The Cincinnati Bengals first three selections of the 2005 NFL Draft were very exciting. They were three guys who showed a lot of promise and potential. Unfortunately all 3 of them saw their NFL careers come to a premature end. What would the current Cincinnati Bengals team look like if things had worked out differently?
With the 17th pick in the 2005 NFL Draft the Cincinnati Bengals select David Pollack, Defensive End, Georgia. David Pollack was a very exciting pick for the Bengals. He came out of college with a lot of accolades and great measurables. He was the SEC Player of the year in 2004, SEC Defensive Player of the year in 2004; he won the Lombardi Trophy in 2004 along with many other awards. During his time with the Bengals he showed a lot of promise, including racking up 8 tackles and a sack in the wild card game against Pittsburgh. It seemed like the Bengals had struck gold with a guy who had the work ethic and potential to be a perennial pro bowler. That is until September 17th, 2006 in a game against the Cleveland Browns when Pollack broke his sixth cervical vertebrae. The injury was severe enough that Pollack decided to retire, thus ending his very short NFL career.
With the 48th pick in the 2005 NFL Draft the Cincinnati Bengals select Odell Thurman, Linebacker, Georgia. This was another exciting pick for the Bengals. Thurman excelled in his rookie season recording 100 tackles, five interceptions, four forced fumbles, four passes defensed and 1.5 quarterback sacks. Thurman played so well that he was a finalist for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. . It appeared that the Bengals had selected a foundational piece of their defense for years to come. But the Bengals dream of having a stud linebacker to anchor their defense for the next generation started to come crashing down when Thurman was suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the 2006 regular season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. It only got worse from there. Thurman then got arrested for DUI causing the NFL to extend his suspension for the remainder of the season. Eventually Thurman was suspended indefinitely by the NFL after failing his second drug test in three seasons, thus ending his NFL career.
With the 83rd pick in the 2005 NFL Draft the Cincinnati Bengals select Chris Henry, Wide Receiver, West Virginia. Henry was seen as a big play wide receiver that had the size and speed to make an immediate impact as a down field threat for the Bengals. The only down side with Henry was his issues keeping his composure on the field. In an incident against Rutgers he was kicked out of the game for unsportsmanlike conduct and gave the middle finger to fans on his way out. While his issues were well known, he had enough upside to take the risk. In his career as a Bengal, Henry managed 119 receptions, 1,826 yards, and 21 Touchdowns. During this time he became somewhat of a fan favorite and very well known for his ability to stretch the field and find the end zone. However, his career was not without incident. Henry was suspended for 8 games in 2007 for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. He was then arrested in 2008 and waived by the Bengals. The Bengals decided to give Henry a second chance after several receivers were injured during the 2008 preseason. Henry returned to put up very good numbers before getting injured in November of that year. After Henry's return the organization and fans were very optimistic that the young wide receiver would change his ways and stay out of trouble. It seemed he was headed down the right path until tragedy struck on December 16th, 2009. Chris Henry fell out of the back of a moving truck that was driven by his fiancée and he was pronounced dead at 6:36am at Carolinas Medical Center. This was a tragic end to the life of a very talented and likable young man.
What would the Cincinnati Bengals look like today if the circumstances had been different for these players? If all three of these individuals were still members of the Bengals today would the team be better or worse? I often go through this in my mind. What would the roster look like? What would the locker room be like? Sometimes I think the team would be better off because the talent level would be higher, but other times I wonder who we would have missed out on if these guys were still around. Also, what would the locker room environment be like? Would we still have the stable locker room environment that the players today enjoy? I would love to hear everyone's thoughts. What do you think the team would look if these guys were still members of the organization?