Will Ryan Mallett make it to Bengals?

There is pre-draft speculation linking Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett as a possible second-round target of the Cincinnati Bengals. But will Mallett still be on the board for Cincinnati at No. 35?

New evidence suggests the Bengals could have competition. Lately, the New England Patriots have put a lot of resources into researching top-rated quarterbacks. Last week they met with Washington's Jake Locker, and this week the AFC North blog has learned New England will host Mallett for a two-day visit on Monday and Tuesday.

New England is a wild card in the quarterback derby because the team obviously has reigning NFL MVP Tom Brady entrenched as the starter. But Brady will be 34 in August. He is signed through 2014 and will be 37 at the end of his contract. At some point within the next few years, the Patriots need to find and begin grooming their quarterback of the future.

The Patriots hold two first-round picks (No. 17 and No. 28) as well as the No. 33 overall pick to start the second round. This gives New England tremendous flexibility to go in a lot of different directions. The Patriots also can use recent flirtations with Locker and Mallett to explore trade possibilities with other teams more desperate for a quarterback.

Perhaps no team is more desperate at quarterback than the Bengals. The position is in turmoil after starter Carson Palmer demanded a trade and threatened to retire this offseason. Cincinnati likely will take a quarterback with one of its first two picks.

Possibilities include Auburn's Cam Newton and Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert in the first round and TCU's Andy Dalton, Florida State's Christian Ponder and Mallett in the second round.