Bengals Draft Bust #1: Akili Smith

Electing to perfect his mad passing skills before joining the ranks of the college elite (or maybe because no one wanted him), Kabisa Akili Maradufu Smith spent two years at Grossmont College before transferring to the University of Oregon where he posted an impressive 32 touchdown passes during his 11 starts in his senior year. This was all that was needed to garner some buzz for the 1999 NFL Draft -- and we don't mean the kind of buzz after drinking half-price Bud Lights after work. We love our sponsors.

While many would be hesitant to base their third overall pick with a guy that employed such a limited sample size, the Bengals had several needs, most of all a flailing organization that's won five games or less in five of the previous eight seasons. Additionally, the Bengals had just completed a 3-13 season with three different starting quarterbacks. Neil O'Donnell was actually very serviceable with a 15-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio completing over 60% of his passes. Jeff Blake and Paul Justin recorded starts that season.

The Bengals needed a franchise quarterback.

But this didn't come without its controversy. No. We couldn't have a quiet, needs-filling draft that applied fixes to a team with so many holes. Before the draft, New Orleans head coach Mike Ditka offered the Bengals nine draft picks for the 1999 and 2000 NFL Drafts, hoping to move up and draft Ricky Williams.

The Bengals, feeling that they were obviously on the short end of the one-sided deal, refused. So with the third overall selection in the 1999 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Oregon quarterback Akili Smith.

As his first act as quarterback, Smith held out with a contract dispute (so much for quiet offseason) missing most of the 1999 Training Camp. From 1999-2002, Smith started 17 games, recorded a 3-14 record, completing only 46.6% of his passes, five touchdowns and 13 interceptions for a career quarterback rating of 52.8.

During his second season (2000), the Bengals benched him.

"I'm kind of baffled that they drafted me. Ten games into my second season, they benched me, and it was over after that."

Jon Kitna came in 2001 with offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, both coming from Seattle.

"Kitna and Brat were together in Seattle, and I knew Kit was Brat's guy," Smith said. "I knew I was done."

Smith would only make one start in 2001, only one appearance in 2002 and was told that he was done in Cincinnati on May 31, 2003.

Many are drawing parallels with Auburn's Cam Newton, mostly because he spent some time in a community college and flourished in only one season in Division 1A. But in fairness to Newton, that's roughly where the comparison ends.


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