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Bengals 21st Century Draft Class Tournament: Semi-Finals - #1 (2001) vs #4 (2010)

This Semi-Final showdown is chocked full of great talent featuring five first team All Pro selections and 20 Pro Bowl nominations. Will Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap lead their 2010 squad to victory, or will Justin Smith and Chad Johnson move their top seeded class to the finals?

Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

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.

After the top seeded 2001 draft class, featuring Chad Johnson and Justin Smith, destroyed Peter Warrick’s 2000 group by a 99% to 1% margin, they hit a road bump, struggling to get past the #9 seeded draft class of Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard. But they continue to live the mantra of "win and advance". Meanwhile, the 2010 draft class of Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, just like on game day, have destroyed the competition on their way to reaching the semi-finals. They annihilated Chris Perry’s 2004 draft class by a 99% - 1% margin, and steamrolled Carson Palmer’s 2002 squad by acquiring 92% of the vote. With a trip to the finals at stake, can Smith and the Ocho continue to win and advance, or will Dunlap and crew pull their best General Sherman impression, and continue their dominant march?

#1 2001 Draft Class

I’m not old, I’m experienced

Of the 16 Bengals draft classes in the tournament, the 2001 draft class enters as the second oldest one in the field. Despite the 2001 group coming from the era before the Bengals were considered to be good at drafting, they have produced many great players top to bottom.

More Decorations than a Kid’s Birthday Party

You might have to travel back in time and visit the monks copying elaborately adorned pages of Biblical manuscripts in their scriptoriums to find something as highly decorated as the 2001 draft class. Four of the Bengals’ seven draft picks ended up earning Pro Bowl selections, as the class garnered 13 total selections. They were the only class to rack up All Pro status for multiple players, with Chad Johnson collecting a pair of them, and Justin Smith adding one.

Child Please

Second round pick Chad Ochocinco Johnson ended his career with the most receptions (751), most receiving yards (10,783) and most receiving touchdowns (66) in Bengals’ history. His franchise best marks in receptions and yards are well ahead of the second best marks in each category.

I Need More Bell Cow

Despite already having the best running back in team history, Corey Dillon, on the roster, the Bengals invested a fourth round pick on a bell cow running back with Auburn’s Rudi Johnson. And how good was the tenth running back selected in 2001? He finished his career third all-time in Bengals’ rushing yards (5,742), and second in rushing touchdowns (48). He also holds the team’s second best mark of 19 games with at least 100 rushing yards, and in 2004 and 2005 he set the team records with most rushing yards in a season with 1,454 and 1,458 rushing yards.

Pot l’Gold at the End of the Draft

Houshmandzadeh has been the best seventh round pick since the Bengals selected since drafting right tackle Joe Walter out of North Carolina Central back in 1985. He compiled over 7,000 receiving yards and grabbed 44 touchdowns. Both of these totals top the combined production of the top two receivers drafted in 2001.

#4 2010 Draft Class


Unless you work bagging groceries at a Kroger grocery store you probably aren’t going to see as many sacks as the 2010 draft class has generated. Second round pick Carlos Dunlap leads the entire 2010 draft class with 49 career sacks, while Geno Atkins’ routinely rates as the NFL’s best pass rusher from the interior defensive line, which his 43 career sacks will attest to.

Pro Bowl Tour?

Three of the Bengals top five selections reached the Pro Bowl, with Atkins making four appearances himself. Gresham reached a pair of Pro Bowls, while Dunlap has one to his credit.

Draft Day God Complex?

After spending six days on creation, God sat back and spent the seventh day resting. It seems the Bengals took a similar philosophy during the 2010 NFL draft. After nailing three great picks in the first few rounds, the team apparently kicked up their feet and rested. Their final four picks failed to make much of an impact, as three of them never played a game for the Bengals. The only one that did step onto the field in a Bengals’ uniform was Roddrick Muckelroy, who was a backup linebacker for a handful of games.

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Carlos Dunlap was the eighth defensive end selected, yet leads the entire draft in sacks. Not bad production for a guy who didn’t become a regular starter until his fourth season. Apologies to Jason Pierre-Paul and his mutilated hand, but Dunlap is arguably the best defensive tackle from that draft. He is certainly in the top two.

Two of the top three picks in 2010 were defensive tackles. Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy have been very good, and were justifiably selected atop the draft. But that draft featured three great defensive tackles, and the Bengals got the third great one, Geno Atkins, as the twelfth one selected, 117 picks after McCoy. Of those three, Atkins has the most sacks with 43, and the most sacks per game, generating one sack every 0.48 games, which is 8% better than both Suh and McCoy. He is second of the three in tackles per game, but that number is highly skewed by his limited snap counts in his rookie season when he played all 16 games, but barely.

So Close

Jermaine Gresham was a solid pick. He was a very good blocker and is just short of 3,000 career receiving yards, and has 25 receiving touchdowns. His infuriating false start penalties and untimely drops are hard to forget for many fans, but it’s hard to deny that he is a solid NFL player. But the 2010 NFL draft had a pair of elite tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, both drafted after Gresham. The Bengals drafted the right position, and got a good player, but could have come away with so much more.