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John Clayton Ranks Bengals Andy Dalton Worst Starting QB in the NFL

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In the NFL, and in football in general, a team lives and dies with it's quarterback. An elite quarterback can turn a good team into a Super Bowl winning team and a mediocre quarterback can turn a winning team into an 8-8 team. Quarterbacks are ranked in classes. There's the elite class and then the ones that exist beneath it. ESPN's John Clayton groups quarterbacks in the NFL into three groups -- the elite, the Chad Pennington Division and the Hit or Miss division. When the Bengals drafted Carson Palmer with the first overall pick in the 2003 draft, many thought that the next coming of Peyton Manning was coming to Cincinnati and for a few of Palmer's eight season, he looked like he belonged in the elite class. That's not the case anymore.

Now that Palmer's gone, the team has moved onto second-round pick Andy Dalton. Even though there has only been three preseason games on which to judge the NFL's 2011 quarterbacks, even the rookie quarterbacks who will be starting this year, Clayton feels confident that he can rank them and place them in divisions. 

He ranked Dalton as the worst starting quarterback in the NFL.

33. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

Analysis: Carson Palmer gave his heart, soul and body to make the Bengals a winning franchise. After two playoff losses and years of enduring frustration, Palmer gave up. Now it's Dalton's turn to try to do the same with a smaller body and not as strong an arm.

Arrow is pointing: down

Easy there, John. I understand the concept of ranking quarterbacks but I feel that placing Dalton at the bottom of the barrel before he even has a chance to prove himself in the regular season is a little much. Sure, if he looks terrible half way through the regular season, then go ahead and make your list, but it's a little too soon for that, I think.

Dalton's place on this list doesn't necessarily mean he's the worst quarterback. It reflects a lack of confidence that the Bengals can and will win football games. In the NFL quarterbacks are judged by their ability to win. Clayton is ranking Dalton's chances to win as a Bengal, not his actual skill level at the quarterback position. 

I'd be willing to bet that if things went a little differently and the Bengals drafted one of the other rookie quarterbacks like Cam Newton, Ryan Mallett or Blaine Gabbert and they were starting the season in stripes, Clayton may have ranked them dead last and Dalton ahead of them.

Really, though, it doesn't matter. Nothing that anybody says about Dalton or the Bengals will matter until the regular season starts. I, for one, am hoping that they prove a lot of analysts wrong.