In quick summation, this draft included a player that suffered a broken neck, two players serving long-term suspensions and four players suffering long term injuries. Of all the players drafted, only one has remained relatively healthy with invisible talents avoiding the hand of god (aka, Roger Goodell). However, the damage was done, not in 2005, but in 2006. The 2005 class was Lewis' best... at the time.
Going from a trophy-filled career as a defensive end at Georgia to outside linebacker with the Bengals, David Pollack's history brought an exciting aura to the city. Most people questioned the move from end to linebacker -- mostly because of our desire to have an insane pass rushing defensive end. But in the grand scheme of things, fans were happy because this draft started with defense bringing hope that this bend to shatter defense would end. After a season of learning a new position, Pollack came into 2006 with big expectations. Then along came week two. Now, his future is very much in doubt.
Then you have Odell Thurman. Pollack's college teammate won acclaim for being among a great class of defensive rookies. At one point, he lead the league in interceptions scoring big time points for his desire to be great -- he was clearly the best defensive player drafted in this class. Thurman's upswing was so large, that comparisons to Ray Lewis were free flowing. Enter: the summer of 2006. In a way, it was a shock to hear the rumors and gossip over the off-season about a failed drug test. Eventually rumors and gossip turned truth and Thurman was suspended the first four games of 2006. Enter: three stooges. On September 24, Thurman, the least drunk of the stooges, failed a sobriety test at a DUI checkpoint. Two days later, he was suspended for the remainder of the season. Like Pollack, but for different reasons, Thurman may never suit up with the Bengals again.
What's there to say about Chris Henry? He's one half of the character-flaw poster boys. I'm not going to detail his arrests -- I tire of the repeated reminders easily found on any mainstream sports site. But let's not be naive. When Henry is playing, he changes the complexion of the defense's strategy. His ability to score touchdowns easily rivals his teammates. He outweighs those that cover him and stands taller than most defensive backs. While drafting a bargain, the Bengals also drafted a problem. He had red flags for his conduct on the field, not arrests off it. He's the type that makes Bengals fans struggle with the difference between character and talent.
When Rich Braham played his final career game against Cleveland (week #2, 2006), a young man named Eric Ghiaciuc propelled the team's transformation from experience to youth. It's been a long time since the team didn't project Braham as the starting center -- personally, that was a sad realization... but I'm a homer for linemen. Eventually, Braham was forced to retire and Ghiaciuc was given the opportunity to promote from apprentice to master (weak Star Wars reference). Ghiaciuc's lessons learned by the strength of a raging fire was quick, but not easy. Soon after starting, Carson Palmer's sack totals started inflating. Even when Palmer wasn't sacked, he was killed on plays that he barely got the pass off. This forced the team to move Eric Steinbach to center with rookie Andrew Whitworth to guard -- ironically, that, to me, was the time that the team believed Whitworth could replace Steinbach without problems. Ghiaciuc eventually won his job back and the line stabilized. However, his future is also questionable. Not because of injury or conduct, but the Bengals signed Alex Stepanovich and continue the building project of Ben Wilkerson -- both are possible guard converts.
I really don't know much about Adam Kieft's ability because he's always hurt. So let's move on...
Tab Perry was a pleasant surprise. His 1,562 kickoff return yards ranked second in the NFL. He's primarily contributed through Special Teams with limited offensive exposure. But he was he fantastic shovel pass recipient; even scoring a touchdown. Perry's contribution will be greatly increased in 2007 with the half-season suspension Henry will serve. In a sense, when it's all said and done, Perry could be the steal of the 2005 draft.
Like Kieft, Jonathan Fanene's career has been hampered by injury. We really do not know, at this point, what we're getting out of him.
From two linebackers that went from promising game-changing defensive studs to undetermined futures; from major injuries voiding sophomore seasons to large suspensions for character issues; the 2005 draft class truly shaped this team's future -- well, it was supposed to. And realistically, it still can. But if we examined this class after the 2005 season, it would have been Lewis' best -- by far. Now, that isn't clearly the case.