FanPost

Reliving the Bengals’ First Round Picks 1994-1997

1994

After finishing the 1993 season with the league’s worst offense, a bad defense, and a league worst 3-13 record, there were many holes that could be addressed on the team. An 0-10 start sunk the season but a 3-3 finish gave fans a reason to hold onto some glimmer of hope for the future.

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1993 was supposed to be the coming out party for 2nd year QB David Klingler, who played 4 games in his rookie season of 1992. Klinger responded in 1993 by amassing an underwhelming 1,935 passing yards with only 6 TD’s and 9 INT’s in 14 games. He averaged an abysmal 138 yards passing per game and failed to reach 100 yards passing in 4 of his games, while only topping the 200 yard mark twice. Perhaps the “evil” QB Rating of 66.6 should have been a sign that Klingler wasn’t the team’s savoir at QB, and his terrible season prompted pre-draft speculation that perhaps the Bengals would cut their losses with Klingler and select the top QB prospect Heath Schuler, who was a pro-ready but unprolific passer at Tennessee. But the Bengals quelled any talk of Schuler when they announced that they were sticking with draft bust David Klinger at QB, and thus would not be drafting future draft bust Heath Shuler.

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This led many to conclude they were going to take either the consensus top prospect in DT Dan Wilkinson or future hall of fame RB Marshall Faulk (who went #2 overall to the Colts). Satisfied with Harold Green’s 2.7 ypc in 1993, Faulk was never really a serious consideration for the Bengals who loved Wilkinson’s athleticism. He excelled at the combine, including a sub 5.0 time in the 40 yard dash despite weighing in at 327 lbs. They turned down rumored trade offers from Arizona, Seattle, and New England who wanted to move up for Dan “Big Daddy” Wilkinson. When the draft started, the Bengals made their selection of DanWilkinson, forcing the Patriots to settle for the likes of Willie McGinest.

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“Big Daddy” was the first of 5 DT’s drafted in round 1 of the 1994 draft. Three of them, Bryant Young, Sam Adams (who did play for Cincy very late in his career) and Tim Bowens compiled 9 Pro-Bowl appearances between them, while Wilkinson appeared in 0.

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But Wilkinson was far from unproductive, compiling 6.25 sacks + 32 tackles per season in his 4 years as a Bengal. He was never the elite defensive force that one would associate with a #1 overall caliber pick, and therefore was seen as something of a letdown. But he was a good player on a defense that surrounded him with a lot of mediocrity, allowing offenses to focus on double-teaming him most of the time. After a brief 4-year tenure he was ultimately traded away to the Washington Redskins for picks.

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1995

Not to be outdone by the 1993 Bengals, the 1994 Bengals finished with an equally unimpressive 3-13 record. With an offense that finished 23rd out of 28 and a defense that finished 26th out of 28, the Bengals had more holes than the proverbial slice of Swiss cheese.

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An 0-7 record with 133 yards passing per game was not enough to save Klingler’s starting job, as his QB Rating was less than half as good as that of the Bengals’ punter. The days of starting Klingler were mercifully put to rest as the NY Jets former 6th round pick Jeff Blake replaced him halfway into the season, and Blake to Pickens became a pillar of the Bengals’ offense. The Bengals 3-headed RBBC of D Fenner, S Broussard & H Green struggled to a 3.5 ypc, about 76 yards per game, and 4 rushing TD’s behind an awful O-Line. The rushing game was awful and Mike Brown’s answer to fix the team was to neglect the defense and the O-Line, and draft a RB.

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Ki-Jana Carter was seen as the 1994 draft’s “can’t miss, once in a decade” prospect, but there was a problem in securing Carter via the draft. Despite the Bengals 3-13 record (which warranted them the #1 overall picks in the previous year’s draft) in 1994 their incompetence was matched by Washington and bested by Houston. Also, two expansion teams in J’ville & Carolina joined the league, and the draft, resulting in the Bengals pick being at #5 overall. Mike Brown’s love affair with Ki-Jana Carter would not be denied and the Bengals traded away the #5 overall pick and their very high 2nd round selection (#36 overall) to jump up and acquire the familiar #1 overall slot from the Carolina Panthers.

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With no O-Line in front of him and an upstart 6th round QB behind him, Carter was to be the single-handed savior of the Bengals’ woeful offense and was signed to a big 7 year contract. But we’ll never know what could have been since he completely tore his left ACL only 3 carries into his pro career in a 20-13 preseason game 1 loss to Detroit. He missed the entire 1995 season before coming back to play 4 injury plagued seasons for the Bengals, totaling 747 yards on a 3.3 ypc average in his Bengals’ career.

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Overall, 5 RB’s were selected in round 1 of the 1995 draft, and as a group they compiled a mass of mediocrity with 0 Pro-Bowl seasons among them. Of the group that included Tyrone Wheatley, Napolean Kaufman, James Stewart & Rashaan Salaam, only Stewart topped the 5,000 career yard mark. While Ki-Jana and Rashaan topped out in the 1,000 career rushing yard range.

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Thinking of what could have been, the #2 overall pick Tony Boselli went on to be a 3 time All-Pro, and 5 time Pro-Bowl LT. Although he too had his career cut short by injuries, which likely kept him from the Hall of Fame. Had they kept their #5 and #36 picks they could have taken somebody like Warren Sapp, Ruben Brown, Ty Law or Derrick Brooks with their 1st pick, and still taken either Curtis Martin or Terrell Davis with that second selection.

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On an interesting note, for those who remember back that far, 1995 was back when the Big 10 was seen as the best conference in college football, exemplified with 9 of the first round picks coming from the Big 10, including 4 in the top 9 picks.



1996

Blake to Pickens connection became a sensation, as both had career years landing them in the Pro-Bowl and leading the Bengals to a 7-9 record. The offense finished in the top half of the league at 14th, bolstered primarily by the aerial attack with Jeff Blake tossing 28 TD’s and over 3,800 yards through the air. Carl Pickens hauled in an amazing 17 of those TD receptions, while the rushing attack of H Green & E Bienemy struggled to barely top 1,000 combined rushing yards and 5 TD’s. The defense meanwhile continued to struggle, finishing in the bottom 1/4 of the league. The 7-9 record jumped the Bengals from their familiar #1 overall spot up to the #10 slot in the draft.

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In a move to show the critics that he wasn’t totally inept as an owner/manager, Mike Brown managed to make a great pick at an important position when he selected RT Willie Anderson #10 overall out of Auburn. Anderson went on to compile 3 All-Pro seasons and 4 Pro-Bowls in his 12 seasons. Although it wasn’t quite the first round haul of the newly moved Cleveland-Baltimore-Browns-Ravens who landed both J Ogden (#4) and R Lewis (#26), it was a very good first round for Cincy.

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Despite the fact that the draft overall was lessened with every pick after Anderson being a dud, such as Marco Battaglia, Jevon Langford, Greg Myers, Tom Tumulty, etc..., it’s hard to knock the round 1 pick as anything less than fantastic.

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1997

A rough start behind Dave Shula led to his mid-season exit and Bruce Coslett’s rise from Off-Coord to head coach, and what started as a 1-6 season finished with a 7-2 flurry over the final 9 games to secure the Bengals’ first non-losing season since the 1990 playoff season as then ended up with an 8-8 overall record.

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The Blake to Pickens fade passes in the corner of the end zone were in full force, and Ashley Ambrose’s All-Pro season with 8 INT’s led the way for the 1996 Bengals. The offense continued its climb and finished 5th out of 30 teams, and they led the NFL in turnover margin with +19, but again the defense let them down, finishing 23rd.

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Jeff Blake again had 20+ TD’s totaling 24, with half of them going to Carl Pickens. Darnay Scott continued his play as a solid WR2 and Tony McGee contributed as a good all-around TE for the offense. Newly acquired Garrison Hearst gave the Bengals a player who actually looked like a competent RB as he racked up 847 yards, but 0 TD’s as Ki-Jana Carter vultured 8 TD’s in his return from the ACL injury rushing under 3.0 ypc.

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The success of an 8-8 season pushed the Bengals first round pick down to #14 overall, as they missed out on future stars like Orlando Pace, Walter Jones and Tony Gonzalez.

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After multiple seasons in the bottom quarter of the league prevented their good offense from leading the team into the playoffs, the Bengals finally decided it was time to address the defensive side of the ball in round 1. In a first round that included 8 selections from the big-3 Florida schools (Florida, Florida St, Miami of Florida), Mike Brown & Dick LeBeau fell in love with the athleticism and pure pass-rush ability of Florida State’s Reinard Wilson. Viewed by scouts as a 4-3 DE prospect, he was drafted to play OLB in the new 3-4 scheme that Def-Coord Dick LeBeau was installing.

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The draft gurus thought Bama’s Dwayne Rudd or Virginia’s Jamie Sharper would have been better fits for the Bengals’ defense new 3-4 alignment, and there were concerns about Wilson’s dead last results out of 322 combine participants in the intelligence test. But Reinard Wilson’s athleticism, and non-stop motor which made him a guy who gave 100% on every play, were too much for the Bengals’ brain trust to resist.

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Wilson never panned out to be the elite pass rushing force that LeBeau envisioned, as he only started 23 of his 93 games in his 6-year Bengals’ career. He totaled 24 sacks in those 6 seasons. Some future stars the Bengals whiffed on while taking Wilson were brothers Tiki & Ronde Barber, Sam Madison, Jason Taylor and Tarik Glenn.

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While round 1 wasn’t exactly what the doctor ordered, it is of interest to note that the Bengals drafted Corey Dillon in round 2 and Tremain Mack in round 4. Both men had a long history of criminal arrests which knocked them both of them down in the draft to a point where the Bengals could draft both of them. The reason I point this out is that this draft can probably be called the starting point of Mike Brown’s affinity for players with a criminal history & off the field issues which the media loved to play up in years to come.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Cincy Jungle's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Cincy Jungle's writers or editors.

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