It won’t be long until the NFL Draft is here.
Hopefully, this year’s draft will not feature the Bengals spending yet another first-round pick on a cornerback, something they’ve done five times since 2006.
But the team’s affinity for corners is not limited to Round 1, nor is it just that part of the defensive backfield for which the Bengals tend to draft with frequency. Safeties are also something the Bengals have spent several picks on in recent year.
A study done by Rotoworld’s Rich Hribar shows the Bengals love taking defensive backs in the Draft, 10 to be exact since 2012. Only the 49ers have drafted more defensive backs in that span, though quite a few teams have drafted the same number as the Bengals (Falcons, Browns, Vikings, Eagles).
Draft pick allocation over the past 5 years... pic.twitter.com/oBTkRkR1fW— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) February 7, 2017
The good news is Cincinnati has nailed several of those picks spent on defensive backs, including Shawn Williams, George Iloka, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Joshua Shaw. But guys like Darqueze Dennard, Robert Sands, Clayton Fejedelem, William Jackson III, and Shaun Prater either failed to make it in the league or are still relative unknowns.
That study also explains some of the Bengals’ biggest areas of weakness. Seeing just three picks on defensive ends helps show why this team was so lacking in the pass-rushing department last year.
Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson were drafted before this study. As good as they’ve been together at times, they need help, and they’re not getting much of any from recent Draft picks.
Other Bengals trends illustrated in the chart are a slight preference for offense over defense and a heavy hand toward drafting receivers (seven in the last five years -- the second most in the league behind the Packers).
And you don’t have to be a Bengals expert to know this team does not like playing rookies. Most players who spend their first NFL season in Cincinnati get used to sitting on the bench early and often. That is, if they’re even a game day active, something almost half of each Bengals’ draft class fails to be on a regular basis.
In fact, Hribar took another look at NFL teams and their use of rookies, which shows that Cincinnati has ended up with several guys who don’t play a single game. Here’s a look at how many draft picks each team has had in the last five years and how many of those picks have played zero games.
Number of picks over that span that failed to play (or have yet to) an NFL game... pic.twitter.com/AynQodr6eQ— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) February 8, 2017
On average, each team has 4.56 players who haven’t played any games who were Drafted in the last five years. The Bengals are just slightly above average with five picks in the last five years who have not played any games.
To be fair to the Bengals, two of those were in last year’s class thanks to season-ending injuries in training camp to Jackson and Andrew Billings. 2015 fourth round pick Marcus Hardison has also spent back-to-back years on Injured Reserve due to preseason injuries. The other two guys who didn’t play any games in Cincinnati were seventh-round pick Lavelle Westbrooks from the 2014 Draft and 2016 fifth round pick Christian Westerman who was buried on the depth chart all year and wasn’t needed.
Considering the list is filled with three unfortunate injury situations, one seventh round pick and a depth player who just finished his rookie year, that’s not too bad. Still, five guys in five drafts that failed to play a game is an unfortunate scenario. Even the team’s worst picks should manage to play in at least one NFL game, whether it’s here or with another team. Luckily, there’s time for four of the five players to shine.
But you probably know by now the Bengals’ recent draft classes have left a lot to be desired. Hopefully, this year’s class will be low on defensive backs, and high on guys who make an immediate impact on next year’s team.