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Bengals and Andy Dalton get little respect in ESPN ranking of NFL quarterback depth

Dalton and McCarron didn’t get much love in this ESPN ranking.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals had a lot of issues in 2016, but the quarterback position wasn’t among them.

Despite playing behind a bad offensive line while not having A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert for stretches, Dalton still managed to have a productive season while finishing with a 91.8 passer rating.

This came after Dalton had one of the best seasons of any quarterback in 2015, so you’d think he’d be getting a decent amount of respect in any kind of quarterback ranking.

Not so at ESPN, who ranked the quarterback situations of all 32 teams. They put the Bengals’ quarterback group in the ‘holding steady’ category and ranked 16th overall.

16. Cincinnati Bengals

One of a few teams (including Carolina and Tampa Bay) whose draft seemed to be aimed at making its quarterback's life easier, Cincinnati used a top-10 pick on speedy wide receiver John Ross and a second-rounder on controversial but talented running back Joe Mixon. You can draft like that when you're confident in your quarterback situation, and the Bengals are. Andy Dalton's performance ticked downward a bit in 2016 from its excellent 2015 levels, but he still completed 64.7 percent of his passes and averaged 7.47 yards per attempt in spite of major injuries to -- and free-agent defections from -- his skill-position group.

Backup AJ McCarron has some experience and is valuable enough that the Bengals turned down trade offers this offseason. This is one place where the Bengals have no worries.

These rankings also take into account the backup quarterback situations, but it’s mostly based on how good the starter is, at least in ESPN’s eyes. McCarron has shown he’s one of the best backup quarterbacks any NFL team has, while Dalton has shown he can be a top-10 quarterback when he has all of his weapons.

As long as Green and Eifert play most, if not the entire 2017 season together, expect Dalton to have another top-10-caliber season. That’s not even accounting for what running back Joe Mixon and wide receiver John Ross will bring to the table. Ross is arguably the best receiver in this draft class when healthy, and Mixon could be the best running back if he stays out of trouble.

There’s a chance that this ends up being the deepest group of offensive playmakers Dalton has had at any point in his six-year career. The potential for Dalton to have a great season is as high as it’s ever been, and McCarron should be serviceable if he’s forced into duty.

This ranking should not be indicative of how the Bengals’ quarterback group performs in 2017.