The Bengals' days of drafting Akili Smith, Ki-Jana Carter, David Klinger and the rest of Cincinnati's first-round busts are long gone. In recent years, the Bengals have quietly re-written the narrative, drafting long-term starters in the early rounds of nearly every Draft since 2010.
Since 2010, the Bengals have been undeniably effective in the first two rounds of the Draft. How effective have they been?
14 of their projected 2016 starters were first or second round picks--15, if you're counting Karlos Dansby. And of those 15, 12 selections were made by the Bengals.
14 of the Bengals' 2016 starters were first or second round picks, 12 of those selected by Cincinnati. That's crazy. pic.twitter.com/RLsaWpLuDB— Connor Howe (@HoweNFL) June 9, 2016
Despite a few misses in the first two rounds, it may be safe to say the Bengals are one of the most effective teams when it comes to hitting on early-round picks. As mentioned, 12 of the Bengals' 2016 starters were first or second round selections made by the Bengals themselves. Let's take a look at how that stacks up against the rest of last year's playoff teams. Keep in mind that these numbers factor in players at any stage of their career, so a player selected in 2004 counts the same as a player taken in 2011 or 2016. For the sake of this exercise, slot corners and backup running backs who take a significant number of snaps even when the starter is healthy count as starters.
What's also interesting is that among last year's playoff teams, only the Patriots, Bengals, Steelers, Redskins and Packers boast starting lines composed of players originally selected by the team, whether via the draft or undrafted free agency. Perhaps that's a testament to offensive line coach Paul Alexander, who received heavy praise earlier this week.
Say what you will about guys like Margus Hunt, but since 2006, 20 of the Bengals' 22 selections from the first two rounds of the draft are still in the league. Only Keith Rivers, whose career spanned from 2008-2015, and Kenny Irons, a 2007 second-rounder who sustained an ACL injury early in his career and was never able to recover, are no longer in the NFL. Both Jonathan Joseph and Andrew Whitworth, the Bengals' first two picks in 2006, are still starters 10 years after being drafted.
Despite their struggles, the two biggest disappointments of the Bengals' first and second round draft picks since 2012, Margus Hunt and Devon Still, could have a chance to see limited roles on their respective teams. Hunt obviously remains on the Bengals, with a chance to become a rotational defensive end, while Still has a legitimate chance at competing for defensive tackle snaps on the Texans. Meanwhile, Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard, two picks who haven't quite yet panned out, will have a chance to start for the Bengals this season and prove their doubters wrong.
Whatever happens, this is good news for William Jackson III and Tyler Boyd. The Bengals might not land superstars in the first and second round of every draft--though they seem to be landing stars at an increasing rate every year--but judging by team history, it looks like Jackson III and Boyd could end up being quality players in Cincinnati.