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How Bengals could have a QB fall into their laps in Round 1

Quarterback may not be the primary plan for the Bengals in this year’s draft, but the opportunity may still present itself.

NFL Combine - Day 3 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The NFL draft is nothing if not unpredictable. Months of evaluations and projections can all be thrown out the window with one pick.

All of that talk about player X not being worthy of a top-10 pick? He was just taken seventh overall. That team that was for sure targeting a defensive end? They just picked a wide receiver.

This is the sort of unpredictability that Eric Edholm’s most recent mock draft tries to project. As fans we have a habit of digesting similar mock drafts for months with slight changes to them, and we lose perspective of how realistic a mock draft like his could be, which has the Bengals landing Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins with their 11th overall pick:

I thought about an offensive lineman, but how often do chances to draft a developmental QB come up like this? Andy Dalton has an extremely team-friendly contract, and the Bengals can move on from him at basically any point with no collateral damage. Grooming Haskins in what should be a rebuild season would be a deft move. New head coach Zac Taylor was asked at the scouting combine what he sought in a potential quarterback addition, and it seems to fit Haskins’ traits to a tee.

“The important thing is are they going to elevate the level of play of the people around them,” Taylor said. “Are they ready to lead and be accurate, can they get the ball out on time, are they tough physically and mentally? So if a guy has all those traits and you are willing to invest the time in them to figure out what they do best, how they process information and how to get the most out of them, then [they] have a shot to succeed.”

As far as this draft goes, Haskins is probably one of the best quarterbacks a team could end up with (depending on your feelings about Kyler Murray). He is only a one-year starter, but his production is far from an issue. 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns with only eight interceptions while completing 70 percent of his throws put him in the Heisman trophy race, and his improvement was noticeable as the season went on.

He also has great experience with modern schemes after playing in Ohio State’s spread offense, which makes you think he could be a perfect fit for where the Bengals offense is headed under Zac Taylor.

Haskins is far from a complete product, though. Having just one year of starting experience, he has much to improve in both the mental and physical aspects of the game. He needs to improve his mechanics, anticipation for throws down field and to just generally handle throwing the ball outside of the pocket better.

None of these things are deal breakers for him potentially being a franchise quarterback, and of course he’d have a year or two of learning behind Andy Dalton if he were to end up in Cincinnati.

The way this particular mock draft ended up unfolding really didn’t leave the Bengals with many other options either. Linebackers Devin White and Devin Bush were taken already. Ed Oliver also didn’t escape the top 10. Offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor was also off the board.

Realistically, the only player who would’ve been as high as Haskins on the Bengals’ board would’ve been Jonah Williams — if they even view him as an offensive tackle. But when you have a chance to get a franchise quarterback or a quality offensive lineman, most teams will lean towards the quarterback.

This has so many chances not to happen though. The Giants, Broncos, Raiders and Jaguars (if they are thinking about life after Nick Foles already) all passed up on Haskins in this scenario. You could also include the Dolphins trading up at any point from the 13th pick to leapfrog the Bengals as a major possibility.

If any of those teams had taken Haskins, Cincinnati would’ve been left with someone like Oliver, Taylor or Bush at 11, and they would probably be just as happy. In this case, though, the Bengals were able to pair a franchise quarterback with their new head coach.