The Cincinnati Bengals have shown a tendency to draft players from the University of Georgia, with seven former Bulldogs on the roster, including stars Geno Atkins and AJ Green. If Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis decide to go back to that well in the 2014 NFL Draft, the player might just be quarterback Aaron Murray, as reported by Carlos Holmes, who figures to be drafted in the middle rounds of this year’s process.
In deciding whether taking Murray makes sense, several factors come into play. There is no shortage of people who question if current signal caller Andy Dalton is good enough to get the Bengals to a Super Bowl. The team has made the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, but have yet to win a playoff game, and Dalton in particular has looked pretty lackluster in those losses. Arm strength and pocket presence are the biggest knocks on Dalton. He’s effective on shorter routes, but struggles to consistently hit his target on deep and intermediate routes. There is also a propensity to panic under pressure and make either take drive-ending sacks, or, even worse, throw a ball into coverage that is intercepted. The coaching staff has stated their support of Dalton, but the Bengals could draft Murray to be a quality backup and spot starter.
As for Murray himself, there’s a lot to like. He’s a record-breaking passer at Georgia, and in the SEC. He is an experienced starter and a proven winner, and more importantly, he’s a tough player who has all of the desirable characteristics a team looks for. He’s a leader and gets guys to play hard for him. The question marks with him are essentially the same questions that continue to follow Dalton: size and arm strength. Fans who are looking for an upgrade at quarterback might be disappointed in selecting a player who is so close to the incumbent.
The Bengals have a talented and deep roster, and could afford to take a chance on a quarterback in this year’s draft. Fans are pining for a big-named, big-armed replacement, but the franchise seems happy with keeping Dalton, so drafting a solid backup could be the route they choose. If that’s the case, Murray makes sense. He’s dependable, experienced, and a leader. These are things that will attract Bengals coaches, and of course, playing at Georgia doesn’t hurt.