AFC North: NFL draft 2011

Bunkley joins Broncos, not Browns

August, 1, 2011
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Bunkley
Bunkley
The Cleveland Browns traded for former Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Brodrick Bunkley on Saturday.

But something happened in the past 48 hours that neither the Browns nor Eagles are willing to explain. Instead, Bunkley is now a member of the Denver Broncos after Denver traded an undisclosed draft pick in 2013, leaving Cleveland still thin on the defensive line.

So what happened? Did Bunkley refuse to report to Cleveland? Who knows? But it's been a poor start to the season so far for the Browns, who have failed to make significant progress by adding talent via trades or free agency.

Getting to know: Owen Marecic

May, 11, 2011
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We continue our series on getting to know incoming rookies in the AFC North.

[+] EnlargeOwen Marecic
Kyle Terada/US PressireThe Browns drafted Stanford fullback Owen Marecic in the fourth round to replace pending free agent Lawrence Vickers.
Wednesday we take a look at Cleveland Browns fourth-round pick Owen Marecic, who was drafted to replace pending free-agent fullback Lawrence Vickers.

Here is the full scouting report on Marecic from the draft guide of The Sporting News:

  • Strengths: Marecic is a tough, aggressive fullback who delivers a hard blow, but sometimes his technique slips and he does not get the movement needed to drive his man out of a play. When he does use good technique, he jolts defenders backward. Does a good job of pass blocking with good knee bend. Has good hands and can twist his body to catch off-target passes.
  • Weaknesses: Lacks the quickness, explosiveness, elusiveness and speed to take plays the distance. Has the ability to lead block, but doesn't use the best technique. Is not dangerous as a ball-carrier. Despite his ability to run through contract after the catch, he is not effective at gaining yards.

Share your thoughts on Marecic, who has a strong chance to start as a rookie for the Browns, in the comment section below.

Getting to know: Jah Reid

May, 10, 2011
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The AFC North blog continues its series on taking an in-depth look at the 2011 rookie class.

[+] EnlargeJah Reid
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackThe Ravens hope third-round pick Jah Reid can compete for the starting job at right tackle.
Tuesday we take a look at Central Florida offensive tackle Jah Reid, who was a third-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens. Right tackle was a major hole for Baltimore last season, and the Ravens hope Reid has the potential to fill it.

Here is the full scouting report from the draft guide of The Sporting News:

  • Strengths: Has tremendous height (6-7) and long arms. Shows a nice ability to widen the pocket and create space for his quarterback. Has good strength that allows him to knock defenders off the ball. Excels against stunts and shows the right amount of patience.
  • Weaknesses: Has difficulty blocking shorter defenders. Is not quick enough to thwart defenders who blitz off the edge. Has limited athleticism, which means he is less likely to be used as a swing tackle at the pro level.

In the comment section below, share your thoughts on Reid, who has a chance to compete for a starting job protecting Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco next season.
The AFC North blog continues its series on getting to know incoming rookies from the 2011 draft class.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Gilbert
Kim Klement/US PresswireSecond-round pick Marcus Gilbert adds to Pittsburgh's depth at offensive tackle.
Monday we take a look at Pittsburgh Steelers second-round pick and former Florida offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert, who was a college teammate of Steelers Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey.

Here is the full scouting report, courtesy of the well-respected draft guide of The Sporting News:

  • Strengths: Has surprising quickness, flexibility and agility. Pass blocks with a good base. Slides to the corner in time to cut off speed rushers. Uses good strength and long arms to eliminate his man from the play. Has strength to thwart the defender and open holes for the running back.
  • Weaknesses: Gets beaten and pushed around by defenders too often. Does not punch aggressively or get good hand placement in pass protection. Has a bad habit of stopping his feet and reaching, and gets beaten around the corner often.

Those are good strengths but also pretty bad weaknesses Gilbert needs to improve if he wants to protect two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Share your thoughts on Gilbert joining the Steelers in the comment section below.

Getting to know: Greg Little

May, 6, 2011
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The AFC North blog continues its series on taking an in-depth look at the 2011 rookie class.

[+] EnlargeGreg Little
Bob Donnan/US PresswireWith his size (6-foot-2, 231 pounds) and soft hands, Greg Little could eventually become a No. 1 receiver for the Browns.
Friday we take a look at former North Carolina wide receiver Greg Little, who was the second-round pick of the Cleveland Browns. Here is Little's full scouting report from the annual draft guide of The Sporting News.

  • Strengths: Is a well-built receiver with good size and playing strength. Is a smooth and fluid athlete with the body control, hands and coordination to adjust and make the tough catches seem routine. Little played on the basketball team at UNC and wins most jump-ball battles with defenders. Has excellent, natural hands. Shows the ability to easily run through hits and arm tackles and can stiff-arm defenders to gain yards after contact easily. Is fearless catching passes in traffic.
  • Weaknesses: Lacks burst off the ball. Displays just adequate acceleration and doesn't have the speed to get separation on deep routes. Needs to work on his "route tree" in order to become a polished receiver and get separation against NFL defenders.

Share your thoughts on Little, who will compete for a starting job in Cleveland next season, in the comment section below.

Getting to know: Andy Dalton

May, 5, 2011
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Similar to last year, the AFC North blog will take an in-depth look at recent draft picks to get our community more familiar with the 2011 rookie class.

[+] EnlargeTexas Christian quarterback Andy Dalton
AP Photo/Darron CummingsThe Bengals are hoping Andy Dalton will be their quarterback of the future.
We begin Thursday by taking a look at former TCU quarterback Andy Dalton, who was taken by the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round to replace longtime starter Carson Palmer. Here is Dalton's full scouting report from the well-respected annual draft guide of The Sporting News.

  • Strengths: Is a good athlete who makes big plays with his feet and arm. When he feels the pass rush he has the foot quickness and athleticism to avoid the sack, buying a second chance and getting out of the pocket. Has a strong enough arm to make all the NFL throws. Flashes the ability to make throws 20-plus yards downfield with good zip and accuracy. Displays good foot quickness while dropping back to pass and can plant and drive off his back foot to get rid of the ball quickly on short "out" routes. Is a smart young man who can learn NFL offenses and passing schemes.
  • Weaknesses: Despite his quick release, his slight pull-back when he starts his delivery is a problem, because it leads to defenders closing quickly on downfield passes. When he does not stride into throws his accuracy suffers and at times he puts too much zip on passes and it leads to them falling behind the receiver. Needs to adjust to dropping back from center, going through progressions and making quick and accurate throws.

Share your thoughts on Dalton, one of the newest AFC North additions, below.
Ike Taylor, Chad Ochocinco and Lawrence VickersAP PhotoDraft-day moves by their teams could mean Ike Taylor (Steelers), left, Chad Ochocinco (Bengals), middle, and Lawrence Vickers (Browns) will be wearing different uniforms next season.
While one dream was being made last week, another was coming to an end.

Saturday in California, former Stanford fullback Owen Marecic happily took a call from the Cleveland Browns in the fourth round. Marecic was excited to be entering the NFL and knowing his destination in 2011.

Soon after, current Browns fullback and pending free agent Lawrence Vickers' phone began buzzing constantly to let the veteran know Cleveland likely drafted his replacement.

"Honestly, my first reaction was 'Wow,'" Vickers told the AFC North blog this week. "I'm amazed. I was amazed I was still a free agent and wasn't signed [by the Browns] before the deadline. I didn't understand it. But at the same time I do understand, because nothing has ever come easy to me. So I was prepared for it.

"If they want me, they want me. If they don't, they don't. As a man, you have to be prepared for anything. But in the back of my mind I thought I would be in Cleveland."

Welcome to the harsh world of the NFL.

As teams were making draft picks last week, each move to replace players and plug holes could impact what AFC North teams do in free agency. Let's take a look at where each division team stands.

Cleveland Browns

Top draft picks: DT Phil Taylor, DE Jabaal Sheard, WR Greg Little, FB Owen Marecic

Potential impact: The Browns were in need of talented players and could have as many as four Week 1 starters in this year's draft class. Health permitting, Taylor and Sheard are heavy, heavy favorites to start at defensive tackle and defensive end, respectively. Cleveland doesn't have many bodies at those positions. Little will be thrown into a receiving corps that includes Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi. Both have struggled and Little, who missed last season at North Carolina because of a suspension, will have every chance to compete for a starting role. But Marecic was the pick that turned some heads. The Browns were eerily quiet about Vickers' pending free agency this offseason, and speculation began to grow that the new coaching staff didn't feel he was a good fit for the West Coast offense. Those thoughts were confirmed Saturday, when Cleveland made a surprise pick for a fullback in the fourth round. Vickers, one of the top blocking fullbacks in the NFL, is expected to test the market, where he will surely get interest. The Browns did a good job of filling holes but still need to address certain areas. Safety and the right side of the offensive line remain glaring needs.

Cincinnati Bengals

Top draft picks: WR A.J. Green, QB Andy Dalton, OLB Dontay Moch, G Clint Boling

Potential impact: Cincinnati's first two picks were not a surprise, but both were telling. It likely signaled the end of the Chad Ochocinco-Carson Palmer era with the Bengals. Both veterans, who have been the faces of the franchise for years, are under contract. But Ochocinco is in the final year of his deal and is expected to be traded or released following the acquisition of Green. Palmer wants to be traded or he plans to retire, which is why the Bengals drafted Dalton. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is already projecting Dalton to be the Week 1 starter. Cincinnati should get all the value it can for Ochocinco and Palmer. It's questionable whether any team is willing to trade and pay the approximate $6 million for one year with Ochocinco. But it takes only one team. With Palmer, there will be several teams lined up and ready to pounce if the Bengals put him on the market. Cincinnati's coaching staff appears ready to move on without Palmer, so it will come down to ownership. Bengals owner Mike Brown said recently that the team has no intention of trading Palmer. The Bengals did not draft a cornerback until the seventh round (Korey Lindsey), but that probably has no bearing on pending free agent Johnathan Joseph. Cincinnati isn't expected to retain Joseph, who will be one of the league's top free agents. But the team has Adam Jones for insurance to pair with starter Leon Hall. The Bengals also want starting tailback and pending free agent Cedric Benson back, as evidenced by the team not drafting a replacement.

Baltimore Ravens

Top draft picks: CB Jimmy Smith, WR Torrey Smith, OT Jah Reid, WR Tandon Doss

Potential impact: The Ravens took one of the biggest risks in the draft by selecting Smith of Colorado. He has a long list of off-the-field issues at Colorado, but the Ravens feel confident Smith will stay out of trouble. In terms of talent, Baltimore landed a player with the potential to be the team's first shutdown corner since Chris McAlister. Smith is expected to start right away, and this impacts two pending free agents in Josh Wilson and Chris Carr. Wilson played well for Baltimore once he earned the starting job in the second half of the 2010 season. With the pickup of Smith, Wilson and Carr are no longer huge priorities in free agency. The Ravens are getting Domonique Foxworth back from a knee injury and Lardarius Webb is still on the roster. The pick of Torrey Smith in the second round fills a need for a speedy receiver to pair with Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin. He is expected to fill the No. 3 receiver role T.J. Houshmandzadeh will leave behind. Ravens coach John Harbaugh also spoke highly of Reid, the team's third-rounder. Former starting offensive tackle Jared Gaither was injured last season and has been in the doghouse for quite some time and isn't expected to return. In terms of holes, the Ravens still need an impact pass-rushing threat to pair with Pro Bowl defensive end/linebacker Terrell Suggs.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Top draft picks: DE Cameron Heyward, OT Marcus Gilbert, CB Curtis Brown, CB Cortez Allen

Potential impact: The Steelers stayed true to form by drafting for depth in the first two rounds with Heyward and Gilbert. Barring injury, both players will be put in the rotation but are not expected to start. But the third and fourth rounds are where things got interesting for Pittsburgh. The Steelers went with cornerbacks in back-to-back rounds with Brown and Allen. They hope one or both rookies can make an immediate impact. That might be asking a lot for the reigning AFC champions. Brown was the second-best corner on his team at the University Texas to Aaron Williams, on whom the Steelers passed in the first round. Allen played at a small school (Citadel) and will make a significant jump to the NFL. All of these factors increase the value of Ike Taylor, who is Pittsburgh's biggest free agent. The Steelers' No. 1 corner would fill an important starting role and take a lot of pressure off the team's young corners. That way Brown, Allen, Keenan Lewis and Crezdon Butler can all compete for reserve roles and develop at a more gradual pace. The price tag will be the biggest question. The going rate for solid cornerbacks this offseason has been about $10 million per season. It's doubtful the Steelers are willing to pay that much to retain Taylor. Also look for the Steelers to fill their kicker positions in free agency and perhaps add another backup tailback to replace Mewelde Moore.
The Pittsburgh Steelers may not admit it, but the urgency to re-sign top cornerback Ike Taylor probably increased this past weekend.

Taylor

Taylor


Taylor is Pittsburgh's biggest unrestricted free agent this offseason, and the team failed to land a top-rated cornerback in the NFL draft. The Steelers filled other needs in the first and second round before addressing the position.

The Steelers picked Texas cornerback Curtis Brown in the third round and Citadel corner Cortez Allen in the fourth round. Pittsburgh feels both players have potential. But based on their draft status, it's rare for a rookie taken in the middle rounds to be ready to start right away for a Super Bowl contender.

If Taylor is re-signed, this would help the transition of the younger corners. Similar to last year, Taylor and Bryant McFadden would be the starters for the Steelers, while young corners like Brown, Allen, Crezdon Butler and Keenan Lewis can compete for backup roles.

But the going rate for free-agent cornerbacks is extremely high this offseason. Oakland Raiders corner Stanford Routt recently signed a deal averaging $10 million per season, which could set the market for free agents like Taylor and Johnathan Joseph of the Cincinnati Bengals.

With those kind numbers being thrown around, there's no guarantee Taylor will return to the Steelers. If that's the case, one of Pittsburgh's inexperienced corners might have to step up into a starting role in 2011.
Over the next few years, the Cleveland Browns and their fans should keep an eye on the defensive line of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Why, you ask? Because that is where former Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers landed with the No. 51 overall pick in the second round.

[+] EnlargeDa'Quan Bowers
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesThe Browns skipped over Da'Quan Bowers, above, in the second round and instead took defensive end Jabaal Sheard.
Bowers was a dominant pass-rushing end in college and a top-10 talent before knee concerns plummeted his stock. Cleveland entered the draft extremely thin at defensive end and passed on Bowers twice.

The Browns skipping Bowers is the first round was expected. But, fair or unfair, Cleveland picking Pittsburgh defensive end Jabaal Sheard adds some additional pressure on the second-round pick. The Browns passed over Bowers for another prospect at the same position, but general manager Tom Heckert was happy with the decision.

"He's a good football player we think he can play the run, he obviously can rush the passer," Heckert said. "I think he was the defensive player of the year this year in the Big East. He's a really good player. He was a guy we targeted a long, long time ago and we were happy he was there. We were a little nervous about it but we’re glad he was there."

Time will tell if Heckert was correct. But previous Browns regimes have been known to pass over great players.

Minus the knee concerns, many felt Bowers had the potential to be a future Pro Bowler. That would not be good for Cleveland, especially if Sheard doesn't have the same level of production for the Browns.

Keep tabs development as both young defensive ends progress in their careers.
The 2011 NFL draft is in the books, and we have another interesting poll question for our community. This week the AFC North blog wants to know who will be the better NFL quarterback: Christian Ponder or Andy Dalton?

Both were projected to go late in the first round or early in the second round. But the Minnesota Vikings pulled off the shocker of the draft, selecting Ponder No. 12 overall Thursday night. Dalton was picked the next day by the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round, No. 35 overall.

Minnesota received a lot of heat for picking Ponder so high, while the Bengals have been commended for waiting and getting solid value in the second round.

But is Ponder the better NFL quarterback? He suffered some injuries in college and had an up-and-down career at Florida State. Ponder will join a veteran team in Minnesota and could start early if the team does not acquire a veteran this offseason such as Donovan McNabb.

Or will Dalton perform better than Ponder? Dalton was a favorite of a lot of talent evaluators for his accuracy and winning ways at TCU. Dalton is going to a rebuilding team in Cincinnati but is expected to be the Week 1 starter with Carson Palmer threatening retirement.

Using our SportsNation poll, vote for which player will be the better NFL quarterback and share your thoughts in the comments section below.

AFC North draft grades are in

May, 1, 2011
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ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. has turned in his draft report cards, and it's clear Kiper is impressed with the AFC North.

Here is a recap:

Cincinnati Bengals

Kiper's grade: A-

Analysis: Kiper likes the fact the Bengals got good values while filling big needs. Everyone knew entering the draft that receiver Chad Ochocinco and quarterback Carson Palmer were on their way out in Cincinnati. But the Bengals were still able to land their targets in Georgia receiver A.J. Green and TCU quarterback Andy Dalton without losing picks in the process. Reportedly, the Atlanta Falcons offered Cincinnati a similar deal to the one they eventually gave Cleveland and the Bengals turned it down. Whether that was the right move or a mistake will depend on how the Green pick pans out.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Kiper's grade: B+

Analysis: Kiper is correct in saying Pittsburgh had a "typical unflashy" draft. But solid prospects like Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward and Florida offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert have a chance to be solid contributors for a long time. The only criticism I would have for Pittsburgh is it didn't draft a cornerback in the first two rounds. Third-round pick Curtis Brown of Texas and fourth-round pick Cortez Allen from the Citadel could be steals. But usually middle-round picks at cornerback are developmental players who need time to adjust to the NFL, and the Steelers need an immediate impact at this position this upcoming season.

Cleveland Browns

Kiper's grade: B+

Analysis: The Browns have been getting praise nationally for their shrewd deal with Atlanta to trade the No. 6 overall pick for five draft choices -- and rightfully so. With Cleveland's roster very thin at many positions, this was a good time to stockpile draft picks and build for the future. Similar to Pittsburgh, the Browns didn't get any flashy, home-run picks in this draft. But Cleveland added solid talent. Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor and Pittsburgh defensive end Jabaal Sheard are expected to be Week 1 starters for the Browns.

Baltimore Ravens

Kiper's grade: B+

Analysis: How this draft will be remembered for Baltimore will hinge on first-round cornerback Jimmy Smith, who I think is the biggest boom-or-bust candidate in the AFC North. Smith's talent is undeniable, but his rap sheet is lengthy as well. The Ravens know they are taking a risk, but they're comfortable with their decision. If Smith stays out of trouble, this class could be very solid. I also like the pick of Maryland receiver Torrey Smith, who could be a nice addition to stretch the field for veteran starters Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason.

AFC North fourth-round notes

April, 30, 2011
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Several interesting draft picks came off the board in the fourth round of the NFL draft.

Here are some notes on the AFC North:
  • The Cincinnati Bengals took Georgia offensive tackle Clint Boling in the fourth round. Boling also will get a look at guard, where the Bengals struggled last season. But Cincinnati could use versatility and depth at both positions next season.
  • The Cleveland Browns made a somewhat surprising selection in the fourth round with USC tight end Jordan Cameron. Tight end is one of the few positions the Browns have depth with starter Benjamin Watson and backup Evan Moore.
  • The Browns also took Stanford fullback Owen Marecic with their second fourth-round pick. This likely signals the end of veteran free agent Lawrence Vickers' tenure in Cleveland. Vickers is one of the top power fullbacks in the AFC. But the Browns are switching to a West Coast offense, where Vickers is no longer a great fit.
  • The Baltimore Ravens continue to add youth at receiver by drafting Indiana's Tandon Doss in the fourth round. He will join fellow rookie Torrey Smith of Maryland to compete for backup roles behind starters Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason.
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers added their second cornerback from this draft in Cortez Allen from the Citadel. Pittsburgh was very thin at the position, but now has Allen and third-round pick Curtis Brown from Texas to add to the mix. With Ike Taylor and William Gay both free agents, there's no guarantee either player will return.

Poll: Who had the better Day 2?

April, 30, 2011
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The second and third rounds of the NFL draft are in the books for the AFC North, as all four teams looked to add solid contributors to their rosters.

But in Saturday's SportsNation poll, we ask which division team had the best Day 2 picking players?

Was it the Cincinnati Bengals? In the second round they believe they found their long-term solution at quarterback in TCU's Andy Dalton, who should fit in well with Cincinnati's new West Coast offense. Dalton is expected to replace Carson Palmer, who threatened to retire if he isn't traded. In the third round the Bengals also got a pass-rushing outside linebacker in Dontay Moch, who had 30 career sacks at Nevada.

What about the Cleveland Browns? They had two second-round picks Friday and continued to build their defensive line with Pittsburgh defensive end Jabaal Sheard, who is aggressive getting to the quarterback. North Carolina receiver and third-round pick Greg Little also gives the Browns much-needed help at receiver, and his size and ability to run after the catch should help young quarterback Colt McCoy.

The Baltimore Ravens continue to plug their holes with Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith and Central Florida offensive tackle Jah Reid. Smith adds a deep threat the team has been looking for to complement veteran receivers Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin. Reid has a chance to compete for the starting right tackle spot opposite Michael Oher. Did Baltimore draft the best pairing in Day 2?

Finally, the Pittsburgh Steelers addressed two needs by getting Florida offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert and Texas cornerback Curtis Brown. Gilbert is a former teammate of Steelers Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, and the Steelers hope Gilbert can develop into additional protection for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh is very thin at cornerback, and the team needs Brown to develop early and potentially make an immediate impact defending the pass.

So cast your vote on which AFC North team had the best Day 2 of the NFL draft and share your thoughts below.
Andy Dalton/A.J. GreenUS PresswireAndy Dalton and A.J. Green are going to be the centerpieces for the rebuilding Cincinnati Bengals.
The Cincinnati Bengals have officially ushered in a new era.

With franchise quarterback Carson Palmer and former Pro Bowl receiver Chad Ochocinco aging and disgruntled, the team drafted their replacements in quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green. Cincinnati's urgency to replace the soon-to-be former faces of the franchise is the strongest sign yet that the Bengals are blowing up the core and starting over.

Technically, Palmer and Ochocinco are still under contract with Cincinnati. But behind closed doors, the team knows it's likely both veterans played their final game in a Bengals uniform. Palmer demanded a trade, put his house on the market and says he's willing to retire, while Ochocinco has joined the offseason campaign to get out of Cincinnati.

With both players well over 30 and past their prime, the Bengals appear willing to oblige.

"It seems like a lot of guys might not be around," Dalton admitted Friday when he was drafted. "But the guys that will be there will get in and have one goal in mind -- and that is to win a lot of ballgames."

At times Cincinnati can be unpredictable with personnel, but it executed a well-thought out plan to land new building blocks. Green is the draft's best receiver and Dalton was a top-five quarterback, depending on which team you survey.

If you want further proof the Bengals are moving on, head coach Marvin Lewis was already talking about Dalton's prospects of being the Week 1 starter in September.

Carson who?

Lewis called Dalton an "important, important piece" to the team.

Could the Dalton-Green combo match the Palmer-Ochocinco combo? Obviously, there are very big shoes to fill.

Palmer and Ochocinco have been one of the NFL's most prolific passing duos for the past eight years. Palmer threw for 22,649 yards and 154 touchdowns in Cincinnati. Ochocinco is the franchise's all-time leading receiver with 10,783 career yards. And according to ESPN's Stats and Information, the 46 touchdown connections for Palmer and Ochocinco ties them for 26th all time for a quarterback-receiver pairing.

Dalton and Green may not pass those statistical milestones. But that doesn't mean this pair can't win, which is something Palmer and Ochocinco struggled with in Cincinnati. The veterans combined for just two playoff appearances and zero postseason wins. Cincinnati has not won a playoff game in 21 years.

If Dalton and Green can eventually win playoff games, Bengals fans will forget the days of Palmer and Ochocinco as fast as you can say "Pepto Bismol."

The key to making this all work will be Dalton.

Every quarterback prospect this year has holes. Dalton is considered undersized and doesn't have a cannon for an arm. He's far from the sure-fire No. 1 overall pick Palmer was eight years ago. But if Dalton can get Green the football consistently, good things will happen in the Bengals' new West Coast offense.

The Bengals believed in Dalton early in this pre-draft process. He set a Mountain West Conference record with 42 career victories at TCU. He was 13-0 in his senior year and led the Horned Frogs to a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin.

"I feel like I'm a leader," Dalton said. "I know how to push guys; I know what it takes to push guys. I’m excited to come in, learn the different personalities of everybody there, get on the same page with everybody, and just get to work."

In 2001, the Bengals drafted Ochocinco in the second round, and they got Palmer in the first round two years later. This year the Bengals flip-flopped, using a first-round pick on a Green and a second-round pick on Dalton.

The final step for the Bengals may be the hardest. It's time for Cincinnati to trade Ochocinco and Palmer, and get as much value for them as possible. Player transactions are on hold with labor uncertainty. But as soon as trading and free agency opens, the Bengals should put both players on the market.

The Bengals had a chance to trade Ochocinco three years ago and were scared to pull the trigger, but they seem more open to the idea now.

Cincinnati owner Mike Brown has said he will not trade Palmer. But with Dalton now in the fold and several teams probably willing to give up a sizable bounty for Palmer, it would be in Brown's best interest to let go of the quarterback.

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