Over the next four weeks, FishDuck.com Feature Writer Caleb Couturie will be analyzing the 25 teams in the NFL Draft that may look to select Marcus Mariota.
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CIN’s Draft Pick: Twenty-first
CIN’s 2015 Cap Space: $38,893,150
CIN’s Top Needs: DB, S, QB
Andy Dalton was a Pro Bowler this year. Let me say that one more time: Andy Dalton, with his 19:17 TD to INT ratio, was a Pro Bowler this year. Granted, that was thanks to seven other QBs declining to play, but still. Come on. This is the same Dalton that has managed to lead his offense to a total of 43 points in four straight playoff appearances combined. Although yes, it’s impressive that Dalton has lead his team to the playoffs for four straight years, averaging fewer than 11 points per playoff game is embarrassing. I mean hell, third string QB Ryan Lindley of the Arizona Cardinals managed 16 points in his first-ever appearance this year. Dalton is an average QB playing on an above average team, and a young above average team at that. Cincinnati could be one of the NFL’s best, but instead they’re stuck watching Dalton flop in primetime. It’s time for a change. Enter Marcus Mariota.
HOW IT CAN HAPPEN:
As mentioned above, Cincy is loaded with young talent. Just look at the RB position, where Giovani Bernard looked to be a Pro Bowler for sure before getting injured. All hope was lost, until rookie RB Jeremy Hill took over and proceeded to rush for 1,124 yards this season (good for eighth in the entire NFL). So, here’s what they do:
Cincinnati Trades: Dalton, Bernard, and 2015 first-round pick
Tampa Bay Trades: No. 1 pick
Although it feels like I just bashed Dalton a lot just a few moments ago, the guy isn’t terrible. He can make some good throws, and he’s definitely a Top 15 QB in the NFL. Basically, he’s average most of the time. A lot of teams, and I mean a lot of teams, would kill for an average QB. Tampa Bay is one of those teams, and considering how talented the receiving corps would be down there once Gio joined the crew Dalton should be set up to produce similarly to how he did in Cincy. Bernard is an extremely gifted back, and one of the best in the entire NFL at running routes and making big plays in the passing game. Balancing the power style running of Doug Martin and the finesse style that Bernand utilizes could give Tampa a pretty formidable one-two punch.
As for Cincy, they’re not going anywhere with Dalton. Tampa Bay needs him because he’s a big upgrade, but the Bucs are still a team with major needs. Cincinnati simply doesn’t have that many needs left. Besides a somewhat depleted secondary, the rest of their positions are pretty stout. They’re a QB away from making a serious playoff run, so why not take a chance on Mariota? The Hawaiian would bring a huge chance of pace to an offense that, somehow, struggled to score. A team loaded with that much fire power (see A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, Jermaine Gresham, Hill etc.) should not have ranked as the 15th best scoring offense. Although Mariota has the possibility of being a bust, at least Cincy would be trying to get better. Just sitting there waiting for Dalton to one day lead them to a Super Bowl will get them no where.
HOW MARIOTA WOULD DO IN CIN:
This is an iffy one. Cincy’s offense has a lot that plays to Mariota’s strengths, such as play actions and setting up solid screen passes, but it also relies heavily on the deep ball. Hitting an accurate deep ball is one of Mariota’s biggest weaknesses, so if he were to thrive in Cincinnati that would have to be his first area to improve. However, it’s hard to imagine a better situation for developing a deep ball than working with Green, one of the league’s best at going out and grabbing a bomb. Green excels at making plays in single coverage down-field, converting from a WR to more of a center fielder. He would be an excellent asset for Mariota’s development. Also, with Hill coming on as such a promising back, the defense wouldn’t be keyed in on Mariota. This would allow for more flexibility, as well as a lot more play action usage.
WOULD HE START?:
The only other QBs on Cincy’s roster as of right now are Jason Campbell and A.J. McCarron, so it’s doubtful he would ride the bench for very long. Hopefully Campbell would start a few games while Mariota got his sea legs under him, but after that he’s definitely the Bengals’ best option under center.
CIN’s Projected Record with Mariota: 10-6
CIN’s Projected Record W/O Mariota: 9-7
Mariota’s first year stats: 3,400 yards/25 pass TDs/11 INTs/5 Rushing TDs
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