The fourth round of the NFL Draft has been good to the Cincinnati Bengals over the years. And, the hope is that good things will just continue to happen.
Most of those draft-day steals have been on the defensive side of the ball, but it all started with an offensive selection.
It all began in 2001, when the Bengals drafted Rudi Johnson in the fourth round with the 100th overall selection in the NFL Draft.
Johnson began his Bengals career as a backup to four-time Pro Bowler Corey Dillon, but found himself in the lineup with Dillon missed most of the 2003 season with injuries. Johnson responded with 957 yards rushing and nine touchdowns in just nine games and added another 146 yards on 21 receptions.
Dillon was traded to New England following the season, and Johnson picked up in 2004 right where he had left off. He set a franchise rushing record with 1,454 yards, scored 12 touchdowns and was named to the AFC Pro Bowl.
In 2005, Johnson helped the Bengals get back to the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, breaking his own franchise record with 1,458 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. He also added 23 receptions for 90 yards.
Domata Peko, who was drafted by the Bengals in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft, became a starter at nose tackle in his second season and remained a starter through last year.
Peko proved to be a rock on the defensive line, starting all 16 games in each of the previous seven seasons and nine times since 2007. He had a career-high five sacks in helping the Bengals to win the AFC North crown in 2015.
Then, in 2010 the Bengals selected Geno Atkins in the 4th round of the NFL Draft with the 120th overall selection, and the rest is history. Atkins, a five-time Pro-Bowler, is one of the premier defensive tackles in the National Football League, has recorded 23 sacks since the beginning of the 2015 season and leads all defensive tackles in that department.
The only thing that has been able to slow Atkins since he broke into the starting lineup in 2011 has been injury. Atkins suffered a torn ACL halfway through the 2013 season and continued to affect his play through 2014. When healthy, however, Atkins has been among the best the NFL has to offer and is well on his way to a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The 2017 NFL Draft was the home of yet another 4th round steal by the Bengals. This year, Cincinnati drafted former Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson with the 116th overall selection, and the preliminary results have been more than promising.
In the opening day loss to the Ravens, Willis held his own in run defense through limited action, and provided a spark for the team with his frenetic pass-rushing. He teamed with Atkins to record the Bengals' only sack of the day.
Lawson actually saw less time on the field in week two, despite an injury that had Michael Johnson watching from the sidelines. Lawson played primarily on third down as the Bengals' designated pass rusher, and Houston's limited reliance on the pass also limited his opportunities. Still, Lawson has tied the lead league among rookie edge rushers in quarterback pressures with seven after the first two weeks.
Week 3 saw Lawson quietly begin to establish himself as one of the premier pass rushers in the league. He was on the field for 54 of the defense's total of 70 snaps, and Pro Football Focus gave him the eighth-highest grade among all defensive ends with an overall mark of 82.8. His pass rushing grade was second best in the league. Lawson sacked Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers 2.5 times, the most sacks in the NFL that week. He also had seven quarterback hurries and 10 quarterback pressures against the Packers, both of which were second best in the league.
But it has not just been the 4th round where the Bengals have found draft-day steals. Their good fortune extended into the later rounds, and some of these picks have played key roles in Cincinnati's success down through the years.
Ken Riley and Lemar Parish
Cincinnati fielded one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL in the 1970s, and they only had to use two late picks to do it. The Bengals drafted Ken "The Rattler" Riley in the sixth round with the 135th overall pick of the 1969 NFL Draft and got Lemar Parish in the seventh round with the 163rd overall pick of the 1970 NFL Draft.
Riley intercepted 65 passes in his career, which even today stands as the fifth most in NFL history, yet he was never voted to a single Pro Bowl. He was first-team All-Pro in his final season of 1983.
Riley is frequently mentioned as one of the Bengals who should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. When he retired, Riley stood fourth in the NFL in interceptions, since then dropping to fifth after Rod Woodson's retirement. Paul Krause (81), Emlen Tunnell (79), Woodson (71) and Night Train Lane (68) are the only former players ranked ahead of Riley, and all are Hall of Famers. Ronnie Lott (63) and Dick LeBeau (62) are ranked just behind Riley in career interceptions, and both are also Hall of Famers.
Along with holding the franchise record for most interceptions (65), no player has played more games in a Bengals uniform than Riley's 207. Riley's nine interceptions in 1976 stood as a Bengals' record until Deltha O'Neal posted 10 interceptions in 2006.
No Bengals player recorded more interception return yards (596) or returned more interceptions for a touchdown (five) in a career than Riley. His franchise-record mark of three interceptions in a game is shared by Parrish, Louis Breeden, David Fulcher, O'Neal and Leon Hall. Riley and Fulcher are the only players to do it twice. Riley returned two interceptions for touchdowns in one season, a franchise record which was matched by Parrish, Tommy Casanova, Scott Perry and Ray Griffin.
Parrish was quite the ball hawk in his own right, picking off 47 passes during the course of his career while also contributing to special teams. Parrish made the Pro Bowl eight times (six times as a Cincinnati teammate of Riley), but was an All-Pro selection once. During their eight seasons together in Cincinnati from 1970 to 1977, the duo of Riley and Parrish combined for 57 interceptions and returned six for touchdown.
In addition to his prowess as a defensive back, Parrish was also one of the most gifted return men in Bengals' history. Parrish scored 12 touchdowns in Cincinnati, between kickoff returns, punt returns, interception and fumble returns. He led the NFL during three seasons with the most punt returns for touchdowns, twice led the NFL with the most fumble returns for a touchdown and led the NFL in 1977 with the most interception returns for a touchdown. His 24.7-yard average on kickoff returns is a franchise-best, as is his 18.8-yard punt return average.
Bob Trumpy was selected by the Bengals in the 12th round of the 1968 Common Day Draft with the 301st overall pick. Trumpy earned the starting tight end spot in his rookie season and finished with 37 receptions for 639 yards and three touchdowns. His performance earned him a spot on the AFL Western Division All-Star team.
In 1969, Trumpy was selected by The Sporting News as the AFL's All-League tight end. The following year, with the Bengals now a part of the National Football League following the AFL-NFL merger, Trumpy had the best season of his career, catching 37 passes for 835 yards (a franchise record 22.6 yards per catch average) and nine touchdowns. In a game against the Houston Oilers, Trumpy became the first Bengals tight end to record three touchdowns receiving in a single game.
Trumpy continued to play for the Bengals until 1977, earning trips to the Pro Bowl in 1970 and 1973. He finished his 10-year career with 298 receptions for 4,600 yards and 35 touchdowns in 128 games. His 4,600 receiving yards, 35 touchdown receptions, and 15.4 yards per catch average are the most ever by a Bengals tight end.
Pat McInally, a punter, was selected by the Bengals in the fifth round of the 1975 NFL Draft. McInally, a graduate of Harvard, was the only player ever to score a perfect 50 on the Wonderlic test. He was the Bengals punter from 1976 to 1985, and was also a wide receiver during the first half of his career.
McInally led the league in net yards per punt in 1977 with an average of 36.4, and in punting average in 1978 with an average of 43.1. He also led the league in punting average in 1981 at 45.4 yards per punt.
Max Montoya was drafted by the Bengals in the 7th round with the 168th overall pick of the 1979 NFL Draft. He was a four-time Pro Bowl guard who played in two Super Bowls. He played 11 seasons for the Bengals, from 1979 to 1989, and became a starter in his second season.
Tim Krumrie was chosen by the Bengals in the 10th round of the 1983 NFL Draft. He was selected to the Pro Bowltwice, in 1987 and 1988, and led the Bengals to one Super Bowl appearance. Krumrie finished his career with 1,017 tackles (700 solos), 11 forced fumbles, 34 sacks and 13 fumble recoveries. At the time of his retirement, his 34 sacks were the fourth highest in franchise history.
Krumrie suffered a broken leg during Super Bowl XXIII in the game against the 49ers and played six more years for the Bengals after that. He led the team with 97 tackles in 1992 and concluded his playing career following the 1994 campaign.
The Bengals drafted Houshmandzadeh in the seventh round with the 204th overall selection in the 2001 NFL Draft. Houshmandzadeh did not make much of an impact with Cincinnati until the 2004 season when he recorded 73 receptions for 978 yards and four touchdowns.
Early in 2005, Houshmandzadeh suffered an injury to his right hand which limited him to 14 games. Still, he pulled in 78 receptions for 956 yards and seven touchdowns. In 2006, he battled a recurring minor foot injury that kept him out of the first two games of the regular season. Nevertheless, he finished with 90 receptions for 1,081 yards and nine touchdowns to lead all Bengals receivers.
Houshmandzadeh finished the 2007 season with a franchise record 112 receptions for 1,143 yards and 12 touchdowns. His 112 catches tied him with Wes Welker for the most in the NFL. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career. In 2008, his last with the Bengals. Houshmandzadeh had 92 catches for 904 yards and four touchdowns. He currently sits eighth on the Bengals' career receptions list.
Who has been the Bengals’ best late-round selection?
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