The Cincinnati Bengals are in the midst of one of the franchise's best winning stretches in the nearly five-decade history of the organization.
Never before have the Bengals made five-straight playoff trips or won 9+ games in as many consecutive years. While many like to point at the postseason falters, there's no denying this has been one of the NFL's most successful franchises this decade.
That was made possible in large part because of the 2011 NFL Draft. With the fourth-overall pick in that draft, Cincinnati took Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green, who's gone on to make five-straight Pro Bowls while becoming one of the game's best receivers.
That's why ESPN's Mel Kiper didn't move Green far from the fourth spot in his 2011 NFL Re-Draft. Kiper dropped Green to the fifth-overall spot so that Wisconsin defensive lineman J.J. Watt and Stanford corner Richard Sherman would rank ahead of him.
5. A.J. Green
Green and Julio Jones have nearly identical stats in terms of catches and yards, but I give Green the edge just because of his year-to-year consistency and because until this season when Tyler Eifert truly emerged, Green didn't have the kind of complement Jones had with Roddy White over the first few years of his career. I also don't think the QB play was as good in Cincinnati until this season. Green also has 11 more TD catches than Jones, roughly a year's worth.
Pick slot: No. 4 overall
The fact that Green even stayed in the top five is a major testament to how good he's been, while it's less relevant that he was dropped one spot. Often, players drafted in the top 10 don't pan out to be among the top 10 players from that draft. The four guys ahead of him — Sherman, Watt, Cam Newton and Von Miller — are among the NFL's best players, so Green is still in some great company.
However, that wasn't what ultimately made this a great draft for the Bengals. Even the worst-drafting teams can occasionally get it right when they have a top-five pick, so it's hard to give Cincinnati too much credit for getting Green there.
But, selecting TCU quarterback Andy Dalton in the second round at pick No. 35 was maybe the best pick in the entire draft. In today's NFL with so much focus on quarterbacks, it's almost impossible to find a franchise signal-caller after Round 1, but the Bengals did just that with Dalton, who Kiper has in a tie with USC tackle Tyron Smith going 10th overall.
10A. Andy Dalton
QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Dalton has his critics, but he has nearly the same passing yardage as Newton, more TD passes, and while the postseason has been the bugaboo, the Bengals are 50-26-1 in games Dalton has started. This season he was one of the best quarterbacks in the league before a broken thumb took him out. You can't question the value Cincy got with him in Round 2. Dalton has also taken his hair game to another level.
Pick slot: No. 35 overall
The Bengals hit it big with both of their first two picks, but they were also oh-so-close to making it three for three. With the 66th-overall pick, Cincinnati drafted Nevada pass-rusher Dontay Moch in the third round. The Bengals were hoping to add another pass-rushing threat to their defense, but Moch would never fill that role and is now struggling to stay in the NFL. He didn't play in 2015, but did end the season on the Atlanta Falcons' practice squad after being signed in December.
Four picks after Moch was taken, the Kansas City Chiefs grabbed Georgia pass-rusher Justin Houston, who would go on to become an All-Pro and was taken sixth overall in Kiper's re-draft.
That stings, but still, the Bengals hit home-runs with their first two picks, which laid the foundation for five-straight postseason berths. I'll take that.