During a roundup looking through the 2009 draft class for each AFC North team, ESPN's AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley gave Cincinnati a very appropriate grade of a "B-". Of the 11 players selected that year, only six remain -- and of those only two are expected to be regular starters in 2012 (Andre Smith, Rey Maualuga). Hensley offers a thumbs up and a thumbs down.
Basically we're grouping Cincinnati's 2009 draft glass into two categories, from allowing defeated gladiators to live with a hearty thumbs up, to a doomed thumb, pointing down where the blade strikes. As for the thumbs up, Hensley write:
Smith is making this class look better after being one of the most improved players in the league last season. He needs another strong season in 2012 to prove he's a quality starter. Some were disappointed by Maualuga's first season as an NFL middle linebacker, but I think he has a future there with his athleticism. The best value has been Scott, who has exceeded expectations and has become a very productive backup.
Respectable. One could understandably suggest Maualuga over Smith if one were to select a single player (which isn't really the prerequisite here; we just love hearing ourselves talk), considering that Maualuga has played 17 more games than Smith coming from the same NFL draft, which amounts to a full regular season and a first-round exit in the playoffs. But the list is respectable enough.
As for the thumbs down, Hensley offers:
Johnson has been a minor disappointment, although he ranked third on the team last season with 5.5 sacks. He'll remain a role player if Carlos Dunlap becomes an every-down lineman. Huber hasn't lived up to being a fifth-round prospect. His rankings as a punter have been: 19th in 2009, 25th in 2010 and 20th in 2011. The biggest bust was Coffman, who was waived after three catches in two seasons.
It's not often we say this, but he nailed it.
What makes it worse for Johnson is that he accumulated the second-most snaps (728) on the defensive line last season, behind Geno Atkins (794). Despite that, Johnson generated only 15 quarterback hurries and six hits on the quarterback. Now as we've pointed out before, Johnson has reportedly added some bulk while head coach Marvin Lewis has promised to reduce his overall snaps to keep him fresher as the season chugs along. Additionally Johnson is entering his final year under contract. So if all of the elements are brewing for the perfect storm, Johnson could be geared for a breakout season.