Bengals' new QB not 5th-round pick, just ask him

The Bengals got their quarterback during the 2014 NFL draft, but it wasn't in the first round like some had hoped.

One of those people might even be the draftee himself.

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron was selected with the 24th pick of the fifth round by the Bengals. He's expected to compete with Jason Campbell and Josh Johnson for the right to backup starting signal-caller Andy Dalton.

It was rumored that the Bengals were looking at top QB prospects, namely Teddy Bridgewater, as a possible replacement for Dalton, who has struggled in each of his first three playoff games.

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Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and owner Mike Brown ultimately decided to take cornerback Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State with the 24th overall pick, drawing criticism from fans.

Taking everything in stride, Dalton, who's is entering the final year of his rookie contract, took to Twitter to welcome his new understudy to Cincinnati.

McCarron tweeted that he's excited to get to the Queen City and soak up everything Dalton and position coach Ken Zampese can teach him. 

The fifth-rated quarterback in this year's draft continued to say all the right things later in the day.

"I'm confident in myself, but at the same time, I know Andy's the QB out there and I respect that," McCarron said on a conference call.

"All I want to do is go in and help us in whatever way I can. If that means me holding the clipboard for a couple of years and giving Andy reports during the week and watching film with him and helping him in any way I can, I'm just ready to do it."

While thankful to get an opportunity to make the roster in Cincinnati, McCarron might have a chip on his shoulder after a perceived slide in his draft value. 

He was projected as a second-round pick with great field awareness and all the "capabilities and traits" of an NFL starting quarterback, according to draft guru Mike Mayock with NFL.com. His familiarity with operating a pro-style offense didn't hurt.

But McCarron had to wait until the 164th pick, between 100 and 130 spots after he was expected to come off the board, to hear his name called.

The Bengals went with running back Jeremy Hill (LSU), defensive end William Clarke (West Virginia) and traded up to get center Russell Bodine (UNC) before snatching up their could-be QB of the future.

It was a surprise to McCarron, a two-time national champion at Alabama, who was not short on confidence coming into the draft. He responded "Why not?" when asked in early March if he considered himself the best quarterback in the draft.

In addition to his championship pedigree, the Mobile, Ala. native had one of the most productive tenures of any quarterback in the storied history of the Crimson Tide program. 

McCarron threw for 9,019 yards, 77 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in his four years in Tuscaloosa, collecting a slew of conference and school records in the process.

The 23-year-old also managed to land a relationship with former Miss Alabama, Katherine Webb. The couple, who were much talked about during McCarron's college career, are engaged to be married.

Even though he looks the part at 6-foot-4 and 214 pounds, McCarron was met with his fair share of criticism coming into the draft.

From a perceived lack of arm strength to being knocked for playing with elite talent at Alabama, some doubted his success was directly translatable to the NFL and used the dreaded "system quarterback" label to describe him.

While he's more athletic than some give him credit for being, there are questions about his mechanics and his tendency to "get sloppy," Mayock wrote.

It was also reported by ESPN's Chris Mortensen that several league officials didn't feel comfortable with McCarron after his sit-down interviews. Some described him as having confidence that borders on cockiness.

But that didn't seem to both the Bengals brass. In fact, they might even like it.

"The bar in his mind is set really high and I know he felt this is a long way down the road for him to get picked," Zampese said after the pick. "He's happy being picked, but he saw himself in a much higher light in regard to how the NFL saw him.

"I just know he sees himself as guy that's a starter, that's on top of the heap, that he can do all those things. And I love that about him."

It's a much different social demeanor than you see out of Dalton, who's sometimes critiqued for being humble to a fault and almost too selfless at times.

While critics may attack for other aspects of his game, McCarron won't have to worry about people in Cincinnati challenging his brash, in-your-face style. That is, as long as he backs it up out on the field.

"It's a mindset you have to carry in yourself," he said. "I feel like my play speaks for itself over the three years I started in the SEC. I definitely do."

McCarron and the other four players* drafted Saturday are expected to fly to Cincinnati in the next few days to meet with their new team and be introduced to the local media.

Veterans and rookies will report to Paul Brown Stadium on Wednesday to participate in the team’s offseason conditioning program.

*The Bengals drafted the following players with their remaining picks on Saturday: Arizona linebacker Marquis Flowers, LSU receiver James Wright and Georgia Southern defensive back Lavelle Westbrooks.

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