Like many of you Bengals fans out there, I too feel that they have done a good job this season in free agency (although the first few days were agonizing!). After seeing the flurry of signings, I am buying into the theory that they are well-positioned to take the best player available in most rounds. Historically, a large number of Pro-Bowlers / Hall of Famers seem to come from picks in the first two rounds, which made me curious as to how successful various clubs have been with their picks under this criteria. So I started to pull draft stats in this regard (the nerd that I am!) - I gathered all the picks from the FIRST TWO ROUNDS since 1970 for ALL the clubs and put a spreadsheet together to see if I could spot any trends / pattern.
When I looked across all the clubs, I initially didn't see any one position stand out over the others - 33% of QBs and 32% of RBs made it to Pro Bowl / HOF while many of the other positions ranged between 26-29% (I excluded FBs, K, P etc. since the number of picks for those positions were quite low compared to the rest). I was a bit disappointed that I hadn't unearthed anything meaningful from this but I then lumped up the various positions into offense, defense and special teams, and then compared the Bengals performance vs. the league as a whole. Some interesting stats started to emerge:
Since 1970, the Bengals have sent 17% (8 of 46) of their defensive picks in the first two rounds to Pro Bowl / HOF. Correspondingly, the league as a whole has sent 25% (306 of 1211) of the first and second rounders. When we look on the offensive side, the Bengals have sent 32% (16 of 50) of their picks in the first two rounds to Pro Bowl / HOF. The corresponding league number is 28% (348 of 1227). Clearly, we are doing better on offense than defense!
I took it a step further and narrowed down the same analysis just for the Marvin Lewis era (2003-present). On the defensive side, the Bengals sent just 11% (1 of 9 - Johnathan Joseph). This ranks us at 21st of 32 teams. On the offensive side, the Bengals sent 40% (4 of 10 - Carson Palmer, A.J. Green, Andy Dalton, Jermaine Gresham). This ranks us 5th of 32 teams. It is noteworthy that if we don't consider the 2011 Pro Bowl, our offensive side stat wouldn't look that great either but obviously, we made some great picks the last couple of seasons in the first two rounds.
In the same Marvin Lewis era, the Packers (44% - 4 of 9), Redskins (43% - 3 of 7) and Bears (38% - 3 of 8) were the top 3 in defensive picks in the first two rounds while on the offensive side, Chargers (80% - 4 of 5), Browns (50% - 5 of 10) and Giants (50% - 3 of 6) were the top 3 on the offensive side.
Despite recognizing that this type of analysis is not a perfect science (for example Eli Manning counts towards the Chargers even though he went to Pro-Bowls as a Giant), the larger picture questions to be asked are this - What can the Bengals learn from looking at the draft picks of the top teams? Are there any characteristics / qualities to be learned by the Bengals from their own offensive picks that they can use on the defensive side since they seem to be doing better on offense? Of course, there are certainly some defensive players in the current roster who were picked in the first two rounds that could be future Pro Bowlers - Carlos Dunlap, Leon Hall etc.
So, I really do hope that the trend of the last few years of hiring quality young players continues and we register more pro-bowlers / HOFs on all three fronts - defense, offense and special teams.