And so it began...
2003 Biggest HIT: Carson Palmer, QB, USC (round 1)
For a team that needed a QB, he was the best of a class that included fellow 1st rounders Leftwich, Boller, and Rex Grossman. One could argue that we missed taking Andre Johnson, Kevin Williams, and Troy Polamalu in that draft, but none of them was seriously on the Bengals’ radar. Palmer did make it to a pair of pro-bowls and led the Bengals to their first playoff game in about 2 decades.
2003 Biggest MISS: Dennis Weathersby, CB, Oregon St. (round 4)
As a 6’1”, 205 lb Corner with 4.31 speed at his pro day, Weathersby was quite an exciting prospect. Only one problem – he had been seriously shot (by a gun) before the draft. He did survive the shooting, and recovered, but not well enough to be an NFL player. He only played 4 career games garnering 0 stats in the process.
2004 Biggest HIT: Robert Geathers, DE, Georgia (round 4)
A decade later, and Geathers is still a starter the league. Half of their 2004 picks were out of the league in a few years, and few became regular starters. Geathers outlasted the other picks, and is still starting. Not bad for a 4th rounder.
2004 Biggest MISS: Chris Perry, RB, Michigan (round 1)
Not only did the Bengals miss on Steven Jackson by electing to trade down and take Perry. But they also missed on Jason Babin, Chris Snee & Bob Sanders (and their 7 pro bowl selections), who were taken between the Bengals’ first and second round picks.
2005 Biggest HIT: Jonathan Fanene, DE, Utah (round 7)
It’s not too often a rotational D-lineman taken in round 7 is your best pick, but that’s how bad the other picks were. Fanane played in 71 career games, which isn’t many, but is tops in this 2005 draft class.
2005 Biggest MISS: All of Them
It’s difficult to label any 1 as the worst pick. Pollack was decent, but his career was cut short after only 1 season. Odell had a great rookie year, but then was suspended out of the league. Chris Henry never emerged as anything more than a 3rd or 4th WR, but had more yards than any WR taken after him. Ghiaciuc was horrible (a turnstile masquerading as a Center), but managed to start 3 years in the league. Kieft never played a down in the NFL, but was a 5th round pick.
2006 Biggest HIT: Andrew Whitworth, OT, LSU (Round 2)
Snagged near the end of round 2, Whit has turned into one of the better LT’s in the NFL.
2006 Biggest MISS: Frostee Rucker, DE, USC (Round 3)
J Jo & Whit were a pair of very picks. Rucker was the highest pick that wasn’t all that spectacular, especially considering that All Pro Guard Jhari Evans & uber productive WR Brandon Marshall came off the board in the next round. Rucker saw limited playing time as a backup with limited success.
2007 Biggest HIT: Nedu Ndukwe, S, Notre Dame (Round 7)
I was tempted to go with Leon Hall. But Hall has “met expectations”, as a 1st rounder who has been a productive, good yet unspectacular, starter for years. Ndukwe, on the other hand was a LATE 7th round pick (at #253, he was 2 picks away from being Mr. Irrelevant) who was also the second safety taken by the Bengals. Not only did Ndukwe get onto the field, but he unseated the much higher drafted Marvin White, and ultimately started 31 games in his 4 seasons in Cincinnati.
2007 Biggest MISS: Marvin White, S, TCU (Round 4)
I was tempted to go with Kenny Irons, who was a big of a head-scratcher when he was reached for about a round or two higher than he was projected. But it’s hard to condemn the injured when they never get a chance. Marvin White was a big hitting safety that was supposed to be our enforcer in the secondary, but was ultimately supplanted by a guy picked 140 picks later in Ndukwe.
2008 Biggest HIT: Pat Sims, DT, Auburn (Round 3)
An easy choice, as one of the only Bengal picks from 2008 who was actually somewhat productive. He was never more than a rotational backup on running plays, but was a solid player who filled his role well.
2008 Biggest MISS: Keith Rivers, LB, USC (Round 1)
Jerome Simpson would have also been an acceptable answer. The 2008 draft was perhaps one of the worst drafts in recent memory, especially if looking for defensive help. Despite the lack of stars available, when you’re taken in the top 10, after 5 years, you have to produce more than 150 career tackles and 2 career sacks.
2009 Biggest HIT: Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech (Round 3)
Once considered a “tweener w/a bad motor who couldn’t stop the run” by the experts, MJ has been a hard-working, full-effort starter who has become good at getting after the QB and stopping the run. Looking at some of the D-Linemen taken before him, MJ has been a steal.
2009 Biggest MISS: Rey Maualuga, LB, USC (Round 2)
Chase Coffman was a possibility for this title, since he has never been able to sniff the field, but as a late 4th rounder, his absence is more excusable than Rey’s play as a high 2nd rounder. A lot of solid players were taken after Maualuga. Rey has been able to get on the field for much of his career, but has just been horrible when he’s been out there.
2010 Biggest HIT: Geno Atkins, DT, Georgia (Round 4)
This was an easy pick. An All-Pro defensive tackle who can stop the run and is great at getting after the QB, and was taken in the second half of the draft.
2010 Biggest MISS: Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma (Round 1)
Considering that Gronk & Jimmy Graham came out in this draft (and Aaron Hernandez and Pitta and Dickson), Gresham was not a great value with the other TE’s that were available. Also, with that first round pick they could have taken
Tim Tebow, Gronk or Dez Bryant or Demaryius Thomas or such.
I didn't go any later than 2010 because it's a bit too early to tell with the guys from 2011 and 2012.