On day two of the 2011 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals took a quarterback many expected them to target in a trade up in TCU senior Andy Dalton. With Carson Palmer on his way out of town, it had been public knowledge for weeks that Cincinnati - and specifically offensive coordinator Jay Gruden - coveted Dalton as Palmer's heir apparent at quarterback.
Cincinnati had better hope their evaluation of Dalton is accurate, because from a talent standpoint, he was the biggest reach of Round 2 this year.
Dalton generated a ton of pre-draft buzz - so much so that he was considered a first-round lock despite mid-round talent (oops!) - thanks to impeccable intangibles and football smarts, great character, and a winner's mentality. Teams that run the West Coast Offense - like Cincinnati - were especially fond of Dalton, as it's in that system only that he projects as a possible starter in the league.
Like every other quarterback prospect this year, Dalton isn't ready to jump in and start from day one. He'll need to adjust to dropping from center, going through his progressions, and making reads and setting protections pre-snap. This will be a difficult transition. The big problem here is that there's nothing exciting athletically about Dalton; he's average-sized with average athleticism and slightly below-average arm strength.
Dalton is a gamer. He'll work at his craft. His teammates will respect him. He's landed in an offense that gives him a better shot at achieving success than most systems. It's also hard to deny the logic of the pick, given the desperate situation Palmer left them in at the game's most important position. But from a talent standpoint, the Dalton selection was a reach. Cincinnati needs to be right about him.