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Top-Five Bengals First Round Draft Picks During The Marvin Lewis Era

It just makes sense sometimes that we carve certain periods into sections. For example, there's the Paul Brown era from 1968-1990. There's the Mike Brown era from 1991-2002 and then there's Marvin Lewis era from 2003-present. Now, one could say that the Mike Brown era is still happening -- winning four games in two of the previous three seasons tends to support that rebuttal. But there is a slight difference of the Bengals from the pre-Marvin Lewis era and the existing Lewis era, considering that the team has made the playoffs twice and sported a losing record in only three of the last eight seasons. But Josh, the Bengals have only two winnings seasons in the past eight years. You couldn't have been more right, Josh. But that's more than we had in the Mike Brown era leading up to the Marvin Lewis era. Not that that is supposed to make you feel better. We're just really rambling.

But while we do that, here's what I believe are the best first round picks since 2003 -- hence, the point of the Marvin Lewis era discussion.

5. Keith Rivers

The interceptions aren't there (two in his career). The sacks aren't there (two in his career). And it's not his tackles stand out. Simply put, he's not a big play-maker. Yet for the second straight year, Rivers finished the season ranked second on the team with 85 tackles. The question hasn't been about Rivers' production -- it's there. The question is: Has Rivers' production had the value of a ninth overall draft pick?

4. Jermaine Gresham

Drafted with the 21st pick overall in the 2010 NFL Draft, the former Oklahoma Sooners tight end missed most of his senior year with a major knee injury, which was about the only red flag Gresham had entering the Draft. Gresham finished his rookie season with 52 receptions - a rookie franchise record for tight ends - and four touchdowns, which tied Chad Ochocinco for second-most on the team.

3. Leon Hall

Tory James and Deltha O'Neal were Pro Bowl corners passing the twilights of their respective careers. And while they made big plays at times, they also allowed big plays. Either way, Hall became the second of two first round draft picks at cornerback. With 18 career interceptions, five forced fumbles and 71 passes defensed, Hall could be argued to be one of the team's best draft picks during the Marvin Lewis era -- not just first rounders.

2. Johnathan Joseph

While arguing Hall as one of the best draft picks, you might as well throw Joseph's name in the discussion. The closest thing that Cincinnati has to shutdown cornerback, Joseph has 14 career interceptions and three touchdowns and supports the run as well as any cornerback in the NFL today.

The truth is that both cornerbacks could be argued. If you wanted to swap both players for #2 and #3, would you really even notice?

1. Carson Palmer

Let's list some of the franchise records that Carson Palmer holds. Highest career quarterback rating (86.9), completions for a season (373), touchdowns in a game (6), highest quarterback rating in a season (101.1), most 300-yard games in a season (5), highest completion percentage in a career (62.9%), most passing yards in a season (4,131) and most touchdowns in a season (32). If it wasn't for his demand for a trade, Palmer had more than enough time to literally wipe every other quarterback's name from the franchise's record book.

Palmer is the only player drafted by the Bengals during the Marvin Lewis era that was voted into the Pro Bowl (note: Eric Steinbach was named as a second alternate for the 2006 Pro Bowl), earning MVP honors in his second and final Pro Bowl following the 2006 season.

Palmer is the first player drafted by Marvin Lewis and remains as the team's best first round draft pick since 2003.