Believe it or not, there are plenty of reasons why the Bengals might want to take a quarterback late in this year's draft. It might seem like an unnecessary move for a team like the Bengals with two starting caliber quarterbacks on the roster, but that actually might be exactly why putting a small investment into a developmental player could be so useful.
Andy Dalton was on track for the best season of his career with 3,250 yards passing, 25 touchdowns, and seven interceptions in only 13 games and the first quarter of their Week 14 excursion to Pittsburgh. And, backup quarterback AJ McCarron looked good in his place for the final quarter of the NFL season, throwing for 1,066 yards, seven touchdowns, and three interceptions in three games and three quarters of the game in which Dalton left. That kind of production from the second string quarterback is enough to make you feel safe at the position, even without the incredible stat line from your starter.
So, then, why would the Bengals want to pick up another quarterback? First of all, there's the issue with staying healthy. Obviously the Bengals want Dalton and McCarron to go into the season fully practiced and prepared, but both quarterbacks have dealt with a serious injury over the past couple of years. McCarron, in particular, sat out for virtually his entire rookie season with shoulder issues. And, we all know Dalton fractured his thumb in Week 14 of the 2015 season and only recently started throwing again.
Having an insurance policy at quarterback with McCarron is nice, but don't forget that he too almost went out with a wrist injury on the final play of the team's Week 16 game in Denver. He came back the following week to lead the Bengals to victory over the Ravens, but the idea of potentially having to play Keith Wenning in the playoffs seemed pretty scary. Having a better quarterback on the practice squad or even in a reserve role on the roster would have come in handy.
Let's also remember that McCarron might not be in Cincinnati forever. Mike Brown has already said that he won't rule out the possibility of trading him for the right price. Furthermore, as a starting caliber quarterback, it would be a shock to see him re-sign with the Bengals when his contract runs up after 2017. For that reason, the Bengals should probably think about grooming someone else soon.
Obviously, the Bengals aren't going to even consider someone like Jared Goff or Carson Wentz through the scouting and drafting process, but here's a few players the Bengals could potentially get in the sixth or seventh rounds, or even as a priority free agent:
Hogan is a massive project. He took over at Stanford for Andrew Luck, one of the best NFL draft prospects in recent memory. The difference is, Hogan isn't anywhere close to where Luck was at the time. However, he does have the intangibles. He was a winner in college, is very intelligent, and has the kind of personality that coaches love. Unfortunately for him, those traits don't quite translate to effective game film.
Hogan could very well be the kind of player who really takes advantage of an opportunity with an NFL team, providing they are willing to be patient with him. It might take a couple of years before Hogan is ready for the speed of the NFL, which is why the Bengals could take and develop him now.
Projected round: 6-7
The Bengals were recently noted as meeting with and privately working out Louisiana Tech defensive tackle Vernon Butler. However, there's a chance that they were also keeping an eye on Jeff Driskel. He's been compared to Drew Stanton in that he has the prototypical NFL quarterback build and impressive arm strength. But, injury problems hampered his career at Florida to the point that he transferred and finished his career with the Bulldogs. He's another prospect that an NFL team will need to invest both time and patience in. Luckily, those are two luxuries that the Bengals have with their current quarterback situation.
Projected round: 7 - FA
Coker had some big shoes to fill at Alabama a year after McCarron left for the NFL, but he generally performed well at the position. He's likely to come into the league with some of the same injury concerns that plagued McCarron early on with the Bengals. He also tends to hesitate with his throws on top, having a fairly narrow quarterback vision. Still, a 147.0 quarterback rating on top of a national championship upset over the undefeated Clemson Tigers makes him a very intriguing project who the Bengals could develop.
Projected round: 7 - FA
Ultimately, the Bengals could really do just about anything they want in the draft this year. They did well enough in re-signing their unrestricted free agents that there are only a few glaring holes that need to be fixed as soon as possible. Using a late-round pick on a project player who can fill in after the inevitable departure of McCarron is a luxury that the team can probably afford, so why not go for it?