The vast majority of the mock drafts are sending A.J. Green to Cincinnati. Many of the Bengals fans are on board.
I am not.
In fact, I think picking A.J. Green – or even Julio Jones for that matter – could be one of the worst moves in Cincinnati’s painful, pitiful draft history.
1) Wide receivers don’t win games. You don’t need to even step out of the division to see that. Pittsburgh and Baltimore have been successful year in and year out, racking up regular season victories and playoff wins without a game-breaking wide receiver. Detroit took three first-round wideouts in successive years. They won zero games in a season shortly thereafter. Coincidence? I think not. A lot has to happen up front and everywhere else for a receiver to even get a chance to make an impact.
2) Cincinnati already has Chad Ochocinco, Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell, Jermaine Gresham, and Jordan Shipley. Sure, Ochocinco may get traded, but it can’t happen until a labor agreement is reached. Furthermore, Caldwell and Simpson have contracts that expire at the end of this season. Why draft another wideout who could push them farther down the depth chart and take them off the field? Cincinnati needs to find out what it has in Simpson and Caldwell. And both played well enough down the stretch last year to earn a look this season.
3) It doesn’t matter who the receivers are if the Bengals have an ineffective quarterback in 2011. Or if the offensive line can’t protect for him. I think Cincinnati’s best chance to compete in 2011 is to follow the path of the Ravens and Steelers and try to win with defense. The team should draft the best defensive player available at No. 4 and then address the other areas of need later (quarterback, running back, offensive line, then maybe wide receiver).
4) I’m not convinced Green and Jones are drastically better than some later-round alternatives. Pitt wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin is the same height as Green, 17 pounds heavier and only a tenth of a second slower in the 40-yard dash. He’s also ranked the 56th best prospect, which could make him available in the late second or early third round. LSU wide receiver Terrence Tolliver is nearly identical to Green in height and weight and only four-tenths of a second slower in the 40. He’s expected to be picked somewhere around the fourth round. There are other players just like that, which should make you wonder about the wisdom of a first-round wideout.
In my mind, it makes perfect sense. Forget what the mock drafters and many fans are saying. There’s no need for a wideout at No. 4.