Welcome to the first Bengals Draft Class Tournament. We have taken the past 16 Bengals draft classes and seeded them one through 16. The readers of Cincy Jungle will vote for the winner of each matchup, with one draft class advancing and one being eliminated. Consider this our version of March Madness! The tournament will continue until the readers of Cincy Jungle have crowned a winner of the best Bengals draft class of the 21st century. Get the bracket and all the details here!
This pairing is the classic #8 vs #9 matchup that could go either way. Will the 2009 draft which produced four long time Bengals starters be able to hold off a group which features an emerging tight end who could become "elite", and a shifty committee running back? Let's take a look.
2009 Draft Class (#8)
The Bengals first three picks from the 2009 NFL Draft have become regular starters on the Bengals’ roster over the last half dozen years. After weight and injury problems plagued the first couple years of Andre Smith’s career, he has become a very capable starting right tackle. Now, he's off to the Minnesota Vikings after seven serviceable years in Cincinnati.
Second round pick Rey Maualuga never became the impact Pro Bowl linebacker that many fans envisioned when they bought his "58" jersey upon his selection in the 2009 draft. But, he has become a productive 2-down run stopper who has put together a nice career in the Queen City.
The Bengals third selection in the draft, Michael Johnson, was the third consecutive player selected in this draft who has put together a nice, solid career for the Bengals. Aside from a one year stint in Tampa Bay, he has been a regular at the right defensive end position and he will continue that role in 2016.
Kevin Huber is the fourth Bengals’ long-time starter from this draft class. He has been a very good punter for the Bengals and deservingly made the Pro Bowl in 2014.
Bernard Scott became a solid contributor as a backup running back, and was a good pick for being taken as late as he was. Outside of Scott, this draft was heavily front loaded, as many of the later round picks didn't pan out.
2013 Draft Class (#9)
After two seasons, Bengals’ fans weren’t entirely sure what they had with first round pick Tyler Eifert. Now, after his third season, they know – and it’s a very good thing. Eifert emerged as one of the top tight ends in the NFL in 2015, leading the tight end position in receiving touchdowns, despite missing almost 20% of the season.
Second round pick Bernard has gone from everybody’s favorite minivan driving rookie who emerged as a good receiving option, to a second fiddle behind Jeremy Hill’s insane second half of 2014, to a solid fixture in the Bengals’ backfield.
The Bengals’ second, second round pick, Margus Hunt, has become a regular healthy "inactive" on game days. He offers an enticing combination of physical attributes, but after 1.5 sacks in three years, he may not make it through the duration of his rookie contract.
Shawn Williams proved himself as an adequate backup in 2015, and will likely become a starter in 2016. But after round 3, only Rex Burkhead has seen much playing time, and none of the players selected after round 3 look like they will be pressing for starting, or even high backup roles in Cincinnati.
Eifert has a very high ceiling, and Bernard has been productive in a split backfield. But it remains to be seen if they can pull the #9 seed over the #8 seed and the long-term starters of Smith, Maualuga, Johnson, and Huber.