With the NFL combine this week, through Friday we're taking a look at positions of need and who the Cincinnati Bengals might be looking at during the combine at those positions.
Position of need: Quarterback
Ah, yes. Quarterback. Is there a position of "need" that creates more buzz among the Bengals' fan base than this one? Even though there is at least one more truly pressing need on the roster, this one will end up drawing the most attention, especially if the Bengals keep open the possibility of wanting to bring in another backup for the inconsistent Andy Dalton. Again, rehashing points made earlier this week when looking at Cincinnati's pre-combine situations at running back, offensive line and defensive line, there are relatively few major draft concerns for the team this offseason. This draft is about depth and shoring up the players behind a mostly returning starting core. Still, that doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile to look at a solid young signal-caller, especially since this draft seems ripe with second-tier, middle-round talent.
At best, the Bengals might look to the third round to take a quarterback. If that is the case, as long as the best available player at that time happens to be a quarterback, don't be surprised if they decide to make that move. What would drafting a quarterback mean for the Bengals' current reserves? It likely would mean one of them would have to go. Josh Johnson and Zac Robinson are currently on the club's 53-man roster. Neither has done much, nor had the opportunities to inspire confidence in their abilities in the event something happened to Dalton. Greg McElroy finished the 2013 season on the practice squad, giving the Bengals another potential option at the position. Depending on who he might be, a new quarterback could leap-frog all three or potentially force at least one to get cut.
Three players the Bengals might be targeting (all three are expected to attend the combine)
Aaron Murray (QB), Georgia: If the Bengals realize in early May that they want to draft a quarterback, and if they by some strange twist in the cosmos were to give me a vote on which player they should select, I would implore them to give Murray serious consideration. Before an ACL tear sidelined him at the end of the 2013 season, he had been getting attention as a possible early-round pick. Toughness, an ability to play through injuries and leadership are some of the traits he's most known for exhibiting. At 6-foot, he is a shorter quarterback. But short or not, he is a Georgia Bulldog, and the Bengals' love affair with players from that school is quite apparent with the high rate of Georgia players who have been drafted by Marvin Lewis' staff over the years. It could help that one of Murray's first receivers at Georgia, A.J. Green, is Cincinnati's top pass-catching threat.
David Fales (QB), San Jose State: Like Murray, Fales' toughness has been noted, as well as his ability to pass both on the run and stationary in intermediate ranges. If the Bengals under new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson maintain the heavy emphasis on the short-to-intermediate passing game that his predecessor, Jay Gruden, had, then Fales could make for a good fit. From a size standpoint -- he's just under 6-foot-2 and weighs 220 pounds -- Fales compares to Dalton. Fales impressed all week at the Senior Bowl. During the game, he went 6-for-7 for 104 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the South team's win.
Tom Savage (QB), Pittsburgh: While Murray and Fales could be gone in the third or fourth rounds, Savage could end up being a late-round pick. If the Bengals decide to shore up other concerns through the first five rounds, Savage could be an intriguing possibility if they were to wait until late in the draft to select quarterback. On a conference call earlier this week, NFL Network's Mike Mayock called Savage a "wild card" who "nobody talks about." Similar to Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas, Savage, at 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, is a bigger-bodied quarterback who possesses a relatively strong arm. Thicker quarterbacks like that don't much match the Bengals' post-Carson Palmer approach, but he still could be one to watch late.