Let's finish with our preliminary evaluation of the 2011 NFL Draft for the four AFC North squads with a breakdown of the Cincinnati Bengals' selections.
Cincinnati Bengals (4-12 ; 4-2)
Total Draft picks: 8 (one per round + two 7th rounders)
First Round Pick: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
The Steelers secondary will be challenged by arguably the best player in the 2011 NFL Draft. If the Bengals have a quarterback who can get Green the ball. The Bengals now have a very interesting nucleus of young playmakers in Green, Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham. The promising trio might make it easier to pull the plug on the Chad Johnson era in Cincinnati.
Best 'Value Pick': Clint Boling, OL, Georgia
Boling may not be the most athletic offensive lineman in the world, but he's versatile (can play both guard and tackle), is durable, and will bring a much-needed no-nonsense blue collar work ethic to the Bengals. I don't think Boling ever was considered a fringe first round talent, but I also didn't expect to see him slide all the way down to the fourth round. Great value for the Bengals here.
Sleeper Selection: Robert Sands, FS, West Virginia
Sands could have also qualified as a top 'value' pick -- the dynamic DB was taken in the fifth round despite having a long highlight reel of explosive plays from college + top performances in many of the combine's workouts. Sands will probably get burned a few times before learning how to toe the line between aggressive ball-hawking and taking disciplined angles that don't expose his team to huge plays. But once he learns that, Sands could be a really nice player in this league. In the meantime, he'll have an opportunity to contribute on special teams for the Bengals right away.
'Boom/Bust' Selection: Andy Dalton, QB, TCU
I don't know, it's all speculation at this point. The kid has been scrutinized by draftniks for months and months now, and the consensus seems to be that Dalton will mold into a 'franchise' quarterback for some team. I just don't see that happening. I think his ceiling is just about where Ryan Fitzpatrick's is, a former Bengals signal caller who only flashed signs of being a top-15 QB after he got to Buffalo. If Dalton turns out to be a winning QB for the Bengals, this draft is a huge success. If not, well, then it will be hard for it to be considered anything but so-so.
Overall Grade: B-
If you're a bigger believer in Dalton than I am, then this grade should be higher in your book. But I'm not convinced. Outside of that selection though, I think the Bengals did fairly well. Not mentioned above is their third rounder, Dontay Moch, a 245 pound DE/OLB who ran a 4.44 at the combine. He's not as strong as he needs to be just yet, but he's fairly freakish athletically (42 in. vertical) that could really help the Bengals' blitz packages as early as this year. All in all, a solid draft for the Bengals -- one that has the potential to be great if a few players develop the way they expect them to.
AFC North Draft Grades: