4. Cincinnati Bengals - , Auburn Tigers
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis may be trying to catch more flies with honey than with vinegar when it comes to long-time quarterback Carson Palmer (while subsequently dousing Chad Ochocinco in gasoline), but most are of the opinion that it doesn't really matter how much of the delicious green-tea additive (my preferred usage, of course) he uses, the Bengals are probably going to be in the market for a quarterback this offseason.
With Blaine Gabbert going first overall to the Carolina Panthers, the Bengals are left with only one feasible option with a top-five pick, in Cameron Newton. For them, that's not something to despair over, so long as they do with Newton what they did with Palmer. It's a bit of a misnomer because the 2011 NFL Draft is deep on quarterback prospects who could develop into starters over time, and that's what Cincinnati will probably end up doing, while Newton is a guy who many perceive as someone a struggling franchise will grab and start right away.
I think it will be just the opposite, and the Bengals will go with the super-high potential of Newton and bring in a veteran to get things done in the meantime. Does he project cleanly into their projected 2011 offense? Probably not, but again, Newton will get every opportunity to learn on the Bengals and become exactly what they want to shape him into. Wide receiver and cornerback remain high team needs, but the sudden need for a signal caller forces the Bengals to pull the trigger on Cam as he falls.
They'll consider Marcell Dareus, Da'Quan Bowers and A.J. Green, but quarterback trumps all, and Newton is especially easy to go with early on with the Bengals and their propensity to let off-the-field issues slide, coupled with a potential rookie wage scale to make the prospect of drafting a quarterback top five much easier on the balance sheet.