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In 2011 NFL Draft: Cincinnati Bengals Shift Focus to the Future

As far as Cincinnati Bengals drafts go, this was a pretty good one. After all, the team will come out of draft weekend with: a player widely considered to be the best available in the draft; a legitimate candidate for Quarterback of the Future; and a linebacker who can make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. Oh, and they got some o-line help and even (holy cow!) a safety.

Praise has been widespread and generous. The Hair gave Cincinnati an A-. So did Sporting News' Clifton Brown gave them an A. Rob Rang, Pete Prisco and Fox's Adam Caplan all B's. And according to the CJ poll a few posts down, 92 percent of fans give the draft a B or higher.

In summary, everyone's got their Bengal on again. So it looks like it's up to me to stand athwart the tide of history and yell, "STOP!"

Yeah, I know: as the late Bill Buckley Jr. continued, doing so is a feckless endeavor, but I feel compelled to point out that this happens just about every year. The Bengals always win the offseason. The real thing is usually a different story.

Assuming there's a season at all, the Cincinnati Bengals will almost certainly be a bad team in 2011. Even if the lockout is resolved in the coming week and players can go back to work, integrating a new offensive system, and new No. 1 WR and a new starting QB is a gargantuan task. And it isn't just AJ Green who has to find a rhythm with Andy Dalton, it's Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham who, counting their final year of college play, look to be on their third QB in three years. And the offensive line has to adjust to a new QB and a new cadence, which takes time.

Put it all together and you have all the elements needed for a complete train wreck on offense. Look for struggles with consistency, lots of pre-snap movement penalties (what else is new?), timing problems, route snafus -- the whole list of growing pains that comes with building a new offense. I expect they will get better as the season goes on, giving us hope for 2012, but if they win six games this year I'll be amazed.

IF Cincinnati had wanted to win this year, the draft would have looked very different. Wide receiver and quarterback would have been ignored, at least until late in the draft. Instead, they would have stocked up on defensive players early in hopes of getting the D back to its top-10 status while planning on a re-run of 2009 on offense, featuring lots of unbalanced line sets and 40+ runs a game.

That would have arguably been a better strategy, at least in the short term, but it would have only pushed off the inevitable rebuilding at WR and QB for one more year. With Carson Palmer apparently a lost cause, and Chad Ochocinco, Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell all free agents in 2012, the writing was on the wall.

So I applaud the Bengals' brain trust's decision to turn their attention to the future and cease trying to revive the corpse of 2005. It was the right move. But don't expect it to look very pretty this fall.