When you think of the 2010 NFL draft class, you think of the big three; tight end Jermaine Gresham, defensive end Carlos Dunlap and defensive tackle Geno Atkins; all of whom are either starters or significant contributors. Yet the team drafted nine players in 2010, all of whom are in the NFL or on the verge of returning in one capacity or another.
WR JORDAN SHIPLEY (Third Round, 84th Overall): Not only was Shipley a contributing factor during his rookie season, there was a very real sense that the team discovered a foundation-level receiver. During his rookie year in 2010, he lead all AFC rookies (tied with Jermaine Gresham) in receptions (52) and yards receiving (600), often playing the slot, finding ways to generate enough separation on under routes -- something this team is struggling to generate.
Yet just as he began to make a name for himself in the NFL, he suffered a major knee injury during the second week of the 2011 season. The Bengals released him during training camp. Tampa Bay signed and released him twice and now he's out of the NFL.
WILL HE RETURN: Conjecturing here but my feeling is that Shipley's story in Cincinnati isn't yet finished. There will come a time when his knee is fully rehabilitated without showing noticeable effects, unlike training camp with the Bengals. There's always the chance that if the Bengals continue to struggle at the receiver position, or face another serious injury or two, that Shipley returns. The Bengals tend to favor players that they know when making decisions on the roster.
CB BRANDON GHEE (Third Round, 96th Overall): Another player with incredibly bad luck, unable to shed the adversity through injury that's stalling his NFL career.
He sat during the opening two games in 2010 after suffering a concussion during the preseason. Despite playing six games during his rookie season, Ghee eventually found his way onto Injured Reserve with a groin. During the following season, Ghee signed onto Cincinnati's practice squad before his promotion onto the active roster on November 14, finishing out the season largely on special teams.
A collection of reports hinted that Ghee was becoming a significant wild card for the projected 53-man roster during training camp. But alas, Ghee suffered a season-ending wrist injury and currently resides on Injured Reserve. Again.
LB RODDRICK MUCKELROY (Fourth Round, 131st Overall): Muckelroy, like the frustratingly tragic heroes from this rookie class, has often played the role of backup linebacker only to face certain adversity that stumbles his opportunities. After posting a solid rookie season as a special teams player, accumulating 12 tackles that ranked second on the team that year, he suffered an Achilles injury during the first practice of training camp in 2011.
Muckelroy returned in 2012 with a solid preseason, as one of the team leaders in tackles, only to watch rookie Vontaze Burfict replace him as a backup linebacker. Muckelroy returned following Thomas Howard's season-ending injury, once again as a special teams player and backup linebacker.
OL OTIS HUDSON (Fifth Round, 152nd Overall): Hudson is on the practice squad for the third year since being drafted in 2010. He's improved and impressed, but an injury in 2011 set him back and he's largely been excused from discussions as any future starter in Cincinnati with the impressive rookie Kevin Zeitler, the resurgence of Clint Boling and the contract of Travelle Wharton.
WR DEZMON BRISCOE (Sixth Round, 191st Overall): Decided not to return after being waived in 2010 thanks to Tampa Bay offering him a six-figure contract on the practice squad (which is unheard of). Spent two seasons with the Buccaneers, generating 41 receptions for 480 yards receiving. Tampa Bay released Briscoe this year following a failed conditioning test, claimed by Washington off waivers.
OL REGGIE STEPHENS (Seventh Round, 228th Overall): Spent his entire rookie season on the team's 53-man roster as Kyle Cook's backup center, but a gameday inactive every weekend. Released during final cuts in 2011, eventually signing onto Chicago's practice squad.
The Bengals re-signed Stephens during the offseason, but didn't make final cuts. He's currently on the Buffalo Bills practice squad.