Is this the year the Bengals finally look to upgrade their quarterback situation?
Probably not, but you can never say never, especially when it comes to the NFL Draft. While the Bengals are expected to take a developmental quarterback in the latter rounds of this draft, it’s highly unlikely they take one in the first round.
21. CINCINNATI—LAMAR JACKSON, QB, LOUISVILLE
The Brown family has a shake-it-up history at quarterback dating back to Boomer Esiason in round two of 1984, and this would certainly shake up the locker room and the draft. So many reliable draftniks (Mayock, McShay, etc.) think Jackson has the potential to be the most exciting and productive quarterback in this crop—but you’ll have to cater your offense to him. Isn’t that what good coaches do? Get very good players and cater their schemes to fit the players? I like this pick for the Bengals, even if it could push Andy Dalton (five of seven starting seasons with a sub-90 passer rating) out of town in 2019.
You could actually argue the Bengals would be taking a developmental quarterback here. as most expect Jackson to need at least a year or two on the bench to develop into an NFL passer. The Bengals have also had an orthodox streak of first-round picks not playing much, if any as rookies.
Jackson largely relied on his legs to beat teams in college, though he did make a lot of progress as a passer in 2017. Still, he’s probably not going to be ready to operate an NFL offense consistently for a playoff team as a rookie.
While you can argue the Bengals are actually a legitimate playoff contender, that is how they’re approaching this season, as evidenced by big offseason acquisitions in Preston Brown and Cordy Glenn.
The Bengals want to win now, but they should also plan to have a quarterback of the future if they think Andy Dalton isn’t worth keeping beyond 2020, the final year of his contract. They can actually get out of his contract next year and not owe Dalton any money, though that’s unlikely to happen.