My favorite players were off the board by the time we snagged Gresham. So I really don't have a very strong opinion on what I might have done besides take Gresham, though I know I probably wouldn't have taken him. But let's just go through the exercise of what else could have been done (within reason, I am not going to get all crazy with trades, it rests too much on hypotheticals) because it's important to look not just at what you got with Gresham (that's easy) but what you forgo by taking him.
The proverbial Opportunity Cost.
First, the easy one: Dez Bryant. People are not excited by Gresham's blocking prowess. They are excited by his receiving skills. So basically the Bengals chose between what kind of receiving target they wanted. The decided a TE was the way to go. Okay fine. Talent like Dez doesn't normally fall to 21 that often though, while you can get perhaps comparable TE talent at 21 in basically every draft it seems. Also, Chad is aging and needs to be replaced. So if Dez works, he fills the third receiving weapon option for Carson and perhaps takes over for Chad. I think Dez would have been a better straight up pick.
Second, you had a couple of guys at positions with less obvious needs but were hugely talented and had fallen. Bryan Bulaga (OT) and Dan Williams (DT). With Bulaga, maybe you put him at LT and move Whitworth back to guard and that makes our line instantly better. Maybe it makes it worse. Maybe you put Bulaga at LG and hope he learns it. I love having excess talent on offensive line, but I also want to win now and I am not sure he makes us better. I'm okay with Gresham instead I suppose, but honestly would be okay with this pick. You can dream all about Carson throwing to Bryant, Chad and Gresham but it will remain just that if he's running for his life. Regardless, the Packers sure got a nice little surprise picking behind us.
With Dan Williams, you would need to insert him in a DT rotation with Peko, Tank and Sims. That's a pretty competent group already and maybe you upset the natural order. Or maybe you have a fucking juggernaut center of your d line. I happen to think we are weaker on d line than people realize. This would be have been intriguing. And remember, with both those picks, you're getting talent at 21 that normally doesn't come to 21. That's the beauty of drafting at 21 without an obvious need in a stacked draft. The opportunity cost doesn't seem big by forgoing Williams or Bulaga but I worry.
Third, I think we need more pass rush. Jerry Hughes was the most highly rated prospect by that Football Outsiders SackSEER thing. Fuck it. Grab that guy. You aren't getting him in the second. Would you rather give Zimmer a toy or Bratkowski? I'd probably prefer to bet on Zimmer.
Fourth, the opportunity to trade back for more picks. Look, as I just mentioned, drafting 21st in a stacked draft when you have no glaring needs puts you in a great position. But what did we do? We just drafted the best available player at our position of perceived greatest need. It's also a position, Tight End, where the variability around the average isn't all that great. In other words, if you take the number 2 guy (Gronkowski or whoever) the odds are he's going to be basically as good a pro as the number 1 are pretty good. I just think that minimized the power of our position.
Trades galore occurred right after us. Would I have loved if we traded up a few picks to grab an interior lineman? Yes, but who knows if there was a willing counterparty. However, we have good reason to suspect there were willing counterparties to trade back. If you could have swung a high 3rd rounder or christ, a 2nd rounder, just to move back to the end of the 1st round that would have been fine. Take the Gronkowski guy for chrissake. I've read people who think he's the best prospect anyway. Then you get your fucking beloved TE and an extra pick.
My conclusion: once again the front office shows an uninspiring and predictable draft effort. Every mock draft had us taking him thus finally proving what we all suspected: even your most pedestrian sports writer with only a passing knowledge of the Bengals could, in his spare time, draft for the Bengals and produce the same result. And he could do it for free! Mikey, cost savings alert!
That said, the talent in the draft and the Bengals draft position bailed them out. Gresham is a fine pick if Carson gets the time to actually throw to him. If Greshman becomes another Todd Heap at worst it will be a good pick despite the fact I believe the opportunity cost of taking him is higher than the benefits he will bring. Let me say from what I now know about the guy's attitude I REALLY like. Love that there was no party for himself. Love that he went to bed early. Love the gym rat stuff. Love that he's arrogant about his ability. Sounds focused and intense and full of swagger. So fuck it. What's done is done.