If you're expecting consistency when asking "which draft was the best during the Marvin Lewis era," you're going to get as much consensus as Capitol Hill during another fight designed to promote the politician/party than the issues. Regardless, the topic transcends into a type of madness that invites enjoyable bantering rather someone trying to one-up the other (riiiiiight).
I loved the '05 NFL draft class. David Pollak and Odell Thurman had expectations of being this nasty foundation for Cincinnati's defense, and for a spell, all indications pointed that way. Chris Henry was just nasty, Tab Perry was a threat in the kickoff return game and Jonathan Fanene developed into a quality pass rusher (though that came later). Alas, that class didn't have staying power -- once that season ended, so did the impact of that class (for one reason or another). The '06 draft had the staying power, while classes in '07 and '08, save for a player or two, were complete wastes (requiring bleach to remove the stench in the team's war room).
The 2010 and 2011 classes combined brought starters Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Jermaine Gresham, A.J. Green, Andy Dalton and Clint Boling. Between the two, awesome. Individually, there were some golden selections but some equally bad ones also -- especially the '11 class.
And the more exciting thing is that the '12 class can wipe them all out... if things play out like we expect them to.
I turned to our crew.
Nick Seuberling, 2009 Draft Class:
After looking over Lewis's draft classes, for me it's 2009 and I'm not sure there are any that come close. That class had the most players that stuck around the longest -- and actually contributed on the field. Andre Smith, Rey Mauluga, Michael Johnson, Kevin Huber, Bernard Scott, and, oh yea, seven-round pick Clinton McDonald just won a Super Bowl in Seattle.
Andrew Fox Miller, 2009 Draft Class:
I'm agreeing with Nick and saying 2009. The top end is obviously great with Andre Smith, Maualuga, and Michael Johnson. When you add the boost in special teams with Huber and the support from Bernard Scott on the back end, I love how it turned out. One thing I would add though: The 2012 draft class has the potential to surpass 2009. It's too soon to say, obviously, but it seems to be trending that way. The Bengals could come away with some great players from top to bottom. Marvin Jones was in the fifth round. Iloka was in the sixth. We'll see. Kirkpatrick's improvement/development would be key.
Jason Marcum, 2011 Draft Class:
The overall quality of players they got is debatable as to whether it's his best overall draft since he got here, but given the circumstances, it had the greatest impact of any. This was during the offseason from hell, highlighted by Carson Palmer's quitting on the team and Chad Johnson being dealt away. That's the franchise's all-time leading receiver and third-leading passer(passing yardage and TDs) leaving your franchise in the same offseason. They were replaced with two players who may very well break all of their records. Andy Dalton is already one of the winningest quarterbacks over his first three years in NFL history, and A.J. Green is already a more complete receiver than Chad was at any point in his career without all of the drama. Toss in a serviceable starter in Clint Boling, and you've got best draft class since Lewis became the head coach of the Bengals.
Mickey Mentzer, 2006 Draft Class:
I almost want to say 2005 but can't because of the curse around that year. Pollack, Thurman, Henry, Ghiaciuc all were talented players. That being said, I am going to go 2006. Jonathan Joseph, Andrew Whitworth, Domata Peko and Frostee Rucker led that draft and all of these players have had good careers. Whitworth is a pro bowler, Joseph was an all pro and Peko is key to this defense.
Anthony Cosenza, 2012 Draft Class:
I'm going to say 2012, actually. Not a ton of all-stars, but this group has built the needed depth and has been a part of two straight playoff appearances. Dre Kirkpatrick has had his ups and downs, but contributed in 2013, Kevin Zeitler has played at a near-Pro Bowl level at guard, and the two defensive tackles (Devon Still and Brandon Thompson) had significant time last season. There are the two wideouts, Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones who have contributed heavily, George Iloka has become a starter at safety and though Orson Charles has disappointed, he has gotten time. Just all-around contributions from this group.
Scott Bantel, 2010 Draft Class:
Bengals fans (myself included) love to bang on Marvin Lewis – much of it deserved. However, one thing he does not get nearly enough credit for is his drafting ability. I really liked the drafts in ’13, ’12, ’11, ’10, ’09, ’06 and ’05. ’05 may have had the most talent, or at least potential, but it was cursed. ’06 was solid, but lacks the wow factor. ’13 and ’12 (and even ’11) I like, but I feel that it is still a bit early to get a full grasp on how good they are.
That leaves me with ’09 and ’10. ’09 the Bengals had high picks which I think makes things a bit easier yet they still lack a true star from that group, therefore I am going with ’10. In 2010, the Bengals did not draft until 21st overall and got a 2-time Pro Bowl TE (Gresham) in round 1, a dominant DE in round 2 (Dunlap), what would have been two productive players in round 3 if not for injuries (Shipley and Ghee) and then arguably their best pick ever in the 4th round in 2-time Pro Bowl DT Geno Atkins. The 2010 class was 5 deep, produced the heart of the best DL in the NFL, produced star power (Atkins) and 4 Pro Bowl appearances in the 4 years since.
Your turn. Which class is the best during the Marvin Lewis era?