Cincinnati Bengals: Grading the Bengals' 2008 NFL Draft Class

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistJune 19, 2012

Cincinnati Bengals: Grading the Bengals' 2008 NFL Draft Class

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    As of late, the Cincinnati Bengals have been widely praised for their NFL draft strategy, most recently with their selections in the 2012 NFL draft.

    With the general rule of thumb saying that it is unfair to grade a draft class until after three years have passed, the jury is still out on the Bengals' 2012 NFL draft class.

    However, using that same three-year rule, it would be fair to look back and place a final grade on the Bengals' 2008 NFL draft class. The class was headlined by one USC linebacker named Keith Rivers, and had a few key role players sprinkled in for good measure in the middle rounds. 

    This slideshow will examine each selection's career with the Bengals to date, and apply a final grade to the pick based on the contributions to the team and where the pick was overall in the draft. At the end of the slideshow a final, conclusive grade will be assigned to the 2008 draft class.

    Here are the final grades for the Cincinnati Bengals 2008 draft class:

Round 1: Keith Rivers, OLB, USC

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    The Cincinnati Bengals made USC linebacker Keith Rivers the No. 9 overall selection in the draft after his stellar play at at the collegiate level.

    Rivers was solid on the field for Cincinnati when he was healthy, which was a rarity. He never played a full 16-game season with the Bengals, and missed all of the 2011 season.

    Rivers' career to date is best summed up by the blindside shot he took by Pittsburgh Steelers' wide receiver Hines Ward, which broke his jaw. To date Rivers has only compiled 121 tackles and to sacks.

    To make matters worse the former first round selection was phased out by free agent acquisitions and ultimately shipped out of Cincinnati for a measly fifth-round pick.

    Rivers failed to come close to meeting the expectations of a top ten selection, and for that he is a bust and a failed pick by the Bengals front office.

    Grade: C-

Round 2: Jerome Simpson, WR, Coastal Carolina

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    Jerome Simpson came from a small school but had a massive vertical entering the 2008 NFL draft. The Cincinnati Bengals made Simpson the surprise No. 46 overall pick in the draft.

    Simpson proceeded to ride the bench for his first two seasons because he had issues learning the playbook. For a second-round selection, that is simply not getting it done.

    The man known for leaping defenders in a single bound had a breakout season last year, recording 725 yards and four touchdowns. Despite these stats, he was extremely inconsistent and followed up the season with a marijuana run-in with the law and was promptly allowed to walk in free agency.

    To add insult to the injury of the horrible reach, wide receiver DeSean Jackson and running back Ray Rice were selected a few picks later.

    Grade: D

Round 3: Pat Sims, DT, Auburn

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    The Cincinnati Bengals did not take a gamble in the third round like they did in the second. The organization knew exactly what they were getting in the stocky Pat Sims.

    The 6'2 330 lb defensive tackle was the No. 77 overall pick in the draft, and has been a key part of the Bengals defensive unit ever since. 

    Sims isn't a player that records the big stats, but he does the dirty work in the trenches that opens up lanes for the defenders around him. He is arguable the team's best run defender at the position.

    Sims has had issues staying healthy throughout the course of his career, but he has been a critical piece of the Bengals rotation along the line when healthy. He may be on the roster bubble now because of an excellent draft, but his presence has been notable since being selected.

    Grade: B

Round 3: Andre Caldwell, WR, Florida

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    Andre Caldwell was the small receiver with big speed coming out of Florida in 2008. The Cincinnati Bengals made him the No. 97 overall pick in the draft.

    Caldwell failed to record more than 450 yards receiving in a season and only accumulated six touchdowns during his tenure with the Bengals. He failed to move up the depth chart like the organization had hoped during his time with the team.

    Caldwell's limited abilities combined with his erratic play made him an unreliable target at best. Last season was his worst since his rookie year as the majority of quarterback Andy Dalton's interceptions were targeted at Caldwell.

    Caldwell has latched on with the Denver Broncos and has a chance to turn things around, but he didn't do much of anything during his tenure in Cincinnati.

    Grade: C-

Round 4: Anthony Collins, OT, Kansas

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    The Bengals selected massive Kansas offensive tackle Anthony Collins in the fourth round of the 2008 NFL draft in the hopes that he would be a key depth piece off the bench. 

    To date, Collins has delivered. Collins is a swing tackle that can play both right and left tackle, and has done so admirably for the Bengals in the past. Most recently, a year ago Collins came in and started two games in Andre Smith's absence and was a huge boost to the offensive line. 

    Collins likely won't work his way up to a starting role with the Bengals, but he is a critical depth piece for the rising Bengals.

    Grade: B

Round 5: Jason Shirley, DT, Fresno State

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    Jason Shirley was selected in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL draft and failed to have an impact with the Bengals organization.

    When it was realized by the organization that Shirley wouldn't even make the roster at his natural position of defensive tackle in 2009, the Bengals experimented with moving him to the offensive guard position. There was also a lack of depth at along the offensive line, so the move made some sense at the time.

    Make no mistake, Shirley has the athleticism and size at 6'5" 345 lbs to play either position, but he simply never panned out for the Bengals.

    Grade: D

Round 6: Corey Lynch, FS, Appalachian State

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    Corey Lynch was a solid player from a small school and the Bengals selected him with the first of their sixth-round selections in the 2008 NFL draft.

    Lynch was solid in spot duty for the Bengals during his rookie season, but his campaign ended early as he had to be placed on injured reserve with a knee injury.

    His rookie season would prove to be his only season with the Bengals as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed him off the Bengals' practice squad the next year. 

    Grade: C-

Round 6: Matt Sherry, TE, Villanova

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    The Bengals made Matt Sherry the last pick of the sixth round in the 2008 NFL draft. The tight end from Villanova had the physical side of the game down standing at 6'4" 255 lbs.

    With that being said, Sherry failed to record a catch in his one year with the Bengals organization and has not been seen in the NFL since.

    Grade: F

Round 7: Angelo Craig, DE, Cincinnati

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    Like the selection before him, Angelo Craig failed to do anything with the Cincinnati Bengals after they selected him in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL draft. 

    Craig failed to make any regular season appearances and bounced around with three different NFL teams in 2008.

    Craig was last seen playing for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League in 2011.

    Grade: F 

Round 7: Mario Urrutia, WR, Louisville

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    Mario Urrutia was a solid wide receiver for at Louisville before being selected with the second of two seventh-round picks by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2008. 

    Urrutia's success at Louisville did not translate well to the NFL in Cincinnati. He failed to appear in any regular season games and bounced around to teams such as the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers before taking his talents to the United Football League.

    Grade: D

Final Grade

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    With all the praise the Bengals have been receiving as of late thanks to their outstanding drafts, it is clear that trend did not begin with the 2008 NFL draft. 

    The draft looked good on paper when it was first graded. The Bengals landed a stud linebacker in the first round, two receivers with unlimited upside for then franchise quarterback Carson Palmer and two massive defensive tackles that could plug holes for year to come. 

    What the Bengals instead got were two extremely key depth pieces that are still playing today, and that is about it.

    Some teams are very good at finding surprise picks in the later rounds, something even the Bengals have been good at recently. That most certainly was not the case with this draft class.

    The 2008 Bengals' draft class is easily one of the worst in the past decade. Out of ten picks, two still remain with the team. While the remaining two are solid contributors, this class is the perfect example of how to not build a contender in the NFL.

    Final Grade: D