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The Bengals can now draft a true franchise QB prospect for the first time since Carson Palmer

For the second time since 2003, will the Bengals turn to the Heisman Trophy winner to turn things around after a losing season?

NCAA Football: Heisman Trophy Presentation Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With a wild loss to the Dolphins in Week 16, the Bengals have locked up the first-overall pick in the upcoming draft.

The last time the Bengals had the first overall pick, they selected the Heisman Trophy winner and the hottest quarterback coming out of college. It looks like the Bengals will do the same thing.

When the Bengals drafted Carson Palmer in 2003, they were coming off of a 2-14 season and their brand new head coach Marvin Lewis desperately needed a signal caller to turn things around. Palmer did just that, and the Bengals were division champions two years later. Of course, we all know what happened in the playoffs that year.

The Bengals are in a similar situation in 2019, set to finish either 1-15 or 2-14. Rookie head coach Zac Taylor will likely be looking to Joe Burrow to change the tides for the Bengals.

If Burrow is the pick, he will be the Bengals’ first “franchise” quarterback drafted since Andy Dalton in 2011.

So what is the difference between Palmer, Burrow, and Dalton as prospects?

First of all, Palmer and Dalton are the consensus best quarterbacks in their classes.

In 2003, Palmer was drafted first overall, but there was only one other quarterback taken in the next 17 picks. The next quarterback off the board was Byron Leftwitch with the seventh pick (and I’m not sure which is funnier: how big of a bust he was or the fact that the Jaguars took him because the Vikings didn’t get their pick in on time).

Dalton on the other hand, was the fifth quarterback taken in the draft. In hindsight, he has had the best NFL career of his entire class except for the first overall pick that year, Cam Newton.

But Palmer and Burrow owned or still own most school and conference records. When Palmer came out, he had his name at the top of nearly every single-season and career statistical category at USC, and several others in the PAC-10. Burrow similarly has many single-season LSU and SEC passing records.

While Dalton held many TCU records in passing, he is much further down the conference record books than either Palmer or Burrow. When Dalton played in college, TCU was in the Mountain West Conference, which is unlike playing in the highly competitive PAC-10 or SEC.

The point of all of this is that while Dalton has had a solid NFL career, he was nowhere near a top prospect like Palmer and Burrow.

How has Dalton had such a long and fruitful career? Largely due to the guy that the Bengals took ahead of him in the 2011 draft, A.J. Green.

Dalton and Green as iconic of a Cincinnati duo as Skyline Chili and spaghetti. They helped the Bengals reach the playoffs five years in a row, win the division twice, and combined for 10 Pro Bowls.

But take Green away from Dalton? The Bengals are 4-20 in games where Dalton has had to play without Green.

Hopefully Green will get a chance to have the same impact with Burrow.

The Bengals desperately need to use their first overall pick for the best prospect in the class. It’s a strategy the club has used before to elevate the team from its worst season in history. The Bengals are on the verge of either matching or setting a new low this season, so the fact that they need Burrow is undeniable.