Cincinnati Bengals' Best and Worst Draft Picks of the Last Decade
Given how historically bad the Cincinnati Bengals have been when it comes to the NFL draft, I was stunned to find how shockingly good the last 10 drafts have been. When you see all of the drafts that date back to 2004, there are some big names that stick out.
Some of those names, however, do not stick out for good reason. Some of the picks were highly touted recruits the Queen City thought would have an impact on its team for years to come.
Naturally, that is not always the case.
Cincinnati seems to have turned a corner when it comes to its drafting prowess. Let's take a look at some of the best and worst of the last decade.
Worst: Dre Kirkpatrick
Please note this is a tentative selection I've added to this list for the sake of modern conversation. I have not written off Dre Kirkpatrick as a complete bust, but as of now, you can't argue he hasn't been disappointing for a first-round selection.
When the Bengals took Kirkpatrick in the 2012 draft with the 17th overall selection, their secondary had taken a big hit with the loss of Johnathan Joseph to the Houston Texans. They needed to revive that powerful attack Joseph and Leon Hall had formed.
Thus far, Kirkpatrick hasn't been the guy owner Mike Brown hoped for. Through two seasons, Kirkpatrick has appeared in only 19 games, totaling 27 tackles, three interceptions and a sack. I will give him the fact that he looked really good in some games this past season.
The fact can't be ignored, however—the injury bug has slowed him down and forced him to lose position battles with the aging Terence Newman and Adam Jones. If things continue heading this way, Kirkpatrick's place on this list will be solidified.
Best: Marvin Jones
Marvin Jones will serve as the opposite end of the Kirkpatrick slide. Right now, it's looking more and more like Jones could be one of the biggest steals of the last five years, given that he was the 166th overall selection in 2012.
Jones burst onto the scene with a stellar 2013 campaign, making 51 catches for over 700 yards and a stunning 10 touchdowns. His season was highlighted by a four-touchdown performance against the New York Jets at Paul Brown Stadium.
There's certainly room for Jones to fall from grace, especially in the shadows of A.J. Green. However, I think being in that shadow is only going to work for Jones, not against him. He's a fantastic slot receiver with blazing speed who can sneak by defenders.
I'm not sending him into the Hall of Fame, but if Jones can pick up where he left off this past season, you can bet that Green-Jones could be quite a dynamic duo.
Worst: Dontay Moch
Linebacker Dontay Moch was the 66th overall pick of the 2011 NFL draft by the Bengals, and people were hoping for big results. Moch ran the fastest 40-yard dash at the combine by any linebacker or defensive lineman.
Unfortunately, injuries, migraines and a suspension derailed Moch's NFL career in Cincinnati. He never made an appearance in a Bengals uniform. If not for the rise of Vontaze Burfict, it's easy to imagine this draft bust still hurting.
If you think about how bad James Harrison was in Cincinnati this past season, it would've been nice to have Moch in reserve since he finally appeared in an NFL game with the Arizona Cardinals.
He's now returned to Cincinnati to try to clear his name and start over, but it will take a lot. He'll be battling for playing time, but with his quickness, it's feasible to say this article will appear very different in a year's time.
Best: Michael Johnson
Despite a significant drop off in production, this is going to be a hard loss for Bengal fans to swallow. Defensive end Michael Johnson was a force on one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, and has left the Queen City for the warm weather of Tampa Bay.
Drafted 70th overall in 2009, Johnson instantly stepped in, appearing in all 16 games and recording three sacks. By no means was it a massive impact at first, but it was a beginning for a solid third-round pick.
Johnson's highlight season came in 2012 when he made 52 tackles and 11.5 sacks on Mike Zimmer's defense, a defense that was unarguably one of the best in the league. It was enough to prove he was needed in town, which earned him the franchise tag in 2013.
He's gone now, but the impact he made on the Bengals defensive line will be felt for years to come. He helped put the Bengals on the map in ways other defensive players couldn't have done.
Worst: Keith Rivers
To some fans, Keith Rivers is one of the biggest busts in the Bengals' history. I'm not willing to go that far, but in terms of the last 10 years, he's certainly one of the most disappointing.
Rivers, a linebacker drafted ninth overall in 2008 from USC, started out his rookie campaign on fire. Through seven games, he collected 37 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception before his season was ended on a hit by Hines Ward.
While Rivers recovered and continued playing in Cincinnati for another couple of seasons, he was never the same. He recorded more than 70 in both 2009 and 2010, but his ferocious style of play and ability to get after the pass was seemingly gone.
It's good to put up "respectable" numbers as a fourth-round pick, but Rivers was a top ten who either was over-hyped or derailed by an injury. In any case, this was the Bengals' first real attempt at replacing Odell Thurman and David Pollack.
It didn't turn out so well.
Best: Leon Hall
Here we arrive at the best defensive player the Bengals have taken in the last decade, Leon Hall. He was drafted in 2007 with the 18th overall pick.
Hall came into a bonus situation as he was set to be playing alongside Joseph. He immediately made an impact, making five interceptions and a forced fumble. Over several seasons, Hall was a staple on Zimmer's defense and arguably the best guy on it—he's gathered 23 interceptions since joining the league and almost 350 tackles.
Injuries have recently derailed Hall's career, and he's likely not going to be the guy he was in 2009. Still, if you think back to the Wild Card Game against Houston last year, he was responsible for the lone Bengal's touchdown. He may be aging and injured, but Hall remains very much alive in Cincinnati.
You have to love a loyal and effective player.
Worst: Chris Perry
Chris Perry will forever be walking proof of how badly injuries can derail a career. Perry, a running back from Michigan, was taken in the first round of the 2004 draft. He was brought in to complement then Pro Bowl running back Rudi Johnson.
He played in only two games during his rookie season, and he mostly continued to build on that trend. From 2004-08 with the Bengals, Perry appeared in only 35 games, missed the entire 2007 season and carried for just over 600 yards.
This man was blessed with solid speed and agility, but one man can only take so many injuries before one realizes it isn't going to work. He was expected to be the 2008 starting man, but wound up only carrying the ball 104 times that season and averaging under three yards per carry.
He would be released following the end of the season, thus ending one of the most disappointing Cincinnati careers in modern memory.
Best: Andrew Whitworth
It's always stunning to remember just how many teams passed on some players. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who over the past few seasons has proven to be one of the best offensive lineman in the NFL, was taken with the 55th overall selection in the 2006 draft. He's no seventh-round diamond in the rough, but certainly a solid pickup.
Why does a left tackle rank so high up? You have to think about how important a left tackle is to a quarterback. This is the man allowing extra time for the quarterback to throw the football, and Whitworth has made both Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton look very good.
Without a solid left tackle, a lot of offensive lines crumble, and ultimately, are going to fail to protect their quarterback. As the old saying goes, "you're only as strong as your weakest link," and that certainly would hold true if your weak link is the left tackle.
For the amount of time he's giving to Dalton these days, you have to love Whit.
Worst: Kenny Irons
There may be some Bengals fans who don't even remember Kenny Irons. I was considerably younger when he was drafted, but all these years later, his demise is still mind-boggling to me.
Irons, a speedy running back from Auburn, was taken 49th overall in the 2007 draft. At the time, it was becoming clear Perry wasn't going to be working out and Rudi Johnson seemed to be on the downswing. It was time to start planning for the future, and the quick-footed Irons seemed to be the guy.
You can search high and low, but you won't find a single regular season stat for Kenny Irons. Following a torn ACL suffered during his first preseason game, Irons ultimately never made it to the show. He sat out the entire 2007 season with the injury, came back for 2008, was placed on the PUP list and ultimately released.
You can't help but wonder what may have come of Irons had everything worked out, because I recall hearing Cincinnati fans on the streets being pumped for the coming of the Auburn stand out.
In terms of hype, excitement and the ensuing letdown, Irons has to be the worst pick of the Bengals' last decade.
Best: A.J. Green
A.J. Green is not only the best Bengals' draft pick of the last decade, you could make the argument he's the best pick of the generation.
Green was taken fourth overall by Cincinnati in the 2011 draft, the same draft that would unite him with Dalton. All of Dalton's big supporters can say what they want about him, but you will never convince me that he'd be any bit as good as he is without Green.
Yes, he's that good. Green has now compiled back-to-back seasons with more than 95 receptions, and through three years in Cincinnati, he's caught over 3,800 yards and a stellar 29 touchdowns. The offense has been inconsistent for years now, especially with a questionable quarterback at the helm.
There has been one constant, and that is A.J. Green. He makes the offense exciting and is one of the most explosive players in the game. He may not be in Cincinnati forever, but he will one day go down as one of the best receivers to suit up in the NFL.