2005 - A good year for the Bengals, 11-5 and first playoff game in a millenium.
The offense was great, finishing 4th overall, but as good as the offense was, the defense was equally bad. The defense finished in the bottom 10, and the passing defense was 26th overall. They were almost dead last in sacks.
FIRST ROUND - CB J Joseph (they had Deltha O'Neal's All-Pro season, and Tory James wasn't bad...but the pass defense was a huge hole)
SECOND ROUND - OT Whitworth (They had a great O-Line with Willie, Levi, Steinbach, Braham & Bobbie...but they went best available, and took a potential very good LT)
THIRD ROUND - DE Frostee Rucker (the pass defense was bad because of a terrible pass rush)
2006 - After a surprising 2005, the followup was a disappointing 8-8. The offense again was very good at 8th overall, but the defense was again in the bottom half of the league, and the pass defense finished 32nd overall.
FIRST ROUND - CB Leon Hall (the pass defense was terrible and was again addressed by another cornerback)
SECOND ROUND - RB Kenny Irons (i personally thought this was a wtf pick at the time since i was hoping they'd draft Ryan Kalil, but i think they were looking for a pass catcher out of the backfield, and somebody who had the speed that Rudi lacked. It's wasn't a bpa pick was a reach to target a specific need on offense that they thought had to be filled)
THIRD ROUND - The Bengals had no 3rd round pick in 2006
2007 - A further disappointment, they dropped to 7-9 and were 2 years removed from that great 11-5 season. The offense again finished in the top 10, but the defense was in the bottom 10. Chad demanded a trade, and TJ was 1 year away from free agency, and 30 years old so WR looked like a big need.
FIRST ROUND - LB K Rivers(the defense still needed work, and the LB corps was servicable but lacking any stars, although some speculated that Cincy would have preferred S Ellis or D Harvey who went right before their pick)
SECOND ROUND - WR Jerome Simpson (With Chad & TJ looking to be 1 year away from leaving, they went for a BPA receiver figuring he'd have 1 year to learn the position and then become a stud)
THIRD ROUND - DT Pat Sims (a BPA pickup in an area of need)
THIRD ROUND - WR Andre Caldwell (another WR to replace the soon to be departed stars, but one would could start right away)
2008 - An all around ugly season at 4-11-1 with Palmer injured and the offense dropping to one of the worst in the league, while the defense improved to the middle of the pack.
FIRST ROUND - OT Andre Smith (Levi Jones & Stacy Andrews were on their way out and OT was the biggest need. With Jason Smith, Andre Smith, Monroe, Oher & Britton, there were 5 first round calibre OT's, but in hindsight none of them were that great)
SECOND ROUND - LB Rey Maualuga (was purely a BPA pickup of a playmaker who was a projected mid 1st pick)
THIRD ROUND - DE MIchael Johnson (like Simpson in 2008, Johnson was a great athlete who could sit for a year behind Geathers & Odom before taking over)
2009 - A surprising division crown with a 10-6 season. The offense struggled and was near the bottom of the pile, while the defense continued to improve and finished 6th overall.
FIRST ROUND - TE Jermaine Gresham (The offense was the weak link. They hadn't had a good TE since Rodney Holman. Kelly had gotten hurt, Coffman couldn't block, and JP Foshi was their top option. TE was their biggest need)
SECOND ROUND - DE Carlos Dunlap (a BPA pickup who also filled a need, since Odom had been hurt much of 2009, and Geathers wasn't exactly great)
THIRD ROUND - WR Jordan Shipley (a BPA and TJ replacement)
THIRD ROUND - CB Brandon Ghee (a BPA in a position that was already strong with Hall & Joseph)
2010 - A terrible 4-12 season which saw the offense & defense both struggle. Carson wanted out, and Chad was on the way out. Clearly the biggest need was a starting QB and a WR.
FIRST ROUND - WR AJ Green (filled 1 of the 2 big needs without reaching for the QB's not worth a 1st round pick)
SECOND ROUND - QB Andy Dalton (a BPA, and also a big need. they got their starting QB while taking a great player)
THIRD ROUND - DE Dontay Moch (a talented athlete who could sit for a year learning the position and then hopefully start down the road)
So what do the historical Bengals' drafts show us?
Round 1 - Draft a player in a position of immediate need who can start right away
Round 2 - Draft the best player available
Round 3 - Draft a great athlete who can sit and learn, and hopefully start down the road
The 2011 offense was in the bottom half of the league, especially struggling at running the ball, whereas the defense was in the top 10. Applying that to the 2012 draft, means the Bengals will draft.......
Round 1a – somebody to help the offense– this could either be a Guard and or Running Back or both. It could even be a Wide Receiver if they are convinced that they need to add a 3rd WR with Green/Shipley, now that Caldwell is gone, and Simpson likely won’t play.
Round 1b – it will be interesting to see if they apply their typical round 1 logic in a year with 2 picks. If so, it will probably be another offensive player – either the lineman, back, or receiver not taken with pick 1a. (I’m guessing the Guard and WR could be the round 1 picks)
Round 2 – It will be the best player available. It's hard to say who the best player available will be until the draft takes place. It could be something in an area of need, but it could also be something completely unexpected.
Round 3 – Either a BPA or a great athlete who fell that they feel they can sit on the bench for a year learning how to play a position. I could see them taking their RB here (like a James or Pead type who fell to this spot)