Even though Mel Kiper Jr, Joe Reedy, Pete Prisco and all of the other draft analyst cronies gave the Bengals high grades for the 2011 NFL Draft, the highest grade (an A+++) won't mean anything until we see how the 2011 Bengals draft class performs on the field. It may take a couple years for Andy Dalton to get the hang of things and Dontay Moch may not come into his own until the middle of the 2013 season. Either way, you can't really give a real grade to a team's draft class until they make some sort of impact on the field. Right now, because of the current lockout, the team's draft picks haven't done anything on the field -- most of them didn't even receive a playbook from the team (hopefully they received one from A.J. Green).
So, handing out a draft grade to the Bengals for who they selected in 2011 is almost pointless. However, grading their 2008 draft class three years later isn't. That's exactly what USA Today's Nate Davis did.
Before we get to the grade, let's go through the actual draft. In the first round, with the No 9 overall pick, the Bengals selected USC outside linebacker Keith Rivers. Even though Rivers hasn't revolutionized the outside linebacker position or scared the crap out of opposing offenses by any means, he has started 35 of the possible 48 games as a Bengal, racking up 168 tackles (121 solo), sacked the quarterback twice and intercepted two passes. He's not awesome but he's not bad. I'd give the grade a B-.
In the second round, with the No. 46 overall pick, the Bengals selected Coastal Carolina wide receiver Jerome Simpson. Simpson really hasn't done much of anything and compared to other second-round picks that year (Matt Forté, DeSean Jackson and Ray Rice to name a few), he hasn't done anything. However, at the end of the 2010 season, when he was given the opportunity to start because of injuries to both Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, Simpson shined. In the final three games of the season, Simpson caught 20 passes for 277 yards and 3 touchdowns. He suddenly appeared to be what the Bengals drafted him to be: a No. 1 receiver. However, because he failed to produce until the final three games of the 2010 season, I give that pick a grade of a C-. Hopefully that changes in 2011.
In the third round, the Bengals had two picks. With the No. 77 pick overall, they selected Auburn defensive tackle Pat Sims and with the No. 97 pick overall, they selected Florida wide receiver Andre Caldwell. Sims has worked his way into a nice rotation with the other defensive linemen on the team, however he may be best known for jumping offsides against the Saints on a fourth-down play. Caldwell, on the other hand, has produced quite a lot for the Bengals, just not recently. In 2009, when the Bengals were marching down the field in the final minutes of what felt like every game to stage a come-from-behind-victory, it seemed as though it was Caldwell that always ended up with the ball in the end zone to end the game. In 2009, he caught 51 passes for 432 yards and three touchdowns as a slot receiver. However, in 2010, he only caught 25 passes for 345 yards and zero touchdowns. A lot of this may be due to the fact that Jordan Shipley and Terrell Owens squeezed Caldwell out, but that's not their fault, it's his. For the Sims pick, I give the Bengals a B- and for the Caldwell pick, I give them a C+.
In the fourth round, the Bengals spent the No. 112 overall pick on Kansas offensive tackle Anthony Collins. As you may have seen, Josh wrote an article calling out the Bengals for not playing Collins more. When he starts, the Bengals offense has definitely been more productive in the running and passing game, however, he doesn't get a chance to be on the field very much. Maybe there's something that Collins does in practice that the coaches don't like and we just don't know about it. Either way, he's not making his way to the field very often but maybe that will change in 2011. For the Collins pick I give the Bengals a C.
As for the rest of the guys drafted in 2008, Jason Shirley (No. 145), Corey Lynch (No. 177), Matt Sherry (No. 207), Angelo Craig (No. 244) and Mario Urrutia (No. 247), they're not on the team anymore.
So, to Nate Davis' grade: it's a solid D.
Cincinnati Bengals: OLB Keith Rivers, the No. 9 pick, has yet to make an impact, but at least he's started 33 games. The production from WRs Jerome Simpson (Round 2) and Andre Caldwell (Round 3) has been spotty at best. Third-round DT Pat Sims is best known for being lured offsides last season by Saints QB Drew Brees on fourth down with 34 seconds left in a December game, a penalty which led to the game-winning touchdown on the next play.
It's hard to really disagree. After three years, the best pick has been Rivers and he's never really wowed anybody. However, what's different about the Bengals' 2008 draft class than some of their others is that they can still change their grade. The Bengals offense is entering into a new era, one in which Simpson, Caldwell and Collins may get a lot more playing time. The Bengals didn't address the defensive line in the 2011 NFL Draft, which gives Sims a chance to earn more time on the field and Rivers is still going to start at outside linebacker.
Who knows, maybe even Mr. Davis will reconsider the Bengals' 2008 draft class after watching what they do in 2011. I have a feeling they may change some minds.