FanPost

Are the Bengals good at drafting?

It seems like the team has certainly done better recently based on the core players on the team, but how have they done compared to the rest of the NFL? There are certainly more well-researched articles available with respect to advanced statistics for the NFL draft but none focus specifically on the Bengals so you'll have to put up with my dumbed-down statistical analysis for now. Keep in mind that all data comes from pro-football-reference.com and includes all games played for a given player and not just those in a Bengals uniform. Bengal draft classes from 2001-2013 are included.

Years as the primary starter:

Round 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Average (Bengals)

67% 41% 13% 28% 11% 2% 4%
Average (NFL)
74% 48% 34%
16% 13% 8% 6%
# Bengal Picks 14 15 17 17 14 16 20
# Picks > Avg
8 7 3 10 2 2 3
% Picks > Avg
57% 47% 18% 59% 14% 13% 15%

Percent Possible Games Played:

Round 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Average (Bengals)

78% 78% 64% 59% 33% 43% 24%
Average (NFL)
84% 76% 68%
59% 52% 44% 36%
# Bengal Picks 14 15 17 17 14 16 20
# Picks > Avg
6 10 9 11 4
7
6
% Picks > Avg
43% 67% 53% 65% 29% 44% 30%

Note: only active years and/or draft years were considered, meaning if a player never made it to the NFL he was only "eligible" for 16 games based on the year drafted. If a player had a 3 year NFL career, he was "eligible" for 16x3=48 games.

In terms of finding high quality (based on years as a starter), the Bengals have done well in rounds 1 and 4 but otherwise are really bad - round 2 being the lone exception and there they are in line with the NFL average. In terms of finding viable players (based on % games played), it's rounds 2 and 4 where they are the strongest and average for rounds 1, 3 and 6. The team has been basically bad in rounds 5 and 7 even though we have some memorable players to come out of that group (T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Kevin Huber, Marvin Jones, George Iloka, Jonathan Fanene, Nedu Ndukwe). Heck, even "one hit wonders" like Khalid Abdullah who played in every game his rookie year (special teams) but never played again in the NFL helped bolster the overall average.

Based on the above, I think you can say that the Bengals do better than average in the draft when it comes to finding players who will see the field (5 of 7 rounds are at or better than the NFL average). They also are better than or at the NFL average for finding starters in 3 of the first 4 rounds, so as these are the critical ones I'd say that is very good.

Expectations will need to shift as the team gets better. It's unlikely a rookie will be a starter next year simply because we don't have any major holes, so most draft picks will spend a few years waiting for their turn to start. Therefore I would expect the "quality" metric to actually decrease over the next few years. The "quantity" metric should remain stable though if the team is going to maintain a competitive team while having a pay-as-you-go salary cap model.

While it doesn't help prove or disprove the original question, it's interesting to look at specific draft classes. Some were awesome (2009 & 2011: 3 of 1st 4 picks have started most games; 2012: all 10 picks have played in at least 25% of all games) and really none were awful when you look at the percent-by-round. Obviously when you adjust the data to factor in additional years a player should have played in the NFL you'd get different results, but I think overall this is a useful and unbiased approach to evaluating the team's ability to draft.

Updated with a larger sample size and easier-to-read formatting:

Main DataTeam Rank

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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