After weeks of voting, the readers of Cincy Jungle have spoken. They have voted the 2011 draft class as the best Bengals’ draft class of the 21st century. It’s hard not to notice the production – five playoff appearances in five seasons – turning around a team who struggled mightily in 2010.
Despite three first team All-Pro selections, four starters, and 13 Pro Bowls, the top seeded 2001 draft class was unable to top the 2011 group and their five consecutive playoff appearances.
Just how much do the readers of Cincy Jungle love the 2011 draft class? Consider that the 2011 class defeated the 2001 class, which included the Bengals’ best seventh round pick (T.J. Houshmandzadeh), the Bengals’ franchise record holder for most rushing yards in a season (Rudi Johnson), and the Bengals’ career leader in every receiving category (Chad Johnson). And that 2001 class had just defeated the draft class that includes Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, and Jermaine Gresham. In other words, the voters really liked that 2011 group.
So let’s take a look at that 2011 draft class, pick by pick...
A.J. Green, WR, 1st round #4 overall
Green has made the Pro Bowl five times in five seasons. That’s very good. But when you average over 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns every season, it’s understandable. Green has set multiple NFL records for receiving production to start a career, and is on pace to pass Johnson as the top receiver in Bengals’ history. Green already has 11 more touchdowns, and 615 more yards after their first five seasons.
Green and Julio Jones were the class of the 2011 draft as far as pass catchers go. Jones was the physical freak who could use his strength and speed to dominate, while Green was the silky smooth runner, leaving defensive backs in his dust, and routinely making circus catches. Ultimately both players have been great, with Green leading the entire draft in receptions with 415 and receiving touchdowns with 45, while Jones has a 30 yard lead in receiving yards. The Bengals ended round one with a great pick.
Andy Dalton, QB, 2nd round #35 overall
2011 was a quarterback needy draft with six signal callers going in the top 36 picks. The Bengals wisely resisted the urge to reach for one of them in the first round, and watched as the likes of Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder were selected in the eight picks after they opted for A.J. Green.
When round two rolled around, the big question was which quarterback would the Bengals’ choose? There were strong argument thrown around for Andy Dalton, Ryan Mallett, and Colin Kaepernick. At the end of the day, the Bengals chose wisely, opting for TCU’s Dalton.
Dalton, and first overall pick Cam Newton lead the 2011 draft in passing yards, with each topping 18,000 yards, about twice as many as the next closest passer. Dalton leads the 2011 group with 124 passing touchdowns and 1556 completions. That’s pretty good for the fifth quarterback selected. Again, the Bengals walked away from round two with a great pick.
Dontay Moch, Edge, 3rd round #66 overall
Moch was an intriguing prospect out of Nevada, averaging 20 tackles for a loss over his final three seasons, and just under nine sacks over that span. He wowed scouts at the combine with a blazing 4.53 40-yard dash as an edge rusher, and a lofty 42" vertical leap. Standing 6’1" and weighing 248 lbs, he was an athletic 3-4 outside linebacker prospect whom the Bengals tried to fit into their 4-3 defense.
Ultimately Moch was unable to fit into the Bengals’ defense, or any NFL team’s defense, for that matter. He bounced around three different teams in four years before finding himself out of the league in 2015. He ended his NFL career with seven tackles and one sack – none of which were for the Bengals. What makes this pick especially sting is that a pair of very good defensive front seven players were drafted in the dozen picks immediately following Moch. Stud pass rusher Justin Houston, who has 56 sacks in five seasons, was selected four picks later, while defensive tackle Jurrell Casey went seven picks after Houston. After two great picks, the Bengals whiffed horribly in round three.
Clint Boling, LG, 4th round #101 overall
Boling has become a solid four year starter at left guard for the Bengals. He seems to get better every season, and will likely continue to put together a good career on the Bengals’ offensive line. One could argue that a better value could have been had with Jason Kelce (round six) or Derek Newton (round seven) on the offensive line. But not many of the fourth round picks drafted after Boling have become solid, productive starters like Boling has. Ultimately the Bengals ended round four with a pretty solid selection.
Robert Sands, S, 5th round #134 overall
What’s not to like about a tall defensive back who can cover? Just ask the Seahawks with their three time All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, and his 26 interceptions. Sherman was a fellow fifth round selection in the 2011 NFL draft, selected 20 picks after the Bengals drafted Robert Sands.
Compared to Sherman, Sands was a horrible selection. Actually, compared to just about anybody, Sands turned out to be a horrible selection. His brief NFL career included one game with no tackles. Like they did in round three, the Bengals horribly whiffed in round five – not only because they passed on Sherman (who was passed over by many teams) but because their selection proved to be totally unproductive.
Ryan Whalen, WR, 6th round #167 overall
By round six, you are just hoping your picks can make the roster and contribute. And by that measure, Whalen wasn’t a horrible pick. He did survive three seasons on the roster before his career came to an end. He only collected 11 receptions for 80 yards.
By this point in the 2011 NFL draft none of the receivers produced very memorable careers. The most productive receivers drafted after Whalen were the likes of Aldrick Robinson and Dwayne Harris. Who? Exactly. It wasn’t a great pick, but not an awful pick. He did make the team. So ultimately a decent selection.
Korey Lindsey, DB, 7th round #207 overall
Jay Finley, RB, 7th round #246 overall
Lindsey and Finley are lumped together because they were both seventh round picks who combined for zero games played. Finely was out of the league the same year he was drafted, while Linsey managed to get paid into the following year for his troubles. It’s difficult to ding the team too badly for taking a chance on a pair of last round picks who didn’t pan out.
So there you have it. The readers of Cincy Jungle have spoken. The 2011 draft class is the best that the Bengals have produced over the last 16 years (2016 not included). Do you agree?