan.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Bengals Comments Off

Jake Locker: Future Cincinnati Bengal?

After a disappointing senior year, all eyes will be on Jake Locker this week at the Senior Bowl. But no one will be scrutinizing his every move like the Cincinnati Bengals.

Could Locker be Carson Palmer's replacement?

Locker was placed on the North Team, which will be run by the Bengals coaching staff.

Coaching a player in the Senior Bowl certainly doesn’t mean the team will show an interest, but it’s safe to say that their attention to Locker will be heightened following Carson Palmer’s recent trade demand.

Teams typically spend more time getting to know the quarterbacks they’re interested in than other positions, so this is a golden opportunity for the Bengals.

That said, taking Locker No. 4 overall looks like a reach right now. He’ll need an impressive week just to solidify his place in the 1st-round, much less climb back into the the top-10 discussion.

However, much of Locker’s appeal is his leadership and work ethic. After spending a week with Locker the Bengals may fall in love with his talent and be convinced by his intangibles to take a chance.

While it sounds like a long shot right now, it’s definitely something to keep an eye on. A lot can change during Senior Bowl week and this has the potential to be a developing storyline.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Bengals Comments Off

A quick “what if Luck stays in school” mock draft

It seems like every day a new reporter finds “sources” to tell him that Andrew Luck is leaning toward staying in school. I’m inclined to call “BS” on anyone who says Luck is leaning towards staying at Stanford, especially since it sounds as though Jim Harbaugh is as good as gone. But I’ll humor those who think he’s staying for a moment and throw together a quick mock draft based on the scenario that he stays. Here’s the top 10 of the “what if Luck stays” mock draft…

1. Panthers – Da’Quan Bowers – DE – Clemson
The Panthers don’t need a quarterback, so they won’t take one unless Luck is there. Their pass rush was abysmal this season, and they missed Julius Peppers even more than anyone could have anticipated. Bowers is coming off a monster year and should be an instant-impact pass rusher at the next level.

2. Broncos – Patrick Peterson – CB – LSU
With Josh McDaniels gone, the Broncos may be ready to give up on Tim Tebow after just three games. However, I don’t think they’ll reach for someone like Newton or Mallett with the second pick. The safe bet is to take Peterson, the best available player. Champ Bailiey may not return, and even if he does he’s on the downswing of his career.

3. Bengals – A.J. Green – WR – Georgia
One of the biggest decisions any team has to make this offseason is the Bengals’ looming decision about Carson Palmer. They could cut him loose and draft a new franchise quarterback here. I don’t think they’re willing to give up yet, however. A.J. Green is an elite talent and could be the young receiver Palmer needs to get the offense back on track.

4. Bills – Ryan Mallett – QB – Arkansas
The Bills need a quarterback to build around and should be able to get one in this year’s draft. But who will it be? Mallett, Locker and Newton are all worth considering. It’s pure speculation at this point, but I think Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix will lean toward the strong-armed Mallett.

5. Cardinals – Prince Amukamara – CB – Nebraska
The Cardinals are another team in need of a quarterback, but I expect Ken Whisenhunt to push for them to bring in a veteran.  As a result, they’ll turn their attention to the defense in the draft, landing either Amukamara, Cameron Jordan or Nick Fairley here.

6. 49ers – Cam Newton – QB – Auburn
Until a GM and a coach are in place it’s tough to predict how the 49ers will handle the draft. But one thing is certain: they need a quarterback. If they need to make a decision between Newton and Locker, expect Newton to be their guy.

7. Cowboys – Cameron Jordan – DE – California
Jordan isn’t nearly the most well-known of the top 3-4 defensive ends, but I believe he is the best of the bunch. The Cowboys will be looking to improve the defense, making Jordan a strong possibility here.

8. Texans – Nick Fairley – DT – Auburn
The Texans need to address their secondary, but with Peterson and Amukamara off the board they must turn their attention to the defensive line. Fairley is an elite pass-rushing interior lineman who reminds me of Ndamukong Suh.

9. Lions – Robert Quinn – DE – North Carolina
The Lions offense is progressing, but the defense still has some holes. Kyle Vanden Bosch hasn’t worked out and the Lions will likely look to upgrade their pass rush this offseason. Quinn may be the best pass-rushing end available in this draft class.

10. Browns – Julio Jones – WR – Alabama
The Browns are now committed to Colt McCoy, but now they need to supply him with some weapons. Jones, Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Jon Baldwin and Torrey Smith could all be options depending on who leaves early for the draft.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bengals, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Cardinals, Cowboys, Lions, Panthers, Texans 1 Comment

32 reasons why no one in the NFL should want Moss

Cardinals – Need a lot more than one aging receiver to fix their quarterback situation.

Falcons – Why mess up a good thing between Matt Ryan and Roddy White?

Ravens – No room with Boldin, Mason and Housh. Moss would pout, ruin chemistry.

Bills – Ryan Fitzpatrick has been pleasantly surprising. Don’t mess with a good thing.

Panthers – Think Moss will be a good soldier on a team competing for the No. 1 pick?

Bears – Lovie and Martz have their hands full already with Jay Cutler in the locker room.

Bengals – T.O.  and Moss in the same locker room? No thanks.

Browns – If Mangini can’t get along with Braylon Edwards, how would Moss fit in?

Cowboys – The last thing they need is another distraction.

Broncos – Do you really think McDaniels will get along with Moss better than Marshall?

Lions – Can you picture Moss accepting role as a No. 2 receiver on a 2-5 team?

Packers – Chemistry on offense seems to be great. Don’t mess it up.

Texans – See above.

Colts – Manning prefers his no-name receivers. And it works just fine for him.

Jaguars – Last place Jags aren’t going anywhere. Don’t waste the money.

Chiefs – Already hold a big lead in a weak division. Why mess with what’s working?

Dolphins – Marshall and Moss is too much ego for any coaching staff to handle.

Vikings – Been there. Done that.

Patriots – Been there. Done that.

Saints – Brees seems to be doing o.k. for himself without an elite receiver.

Giants – Can you picture Moss backing up Nicks and Smith?

Jets – I think they’ve learned their lesson with Braylon Edwards.

Raiders – Been there. Done that.

Eagles – Been there. Done that.

Steelers – After trading Holmes, adding Moss would be a step backwards.

Chargers – Vincent Jackson is back.

49ers – Can you picture Moss being happy in last place in the worst division?

Seahawks – The last thing Mike Williams needs right now is a bad influence.

Rams – Last thing this young, overachieving team needs is a bad influence like Moss.

Bucs – See above.

Titans – Kenny Britt has enough issues to overcome without Moss influencing him.

Redskins – McNabb and T.O. didn’t work. Why would it work with Moss?

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Bears, Bengals, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Chargers, Chiefs, Colts, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons, Giants, Jaguars, Jets, Lions, Packers, Panthers, Patriots, Raiders, Rams, Ravens, Redskins, Saints, Seahawks, Steelers, Texans, Titans, Vikings 1 Comment

NFL Rookie Rankings – Week 3

1. Jahvid Best, Lions
Best was injured in the Lions Week 3 loss to Minnesota, but he has still be easily the most productive rookie on the offensive side of the ball. However, his status is up in the air for Week 4, which could allow someone to sneak up and steal the top spot.

2. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
Hernandez has emerged as a favorite target of Tom Brady, running many of the same routes that Wes Welker runs. He leads all rookies in receiving yards and has looked like one of the top receiving tight ends in the game through three weeks.

3. Sam Bradford, Rams
Bradford picked up the first win of his career last week against the Redskins. It was easily the most productive game of his short career as he completed over 60 percent of his passes for 235 yards.

4. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
Bryant isn’t threatening Miles Austin as the Cowboys top receiver, but he has topped the 50-yard mark in all three games so far this season. That, coupled with his production on special teams, has made him one of the most productive rookies.

5. Jordan Shipley, Bengals
Shipley falls from 2nd to 5th this week after catching just three passes against the Panthers.

1. Koa Misi, Dolphins
Misi remains the most productive defensive rookie for the third straight week. He has become the most productive all-around linebacker in Miami, making him a perfect compliment to the pass rushing skills of Cameron Wake.

2. Tyson Alualu, Jaguars
Alualu picked up his second sack of the season and added two more quarterback hits. His production against the run needs work, but he has looked dominant at times as an interior pass rusher.

3. Derrick Morgan, Titans
Morgan has been coming off the bench, but it may only be a matter of time before he’s starting. He has impressed as a pass rusher and against the run.

4. Nate Allen, Eagles
Allen has changed the Eagles secondary, which struggled at times last season, and filled the void at free safety. He even picked up a sack this past week against the Jaguars.

5. Brandon Graham, Eagles
Graham is arguably the best rookie pass rusher, which is enough to land him a spot on the list, but he is one dimensional. His lack of skills against the run will hold him back from moving much further up the list.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bengals, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Jaguars, Lions, Patriots, Rams, Titans Comments Off

NFL Rookie Rankings – Week 2

1. Jahvid Best, Lions
Best is the runaway leader among offensive rookies after two weeks. He ranks second among rookies in rushing yards and leads all rookies in receiving yards. He has given the Lions offense a new look and is emerging as one of the most dangerous playmakers in the league.

2. Jordan Shipley, Bengals
Shipley caught five passes again this past week, giving him 10 for 124 yards on the season. He has emerged as legitimate a third option behind Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco and has given the Bengals perhaps the best trio of receivers in the league.

3. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
Bryant caught just two passes this week, but both were big 26-yard plays. He also returned a put 62 yards for a touchdown and is averaging 19.3 yards per return on the season.

4. Sam Bradford, Rams
The Rams scaled back the workload for Bradford in Week 2, as he attempted just 25 passes. He is completing 57.5 percent of his passes and averaging 5.3 yards per attempt – both mediocre numbers, but impressive for a rookie on a team like the Rams.

5. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
Hernandez is emerging as one of the Patriots most explosive weapons this season. He ranks second among rookies this season with 146 receiving yards on just seven catches.

1. Koa Misi, Dolphins
Misi played a key role in stopping the Vikings last week, and is emerging as a leader on the Dolphins defense. He is the most well-balanced rookie linebacker in terms of ability as a pass rusher and run stuffer.

2. Rolando McClain, Raiders
McClain anchored the Raiders defense in their win over the Rams last week. He already looks like one of the best middle linebackers against the run and the Raiders defense has improved as a result.

3. Derrick Morgan, Titans
Morgan recorded a sack for the second straight week but that’s not the only reason he’s ranked. He has done an excellent job holding up at the point of attack and the Titans run defense has improved as a result.

4. T.J. Ward, Browns
Ward has been one of the few bright spots for the Browns this season. He has been like an extra linebacker for the Browns run defense… which they have definitely needed.

5. Brandon Graham, Eagles
Graham picked up his first career sack last week, and looks like the best pure rookie pass rusher in the league. However, he’s being used in a rotation almost exclusively as a pass rusher which is why he isn’t ranked higher.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Lions, Patriots, Raiders, Rams, Titans Comments Off

NFL Rookie Rankings – Week 1

Sam Bradford, Rams
The Rams asked Bradford to carry the team in his first professional game and he did just that. Bradford 32 of 55 passes for 253 yards in a near upset of the Cardinals. He did throw three interceptions (one on a hail mary) but it was an impressive debut nonetheless.

2. Jordan Shipley, Bengals
Shipley led all rookie receivers with 82 yards on five catches Sunday. All five of his receptions went for first downs, including a 51-yard reception. After seeing Shipley’s performance, its easy to see why the Bengals didn’t feel the need to keep Antonio Bryant around.

3. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
The Cowboys fed it to Bryant early and often as he caught eight balls for 56 yards. He was primarily used on short passes, as the Cowboys looked to him to make plays after the catch. Four of his receptions went for first downs, with a long of 15 yards.

4. Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers
Pouncey gave the Steelers an immediate upgrade at center, replacing Jeff Hartings. The Steelers were back to the power-running game that they’re known for, with Rashard Mendenhall averaging over five yards per carry.

5. Ryan Mathews, Chargers
Mathews didn’t set the world on fire, but he was solid in his debut against Kansas City. He racked up 75 yards on 19 carries, a modest 3.9 yards per attempt.  He also lost a fumble which led to a Chiefs touchdown.

1. Koa Misi, Dolphins
Misi stepped into the Dolphins starting lineup and was all over the field against the Bills. He recorded one sack, and was consistently getting pressure on Trent Edwards. With production like this, the ‘Phins won’t miss Jason Taylor or Joey Porter.

2. Brandon Graham, Eagles
Graham made an immediate impact for the Eagles pass rush, consistently getting into the backfield and pressuring Aaron Rodgers. He didn’t record a sack, but his efforts did not go unnoticed.

3. Rolando McClain, Raiders
McClain fully lived up to expectations in his first game with the Raiders. He looked like a veteran, showing the impressive instincts that made him a star at Alabama. With McClain in the middle, the Raiders should be much improved.

4. T.J. Ward, Browns
Not much went right for the Browns on Sunday, but Ward already looks like an upgrade at strong safety over last year’s primary starter Abe Elam. He did a nice job in coverage against Kellen Winslow, and was consistently stepping up to help out against the run.

5. Eric Berry, Chiefs
Berry was quietly effective against the Chargers, helping the Chiefs pull off the upset. He didn’t come up with any big plays but was consistently in the right position, providing support for the Chiefs corners. It’s only a matter of time before he comes up with some game-changing interceptions.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bengals, Browns, Chargers, Chiefs, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Raiders, Rams, Steelers Comments Off

Training Camp Preview: Bengals

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 13:  Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs the ball against the Minnesota Vikings on December 13, 2009 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Bengals 30-10.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Will Benson continue to develop in Cincinnati?

Biggest Question Mark: Cedric Benson
Has he finally developed into a franchise running back? He looked like it at times last season, but remained inconsistent. He rushed for over 100 yards in five of Cincy’s last six home games in 2009. But rushed for over 100 yards on the road just twice all season. That type of inconsistency can’t continue if the Bengals are to become a contender in the AFC.

Position Battle to Watch: Wide Receiver
Chad Ochocinco remains productive and he isn’t in danger of losing his starting role. However, he could lose the role of No. 1 receiver now that Antonio Bryant is in the fold. Due primarily to attitude problems Bryant has bounced around the league and Cincinnati is the latest team to give him a try. Aside from some locker room issues, he’s been productive throughout his career and is probably a more reliable receiver than Ochcocinco at this point in his career.

Impact Rookie: Jermaine Gresham
Gresham could be the piece of the puzzle that puts the Bengals over the top. They haven’t received any meaningful production from the tight end position throughout Carson Palmer’s time in Cincinnati and this new weapon could make their offense among the AFC’s elite.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bengals Comments Off