The season is over for the Cincinnati Bengals and most of the other teams in the NFL. That means it's time to look back and reflect on the season, in particular the youngest members of the team. The Bengals had a good season and they owe a lot of thanks to the rookies who aren't necessarily rookies anymore. Guys like A.J. Green and Andy Dalton helped propel this team into the playoffs, which would make anybody think that the Bengals had one of the best drafts in 2011.
Now that the season is over, ESPN's Mel Kiper went back and regraded every team's 2011 draft. Before the season started, he gave the Bengals an A-, which was the highest grade in the AFC North. That grade has now been upgraded to an A+.
Summary: All right, throw me a bone here. I get a lot of stuff wrong, but this tied for the best draft grade, and, honestly, could it have turned out much better? The Bengals got A.J. Green at No. 4, stayed out of the mad rush for quarterbacks that Tennessee, Jacksonville and Minnesota all got involved in, then got Andy Dalton 23 picks after the Vikings got Christian Ponder. So you get 16 starts out of Dalton and Pro Bowl-caliber play out of Green (even as he fought through a shoulder injury), and Dalton's presence allows you to ship Carson Palmer to Oakland for what will end up as a No. 1 and a No. 2 pick. That's a pretty massive haul, and we didn't even mention a playoff run yet. No wonder Mike Brown was pegged as the executive of the year. That said, there isn't a ton of production after the top two picks. Dontay Moch could be a very good pass-rusher but got hurt; Clint Boling gave the Bengals some starts at guard but also was dinged up. Still, when you factor in the added value of future picks, this was a home run. Again, we don't know what Dalton's ceiling is, but we're grading on where this draft class is now, just as we graded it on potential and value back in April.
The Bengals not only drafted Green and Dalton, but they selected linebacker Dontay Moch, guard Clint Boling, safety Robert Sands, wide receiver Ryan Whalen, cornerback Korey Lindsey and running back Jay Finley. Neither Finley nor Lindsey ended up making the team, but all the others did. Moch was hindered by a health issue throughout the majority of the season, Clint Boling started the first couple games of the season but was eventually benched, Ryan Whalen produced through the last few games of the regular season and Sands was inactive throughout the majority of the season. The two biggest players were Dalton and Green, but those two produced the majority of the Bengals' offense and Dalton's success was largely responsible for Mike Brown feeling comfortable enough to trade away Carson Palmer.
So, if I had to re-grade the Bengals 2011 draft, I'd have to go with an A+ as well. What would you give them?