Bengals Draft History


The AFC North has become one of the best divisions in football over the past decade. It’s no secret that the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers are the class of the AFC North. The Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns are seemingly chasing their division rivals year in and year out.

Since 2000, the Ravens and Steelers have won two Lombardi Trophies each. One of the biggest reasons the Ravens and Steelers have been so successful is their ability to draft smart players and develop them into stars.

I want to take a look at the Bengals drafts compared to those of the Steelers and Ravens since 2003. This analysis will hopefully provide a better understanding of why the Bengals division rivals have had better results over the past decade.

2013 NFL Draft

2013 NFL Draft

A few key notes before getting started:

– The graphs below indicate players drafted from rounds 1-7
– Only one player per round is included in the graph
– For years where teams had multiple picks per round, the most significant player is included
– There is no discussion of the fourth AFC North team, the Cleveland Browns

2003 Draft

2003 NFL Draft

2003 NFL Draft

The Good

Carson Palmer was the consensus top pick and the Bengals used their #1 pick to draft the USC quarterback. Eric Steinbach was a very solid OG for the Bengals and a good pick in the second round. Finally, Jeremi Johnson was a good value pick in round 5 and was the starting fullback for a few years in the Queen City.

The Bad

Kelley Washington and Dennis Weathersby were serviceable, but the Bengals missed out on some supreme talent in these later rounds. Pro Bowlers Brandon Lloyd and Jason Witten went well after Kelley Washington while Weathersby was selected 25 picks prior to Asante Samuel.

The Competition

The Steelers and Ravens both drafted a force on the defensive side of the ball. Troy Polamalu and Terrell Suggs have been wreaking havoc on the AFC North since the day they were drafted. They continue to be two of the best defensive players in the NFL, while Carson Palmer left town nearly two years ago after refusing to play for the Bengals.

Consensus

The Bengals had no choice but to draft Carson Palmer with the top pick. With that being said, Terrell Suggs and Troy Polamalu have exceeded Palmer in every aspect of the game. While Polamalu and Suggs have become perennial Pro-Bowlers, the Bengals don’t have any of their 2003 draft picks on the current roster.

2004 Draft

2004 NFL Draft

2004 NFL Draft

The Good

Madieu Williams, Landon Johnson, and Stacy Andrews were all solid picks in the middle rounds. Additionally, Robert Geathers was a steal in round four and is still a contributor on the defensive side of the ball.

The Bad

Chris Perry. The Bengals traded back and watched as the Rams selected Steven Jackson two spots ahead of them. Michael Turner was also selected later in this same draft.

The Competition

The Steelers drafted Ben Roethlisberger with the 11th pick and have enjoyed the luxury of two Lombardi trophies since. They also picked up Max Starks in the 3rd round who was a major force on the right side of their line during the 2005 Superbowl season.

Consensus

The Bengals had some good value picks in the middle to late rounds and found a sleeper in Geathers. However, they completely whiffed on the Chris Perry pick in the first round. The Steelers solidified their offensive line and drafted a potential hall of fame quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger. Steven Jackson would have looked great in stripes.

2005 Draft

2005 NFL Draft

2005 NFL Draft

The Good

David Pollack and Odell Thurman were a force for the 2005 Cincinnati Bengals. They solidified the defensive side of the ball and made some game changing plays for the Bengals. Chris Henry and Eric Ghiaciuc were major contributors in Cincinnati. Jonathan Fanene was a good value pick in round seven.

The Bad

David Pollack and Odell Thurman each played one season in Cincinnati after injury and character issues. The Bengals missed out on some other defensive players such as Justin Tuck and Nick Collins, who are both pro-bowl caliber players.

The Competition

The Steelers gave Roethlisberger his favorite target when they drafted Heath Miller in round one. Trai Essex and Bryant McFadden were also solid picks for Pittsburgh in the second and third rounds.

Consensus

2005 is generally considered a weak year for the NFL Draft. The Bengals were unlucky with the injury to David Pollack and took a chance on Odell Thurman. The Steelers got better on the offensive side of the ball with Heath Miller and Trai Essex.

2006 Draft

2006 NFL Draft

2006 NFL Draft

The Good

The Bengals made good picks in the first four rounds of the draft. Johnathan Joseph, Andrew Whitworth, Frostee Rucker, and Domato Peko have all been major contributors in Cincinnati at some point in their careers. Whitworth and Peko are two experienced leaders on the current Bengals roster.

The Bad

You could maybe make the argument the Bengals should have taken Elvis Dumervill over Peko in round four, but this was a very good draft for Cincinnati and one which set them up nicely for the future.

The Competition

The Steelers gave Ben Roethlisberger another weapon by drafting Santonio Holmes in round one. Holmes would become a major threat in the AFC North and eventually caught the winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLIII. The Ravens added Haloti Ngata on the defensive side of the ball. Ngata has been a force from day one and continues to wreak havoc in his seventh season with the Ravens.

Consensus

This was a successful draft for the Bengals in the sense that they found some solid starters and eventual leaders of the team. However, Pittsburgh and Baltimore drafted two difference makers in this draft. Santonio Holmes stretched the field and helped keep defenses honest, while Haloti Ngata is a major force on the defensive line and changes games week in and week out.

2007 Draft

2007 NFL Draft

2007 NFL Draft

The Good

Leon Hall has been a very consistent corner for the Bengals since being selected in the first round. Marvin White and Chinedum Ndukwe were good value picks in the mid to late rounds of the draft.

The Bad

Kenny Irons didn’t appear in a single regular season game for the Bengals. Cincinnati missed out on guys like Steve Smith, Jacoby Jones, and Michael Bush.

The Competition

The Steelers improved defensively by drafting linebackers Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley with their first two picks. Both players are still major contributors in the Steelers’ famous 3-4 defense. Baltimore added Ben Grubbs and Le’Ron McClain who were both solid players on the offensive side of the ball while with the Ravens.

Consensus

The Bengals addressed their biggest need at the time by drafting Leon Hall, but the Kenny Irons pick hurts. The Steelers continued to add high level talent and began paving the way to another Super Bowl win.

2008 Draft

2008 NFL Draft

2008 NFL Draft

The Good

Pat Sims and Anthony Collins were good value picks in the middle rounds. Collins remains a key contributor on the offensive line.

The Bad

Keith Rivers was selected one pick ahead of Jerod Mayo, while Jerome Simpson was selected three picks prior to DeSean Jackson. Things could look a lot different in Cincinnati with those playmakers on each side of the ball.

The Competition

The Ravens drafted the cornerstone of their recent Super Bowl title by selecting Joe Flacco and Ray Rice. Flacco and Rice have helped turn a traditionally defensive minded organization into a well balanced football machine. Today, the Ravens are equally dangerous on both sides of the ball.

Consensus

This one hurt for the Bengals. While the Ravens improved dramatically, the Bengals missed out on two major talents in the first two rounds. Anthony Collins and Pat Sims are solid NFL players, but Ray Rice and Joe Flacco instantly elevated Baltimore to the next level.

2009 Draft

2009 NFL Draft

2009 NFL Draft

The Good

Michael Johnson, Kevin HUber, and Bernard Scott were all good picks for Cincinnati. All three players remain consistent contributors. While many fans won’t agree, Rey Maualuga has been a serviceable and consistent linebacker.

The Bad

Andre Smith has been a headache since he was selected with the number six pick. The Bengals ignored his character issues and selected Smith over Michael Oher, Eric Wood, and Alex Mack.

The Competition

The Steelers added another major playmaker on the offensive side of the ball with Mike Wallace. The Ravens had three solid picks with Michael Oher, Paul Kruger, and Ladarius Webb.

Consensus

This was another draft where the Steelers and Ravens added a playmaker on either side of the ball and the Bengals simply added depth. Michael Johnson and Rey Maualuga have been good players, but Mike Wallace is a difference maker who coaches need to adjust for. Finally, Andre Smith has not lived up to his top ten selection.

2010 Draft

2010 NFL Draft

2010 NFL Draft

The Good

Jermaine Gresham, Carlos Dunlap, and Geno Atkins have played a major role in the recent success of the Bengals. Gresham has provided a big target down the middle of the field, while Dunlap and Atkins have helped create one of the best defensive lines in the NFL.

The Bad

Jordan Shipley was a disappointment after being selected in the third round. Eric Decker was drafted two picks after Shipley and has had a much better career.

The Competition

The Steelers added a pro bowl caliber center in Maurkice Pouncey and also found a solid playmaker in Emmanuel Sanders. The Ravens got better on defense by adding Terrence Cody, while also adding two effective tight ends in Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta.

Consensus

The Bengals had their best draft in years and added some core players which have helped lead them to two consecutive playoff appearances. The Steelers and Ravens did what they always do by adding players to fit their schemes.

2011 Draft

2011 NFL Draft

2011 NFL Draft

The Good

Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are the cornerstone of the Cincinnati offense for the foreseeable future. Green is an absolute superstar and will be the best receiver in the NFL within two years, if he isn’t already. Additionally, Clint Boling and Dontay Moch were solid additions in the mid rounds.

The Bad

It might be too early to tell, but Andy Dalton was drafted one pick ahead of Colin Kaepernick. It will be interesting to see where Kaepernick and Dalton stand a few years down the line. For now, it looks like the Bengals may have made the wrong decision.

The Competition

The Ravens drafted a a dynamic playmaker by selecting Torrey Smith in the second round. Smith has allowed the Ravens to stretch the field and gave Joe Flacco a much needed deep threat.

Consensus

Time will tell, but this might be the draft that proves the most beneficial for the Bengals. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have led Cincinnati to back to back playoff appearances and are considered one of the most dynamic threats in the NFL.

2012 Draft

2012 NFL Draft

2012 NFL Draft

The Good

Kevin Zeitler and Mohamed Sanu had instant impacts in their rookie seasons for the Bengals. Additionally, Orson Charles looked promising as the tight end opposite of Jermaine Gresham.

The Bad

Dre Kirkpatrick missed his entire rookie year and the Bengals still aren’t sure what to expect from their previous first round selection.

The Competition

The Steelers upgraded their offensive line in the first two rounds while the Ravens added to their linebacking corps and found a sleeper in round three by selecting Bernard Pierce.

Consensus

It’s too early to tell winners and losers, but the Bengals should be happy with Zeitler and Sanu. Zeitler will be a force on the offensive line for years to come, while Sanu has potential to be the receiver opposite A.J. Green. If Dre Kirkpatrick can bounce back from an injury plagued 2012, this could prove to be a very successful draft.

The Future in Cincinnati

The Future in Cincinnati

Breaking down the last ten drafts provides a good understanding of why each of these teams are where they are today. It’s crazy to think, but the Carson Palmer pick from 2003 ended up being a bad pick for the Bengals. Pittsburgh and Baltimore picked two standout defensive players in that same draft who have been much more valuable than Palmer.

The biggest difference between the Bengals and their division rivals has been their inability to draft playmakers. Ray Rice, Mike Wallace, Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller, Troy Polamalu, Torrey Smith, and Terrell Suggs are all players who’s athletic ability changes games. From 2003 to 2010, the Bengals added depth and some solid NFL talent, but they weren’t drafting pro bowl caliber players.

When Marvin Lewis agreed to a contract extension in 2011, he demanded more scouts and attention on player development. Notoriously reluctant owner, Mike Brown, agreed and the Bengals have already seen the fruit of that labor. Cincinnati has found elite talent in their last three drafts and made the playoffs for consecutive seasons for the first time in thirty years.

As a result of more scouting and commitment to player development, Cincinnati has one of the youngest and most talented teams in the NFL. Baltimore and Pittsburgh remain the class of the AFC North and have earned their right to be considered among the best franchises in the league. The Ravens and Steelers have utilized a proven draft strategy to remain relevant every season.

Cincinnati is never very active in free agency and relies on the draft to improve their roster and grow as a team. It appears Marvin Lewis and his staff have figured out a better approach to evaluating talent over the past three or four years. By adding a few more pieces in the 2013 draft, the Cincinnati Bengals could finally compete for a world championship and prove they belong in the AFC North.

By Jimmy Coffaro Posted in Bengals

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