CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 25: Quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers is chased by Carlos Dunlap #96, Jonathan Fanene #68 and Geno Atkins #97, all of the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on September 25, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. San Francisco defeated Cincinnati 13-8. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
The Cincinnati Bengals 2010 NFL draft could be rated as one of the team's best classes during the Marvin Lewis era, with a handful of starters and backup players that have made significant contributions dating back to their rookie seasons last year. Of the nine players selected, seven remain with the Bengals in some capacity and only one is currently out of the NFL. Unfortunately this year, two players that were expected to make significant contributions in 2011 have had their seasons ended prematurely with injuries. Let's take a look at how the Bengals 2010 draft class if fairing.
Jermaine Gresham: Set the franchise record for a rookie tight end with 52 receptions last year, Gresham is on pace this year to set career-highs in receptions (67), yards receiving (616) and touchdowns (8), easily becoming one of Andy Dalton's top targets underneath and in the red zone. If Gresham keeps the torrid pace he's on, he'll put up the best numbers for a Bengals tight end since Tony McGee posted 55 receptions for 754 yards receiving and four touchdowns in 1995.
Carlos Dunlap: The defensive end from Florida set a franchise rookie record, posting 9.5 quarterback sacks, besting Justin Smith's rookie season in 2001 (eight sacks). Dunlap also became the first rookie to lead the Bengals in quarterback sacks since James Francis did it (8.0 sacks) in 1990. Dunlap is leading the team with 16 quarterback pressures and six quarterback hits, though has yet to record a quarterback sack this season. Oh. He also scored a defensive touchdown.
Jordan Shipley: Largely used as a slot receiver during his rookie season, Shipley's 52 receptions was the most by a rookie wide receiver in the AFC and nearly 20 more than the second-leading wide receiver (David Nelson) last year. Shipley suffered a season-ending injury earlier this year, prematurely ending his sophomore season.
Brandon Ghee: Unfortunately for the young cornerback, Ghee has battled injuries throughout his short NFL career which began with a major hit to the head during the 2010 preseason. Ghee also suffered a groin injury against the Buffalo Bills last year, playing six games total (mostly all special teams) and posting nine tackles. Ghee failed to make the 53-man roster this year, but signed onto the team's practice squad on September 4.
Geno Atkins: We expected much out of Gresham, Shipley and Dunlap. Atkins was the surprise of the group and perhaps one of the more favored Bengals players with Bengals fans. Capable of an inside pass rush using an arsenal of techniques, Atkins posted three quarterback sacks last year and led the team with seven quarterback hits (that didn't result in sacks). He was also third on the team with 19 quarterback pressures. Through six games in 2011, Atkins has posted seven quarterback pressures, which is second on the team behind Dunlap's 16. Atkins is also second on the team with 2.5 quarterback sacks, tied with Michael Johnson, both behind Jonathan Fanene's three.
Roddrick Muckelroy: The linebacker from Texas played 14 games during his rookie season, mostly on special teams and as a backup linebacker. Muckelroy came into the season as a favorite to replace Rey Maualuga at outside linebacker before his season prematurely ended with a season-ending Achilles tendon injury.
Otis Hudson: The offensive lineman out of Eastern Illinois spent his entire rookie season on the Bengals practice squad, developing as an eventual right guard behind Bobbie Williams. Identified by offensive line coach Paul Alexander during this year's training camp as the second-most improved lineman, behind Andre Smith, Hudson was firmly settled in as the team's backup right guard until a knee injury eventually forced the team to waive him when Bobbie Williams returned from a four-game suspension. The Bengals quickly signed Hudson onto their practice squad the next day, where he remains today.
Dezmon Briscoe: The only draft pick that didn't make the 2010 squad who signed with another team's practice squad, Briscoe was eventually promoted to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 53-man roster, posting six receptions and a touchdown during his rookie season. Briscoe has played six games in Tampa Bay this year, posting 10 receptions for 123 yards receiving.
Reggie Stephens: Made the Bengals 53-man roster during his rookie season as Kyle Cook's backup at center. Stephens was a gameday inactive for all 16 games last year, looking to make an impression on the 2011 squad as he entered training camp. Stephens didn't make the 53-man roster and the Bengals didn't bother signing him to the practice squad. As far as we know, he's the only player selected by the Bengals during the 2010 draft that's currently out of the NFL.