The 2011 NFL Draft is now over. The Bengals used their eight picks this year to almost completely revamp the faces of the franchise while also filling their biggest needs. Something strange is going on at Paul Brown Stadium; when was the last time the Bengals posted back-to-back drafts like they have the last two years? Every team should feel like they've upgraded their talent and filled some needs, but I feel like the Bengals attacked the draft and laid the foundation for another successful rebuild of this team. This team is better after this draft. Let's review the draft and grade it.
A.J. Green: WR from Georgia (first round, 4th overall)
Green was the best player on not only my board, but on many experts' boards. To get the best player in the draft with the fourth pick is a rarity, and the Bengals shouldn't have any doubts about the selection. Green is a phenomenal natural athlete. He was born to play the WR position. For all of Green's greatness, his biggest contribution to the Bengals could be the end of the Chad Ochocinco era.
Andy Dalton: QB from TCU (second round, 35th overall)
Any Dalton was the Bengals target all along. With all of the recent Dalton media hype, the Bengals even considered trading up to get him in the first round. Even if you don't like Dalton or feel like this pick was a reach, you have to be comforted by the fact that the team wants him to be their franchise QB. Just giving him that title and building a team around him will give Dalton every chance to succeed. He will need every bit of help to shake the horrible success history of past second round QBs. This is our QB; it's an exciting time for Bengals fans. Goodbye Carson Palmer, you get your wish.
Dontay Moch: OLB from Nevada (third round, 66th overall)
Dontay is a physical freak and he defies the laws of what a normal human can do. He's the fastest LB I can remember coming out of the draft in about 6 years. His specialty is rushing the passer; he mostly played DE at Nevada and will make the transition to strong side LB for the Bengals. I wasn't surprised by the selection of an OLB because I believe Marvin Lewis has been searching for his David Pollack. He wants to use a LB to rush the QB and be able to put his hand down in nickel situation to apply even more pressure. Moch is five times the athlete Pollack was, so hopefully he can make an easy transition to LB and give the Bengals an added boost to their young pass rushers. The only thing I personally didn't like about the pick was the value. Moch was the 95th ranked player on my board, and we took hi at 66. They obviously liked him more than me.
Clint Boling: G/T from Georgia (fourth round, 101st overall)
Clint Boling was a guy I thought the Bengals could take with their third round pick. He was the 63rd ranked player on my board heading into the draft. He should be able to start day one at left guard while also having the ability to back up RG and RT. This was a great pick for the fourth round. They found a solid starter and did it with getting good value for the pick.
Robert Sands: S from WVU (fifth round, 132nd overall)
I didn't like Sands as a player coming into the draft. I thought he was stiff and played with too much finesse for a guy his size. I had him in the sixth round and 158th overall player. So the value was low for me, especially when there were other players on still available that I thought could come in and contribute to this team. After the draft, Sands has warmed up to me. He seems to have a huge chip on his shoulder for being taken in the 5th round. I also believe that Zimmer gets every bit of production out of his safeties and Sands has a lot of talent to work with. The Bengals need safety help and hopefully Sands is the guy.
Ryan Whalen: WR from Stanford (sixth round, 167th overall)
This was the biggest shocker in the draft. I'm fine with them taking another WR because they always take one in the late rounds. The problem I have with this pick is that Whalen is another inside/slot WR. He's too much like Shipley and Cosby, but maybe that's exactly why they like him. Whalen is a good route runner who knows how to get open in zone coverage. I would have preferred an outside WR, and there was some good talent still available in the sixth round.
Korey Lindsey: CB from S. Illinois (seventh round, 207th overall)
This was a great pick. I had Korey Lindsey as my 149th overall player in this draft. I was expecting him to go somewhere in the fifth round. To help further my pre-draft ranking, I talked to Josh Buchanan (JBScouting.com) who is the best small school expert in the draft world. This is what he had to say about the Korey Lindsay selection.
"He's a good cover two corner who can play nickel and provide help in the return game. His size and the hamstring injury forced the slide but he will prove to be a very good steal. I saw him as a 5th or 6th round pick so the value was outstanding in the early portion of round 7."
Jay Finley: RB from Baylor (seventh round, 246th overall)
This was easily their worst pick of the draft. I know we shouldn't get upset over a seventh round pick, but when you consider the fact that the Bengals can't sign undrafted free agents, this pick was important. In my opinion and in the opinion of everybody I talked to, Finley wasn't even the best RB on the board. I don't know why this pick was made. Finley isn't very fast or big. He doesn't grind out many yards after contact and doesn't make people miss in the open field. Barring injuries, I would be surprised if he made the team.
Overall Grade B+
This draft will ultimately come down to the success of Andy Dalton. If he becomes the franchise QB, this draft will be a win no matter what. Through in some great value picks like Green, Boling and Lindsey-Woods, and you have the making of a very solid draft that should contribute early and often. I heard rumors of the Bengals almost taking Fairley with the fourth pick and Mike Brown wanting Ryan Mallett at 35, had those two picks happened instead, I would have given this draft a C+ at best. I didn't like the Bengals waiting until their last pick to draft a RB in a deep class. If they want to help Dalton, they need give him a strong running game to work with. At this point, Bernard Scott is the starting RB. I didn't want Benson re-signed, but now we need him more than he needs us. You can't address every need, so overall this was a good draft.