Welcome to the first Bengals Draft Class Tournament. We have taken the past 16 Bengals draft classes and seeded them one through 16. 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. Check out the first round winners and all the details here.
We've made it to the semi-finals of our draft class tournament and only four classes remain! In this round, the #1 seeded 2001 class will face off against the #4 2010 class, and the #6 2012 class will face off against the #2 2011 class. Let's start with the latter of the two semi-final matchups!
The second seeded draft class of 2011, led by Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, have cruised through the first two rounds of the tournament with an average polling result of 98% to 2%. Meanwhile Darqueze Dennard and Jeremy Hill are making a surprise visit to the semi-finals thanks to an upset over Andrew Whitworth and Jonathan Joseph’s draft class of 2006.
Armed with supplemental picks, a draft day trade with the Patriots, and a mid-season trade with the Raiders, the 2012 draft class included 10 picks, including five picks in the top 93 selections. Will this sheer volume help them to overcome the seven Pro-Bowl appearances held by the 2011 group?
#2 2011 Draft Class
All They Know is Winning
The Bengals' 2011 draft class has reached the playoffs in all five seasons since being drafted. Those five consecutive appearances easily top the franchise’s former record of two straight appearances. The 2011 draft class also claims a 0.626 regular season winning percentage with a record of 52-27-1.
Keep in mind, this isn’t a case where the draftees just stumbled into a team that was already loaded for a playoff run. Rather, the 2011 class stepped into a Bengals’ clubhouse hindered by to a CBA shortened offseason, adjusting to a new offensive coordinator, had just lost their long-time quarterback, and were coming off a dismal 4-12 record the previous season.
Moving the Offense
The Bengals' top two picks, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, became immediate contributors in their rookie seasons, and have been the team’s most reliable offensive weapons for the last half decade. Dalton has produced a very solid 62% completion rate with 3,602 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions, while Green has averaged a tremendous 1,234 receiving yards per season and 9 receiving touchdowns. The Bengals' fourth pick of 2011 has also become a solid offensive starter, in left guard Clint Boling.
Not only is the draft class five for five in reaching the playoffs, but Green is five for five in reaching the Pro-Bowl. And far from being a prototypical "popular, but unproductive" Pro-Bowl player, Green has earned his visits with some very good numbers, and even more spectacular plays on the field. Adding in the two appearances from Dalton, the 2011 draft class holds a 7–0 lead in Pro Bowl honors, which should have been an 8–0 lead had Dalton not been injured at the end of the 2015 season.
For all of the wonderful regular season success, the 2011 draft class is 0-5 in the playoffs. It’s great to get there, repeatedly, but at some point it would be nice to get past the front door. While all five losses are not entirely the fault of the 2011 draft class, until they win a playoff game, it will be difficult to ignore the struggles Dalton had in his first few playoff games.
We had More than Three Picks, Right?
With Green, Dalton, and Boling, it would seem that the Bengals only had three draft picks in 2011. In actuality, they had eight draft picks – it’s just the other five picks were barely noticeable in their brief NFL careers. Dontay Moch, Robert Sands, Ryan Whalen, Korey Lindsey, and Jay Finely combined for an average of just over five career games played, totaling one sack, and 80 receiving yards.
#6 2012 Draft Class
When we talk about a strong finish, we don’t mean Finland’s Jouko Ahola who won a pair of World’s Strongest Man competitions in the late 1990’s. We mean some great selections at the end of the draft. Selecting Marvin Jones in round 5 was a great bit of late round drafting as Jones is sixth among all 2012 draftees in yards per game, and third in receiving touchdowns per game. His production made him arguably the top wide receiver in free agency this past month. Another great draft pick in the last day of the draft was the Bengals’ selection of George Iloka, also in round 5. He has become a very good, young starting safety, who was also a popular target in free agency this past month.
The 2012 draft class resembled a shopping trip to a warehouse retailer such as Costco or Sam’s Club, with the ten draft picks that the Bengals came away with. With a pair of current starters in round one, and some great bargains like Jones and Iloka, it’s clear that the Bengals came away from this trip with more than a five gallon jar of ketchup.
Filling Out a Roster
The Bengals ended up with four players who were pretty good NFL starters last year. That kind of draft production is a good way to fill out a roster. Every player drafted has played in at least 21 NFL games, with an average of over 41 games played per draftee (out of a possible 64).
Despite what some Flacco apologists may contend, this draft class is very similar to Flacco in that it is lacking that "elite" characteristic. With two picks in the first round, five picks in the top 100, and 10 picks overall, this draft class lacks a single Pro Bowl player, and fails to bring home that truly great player. Though, with four of the picks remaining on the roster, there's still time for this class to shine.