Commentary: How Carson Palmer Changed the Bengals Draft

There are some very obvious and Maddenesque things that I could say on the topic mentioned in the title of this article like: "Ever since Palmer demanded a trade, the Bengals now need a QB." (Please, hold your compliments, applause and pulitzer prizes until after I finish writing). But if we look back to December or even November -- back when the Bengals had already been ruled out of playoff contention and Carson Palmer hadn't so much as sneezed a word of retirement -- we were looking at very different 2011 NFL draft. In fact, back in December, our own Jason Garrison wrote the following:

Thing I know Two: Carson Palmer will be Cincinnati's QB in 2011

Considering that the Bengals have effectively eliminated themselves from the Andrew Luck running, I don't think there's any doubt that Palmer is going to stay right where he is next year. Maybe the Bengals draft a Jake Locker or Ryan Mallet in the 2011 draft but even if that's the case, I don't see Palmer going anywhere.

(I kid, Jason, I kid because I love) In fairness - nobody predicted the Palmer debacle happening back then and I'm sure that 99.9% of everybody who followed sports would have agreed with that sentiment. And others (myself included) denied that Palmer was serious about his demands until February or even March when the initial shock finally wore off.

So much has changed in five short months.

There were some obvious needs to fill back in December: LG, WR, RB (I would rank their needs in that order, but the we could debate it) were the big holes on the offensive side of the ball. Safety of course was still an issue, and most of us were questioning whether or not we needed help on the defensive line after a year of getting little to no pressure on the quarterback and dropping to 19th against the run total yards allowed.

Had the Bengals gone into the draft having those needs alone, they would have found themselves scrambling come draft time, but after Palmer announced his trade demands, the Bengals entire draft board was flipped upside down.

Consider this: When the Bengals still had Carson Palmer slated as their starting QB going into the 2011 season, the team was relatively flexible about the positions they could draft in the first three rounds, after all, they had plenty of holes to fill so drafting the best player available at a position of need would have been a relatively easy mantra to follow.

If the Bengals decided they wanted to draft a guy like Patrick Peterson No. 4 overall, they could have chosen to pick a WR like Leonard Hankerson, an OG like Danny Watson, or maybe even a top defensive lineman that fell out of the first round (like how Carlos Dunlap fell in 2010 or how Rey Maualuga fell in 2009). Or if they decided to go with A.J. Green at No. 4 overall, they could have picked up a safety like Rahim Moore out of UCLA and thus grabbed the best safety and the best WR in the draft, allowing them to go after a highly rated guard in the top of the third.

The possibilities were seemingly endless.

However, the Carson Palmer trade demands have handcuffed the team to picking a QB in the first two rounds (or so most of us assume). Thus, if the Bengals were to take a player like Patrick Peterson they would basically be forced to go after the best quarterback who falls into the second round - be it Ryan Mallet, Jake Locker, Andy Dalton or Christian Ponder. By the time they got to the third round, the top wide receivers, running backs, defensive lineman and perhaps the top guards would all be off the board.

And consider what would happen if the team drafts A.J. Green with the fourth pick. In this scenario, the Bengals would pick a QB in the second and then almost have to look at picking up a defender in the third round, lest they ignore the defensive side altogether until the fourth round of the draft (and frankly, our defense isn't good enough to wait that long before drafting somebody).That would all but eliminate the chances of drafting an immediate sure-fire upgrade at guard or running back.

The scariest thought for Bengals fans is that the need at QB is so great -- both for the league in general and for the Bengals specifically -- that the Bengals are going to have to reach for a quarterback this year unless they move around in the draft. Compound that with the fact that few evaluators consider either Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton worthy of a top-five selection (in terms of their overall grade) AND that other second tier QBs like Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick's value is inflated worse than the housing market, I can safely say that picking a QB this year almost certainly means that the Bengals are going to have to reach for somebody.

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