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Bengals' model of developing their own

As the Bengals begin to pop up on radars all around the NFL based on their season so far, people ask how this team got so talented. The Bengals' model of developing their own is a strong one.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

As fans, we love where this Bengals team currently stands. We talk about depth and the quality of players but don't give a lot of thought to how we got here. The Bengals have a particular method of building their team and as we all know, this doesn't include flashy free agency moves. But how much talent have the Bengals been responsible for bringing in exactly?

You may be surprised to read 47 of the 57 players on the Bengals' roster and injury lists (NFI, PUP, IR) and all 10 of the Bengals' practice squad players were drafted by or signed as undrafted free agents by the Bengals. Some of the players the Bengals have signed that were not originally with the team are:

  • A.J. Hawk
  • Adam Jones
  • Greg Little
  • Reggie Nelson
  • Mike Nugent
  • Brandon Tate
  • Cedric Peerman

The majority of the team that has propelled Cincinnati to become one of the better franchises in the NFL has been scouted, signed and developed by the Cincinnati front office and coaching staff. Of the 47 players who have only played for the Bengals, 42 were draft picks. This ranks them at the top of the NFL (tied with the Green Bay Packers) with the most drafted talent on the roster. Throw out draft grades and theories, that stat speaks to the quality of drafts the Bengals have been enjoying.

The only team in the NFL that has more original talent on the roster that is the Green Bay Packers. That is some strong company for Cincinnati and a stat the front office should hang their hat on as they are questioned about size of staff and the needs in the organization.

We often hear (mostly when the team struggles) about the need for the Bengals to hire a General Manager. The thought is that Mike Brown wearing the hat of owner and GM is too much for the guy to handle. There may be some truth to this. As the Bengals have changed their stripes in recent years (sorry for the pun) we have witnessed a control shift in the organization. Duke Tobin has taken on much of the GM duties, as Katie Blackburn has handled finances and contracts. The shared approach suits this team well and we witness it with continued success.

Adding to the eye for talent argument is that 42 of the 47 players who have only played for the Bengals were draft selections. This again ties the Packers in this category. Think about the hype around the draft and the hope it brings for teams. This carries true for teams like the Bengals and Packers and is salt in the wound for organizations like Cleveland who seem to miss more than they hit.

The Bengals don't seem to favor one area of the draft more than another. They successfully draft well in both the early rounds and late rounds. For early drafting, 7 of the 11 starters on offense were drafted in the first two rounds. At the same time, there are currently 8 starters who were drafted in round 4 or later.

Routinely we see two types of successful teams in the NFL. We see the "all in" teams that go broke in free agency and get a ton of preseason hype. Sometimes this works out, often it does not. The problem is these teams get assembled for instant success, which burns bright but short. So a season or two later, they're again in rebuilding mode.

The other model is the one I prefer. These are the teams that are always good. The Packers, Patriots and Steelers are strong models of this and you shouldn't be shocked to know they also rank high in developing their own talent. Emulating this model is one Bengals fans would love. I think we are witnessing this in Cincinnati with continued winning season and five out of six possible trips to the playoffs.

There is respect for this organization. No longer are they looked down upon by the national media and NFL fan base. Sure, there are still some stragglers to the bandwagon, but most know they are looking at a talented football team. It is nice to know this was by design and not something a woeful team stumbled on to. This model of success should make the Bengals good for some time.

Throughout this article I referenced "players that have only played for the Bengals" this is not 100% accurate for players like Michael Johnson and Pat Sims who did have short stints with other organizations but were originally Bengals.