Quarterback is not a position the Cincinnati Bengals are worried about at the moment. With Andy Dalton playing the starring role and AJ McCarron sitting behind him as one of the best backups in the NFL, there is no immediate need at the quarterback position in 2017. Even former Louisiana Tech quarterback Jeff Driskel seems like a solid member of the team who could play the third quarterback role if absolutely necessary. The team kept him around on the 53-man roster for all of 2016, making it seem like they see at least some potential in him.
That said, there might actually be some logic behind the Bengals looking at quarterbacks in the 2017 NFL Draft. Rumors that the Bengals will try to trade McCarron come and go, but he would probably net a sizable trade for how much the Bengals have invested in him so far.
Even if the Bengals don’t trade McCarron, he will likely leave Cincinnati once his rookie deal is over for a starting job elsewhere. Dalton is only 29-years-old and the Bengals have made it clear they’re committed to him for the long-run. So, there doesn’t seem to be a need for a new starting quarterback anytime soon. But, if the Bengals decide they want to invest in a quarterback, one of Mel Kiper’s top 10 quarterback prospects might be a good idea, if only for insurance purposes when McCarron inevitably leaves.
*1. Mitch Trubisky (North Carolina)
Trubisky is an athletic, mobile quarterback who looks built for the position. However, he’s relied on his passing game, rather than resorting to scrambling around. You aren’t going to find much better delivery out of any of this year’s prospects. He can create extra time outside of the pocket like Ben Roethlisberger and can work within the pocket well, although he needs to learn to recognize blitz packages better. It is unlikely he will flop in the NFL, but he will need some time and patience from his pro team before he can be truly great. The Bengals would be foolish to target him in the first round, though, it would be a shock if he fell to their pick at No. 9 overall.
**2. DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame)
Kizer coming out of college after only two years might be a bit of a red flag to teams, but he is an absolute threat as both a runner and a passer. In addition to a big arm, his throwing mechanics are very well refined. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the eyes or decision making ability that Trubisky has, so there is a chance he will experience a slight fall in the draft. The Bengals might be able to take him with the No. 9 overall pick but, again, it wouldn’t make much sense for a team with no plans to move on from their starting quarterback any time soon. It doesn’t seem as though this year’s top two quarterbacks are worth the Bengals spending a top 10 pick on when they won’t contribute any time soon and only pending injury.
*3. Deshaun Watson (Clemson)
Although he is only listed as Kiper’s No. 3 quarterback, there is a solid chance Watson could go No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft. The National Championship winner basically has all of the positive qualities of AJ McCarron multiplied tenfold. He is known as a leader and a winner who absolutely smashed Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl then led his Tigers to a win in the National Championship this January. He could stand to improve his consistency a bit and needs to learn to be patient with his progressions, rather than rush to the quickest answer. In a way, he’s reminiscent of both McCarron and Marcus Mariota. Like Trubisky and Kizer, there is no way the Bengals will be able to pick him up to be Dalton’s backup without overdrafting.
*4. Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech)
Mahomes could be picked up by a team in the later portion of the first round like the Texans or Chiefs who both had decent years, but do have some questions at quarterback. If they go in a different direction, the Bengals might have a shot at him with their second round pick. But, due to being an electrifying quarterback with excellent mobility, instincts, and ability to escape, Round 2 is the absolute latest he’ll be gotten, and that still seems too early for a backup. Like the others, he is almost certainly the kind of quarterback you would take to start, even though he could use some development with his footwork and familiarity with a pro-style offense.
*5. Brad Kaaya (Miami Fla)
The University of Miami’s strong arm field general might be the perfect quarterback for the Bengals to consider. Unlike the previously mentioned quarterbacks, Kaaya still needs to develop his pocket presence, vision, and mobility fairly significantly. For that reason, he is likely to slip to the third or fourth round, where the Bengals are likely to have multiple draft picks. He could be the next project backup to replace the success the Bengals have had with McCarron. Kaaya could be a guy the Bengals really consider.
Here’s the rest of Kiper’s top 10 quarterbacks:
6.*Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech
7. Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh
8. Chad Kelly, Mississippi
9. C.J. Beathard, Iowa
10. Antonio Pipkin, Tiffin
One asterisk denotes a junior, and two asterisks denote a redshirt sophomore for the 2016 season.
For reference and comparison, here’s CBS Sports’ list of the top 10 quarterback prospects for 2017