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The Bengals haven’t failed at tanking yet

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A win against the helpless Raiders haven’t prohibited the Bengals from improving in the long run, so climb down from that ledge.

Oakland Raiders v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

After losing their last five games and seven of their last eight games, did the Bengals officially fail at tanking following their 30-16 win over the Raiders, or have they already committed enough self-inflicted wounds for it to not truly matter?

A quick search on Twitter.com will tell you the former is the correct tank take.

Going into this week, the Bengals were 11th in the NFL Draft order, as they were behind fellow 5-8 squads in the Buccaneers, Giants and Lions due to strength of schedule. All three of those teams lost this week, and the Bengals moved all the way back to 13th in the current order as a result of their win over the Raiders, who are now slotted at the second overall spot.

The end of the world is supposedly here, but the sky remains above our heads and has refrained from falling.

The worry now is that this victory (that shouldn’t have been too surprising considering how bad the Raiders were) will eliminate the Bengals from picking inside the top 10 of the draft. The reality of the situation is:

  1. This isn’t true
  2. Even if it is, it’s not that big of a deal

The Raiders have been the only team that the Bengals have been better than since they barely beat the Buccaneers all those weeks ago in October. Without A.J. Green for the vast majority of the time since that game and without Andy Dalton for the last three weeks, the Bengals have rightfully been amongst the worst teams in the NFL. It just so happens that in their final home game of the year, they faced one of the handful of teams that are worse than them in the Raiders.

Unfortunately for them, their schedule closes with two divisional games on the road. First, against the ascending Browns, who watched their slim AFC North title chances evaporate simultaneously with the Bengals when the Steelers, the Bengals final opponent, beat the Patriots for the first time since 2011.

The Browns are still mathematically alive in the Wild Card race, and based on their last meeting, they’ll be favored against the Bengals for the first time in a while. The Steelers being favored against and eventually beating the Bengals is nothing new, and their meeting in Week 17 will most likely not be any different than what we’ve seen in recent memory.

6-10 is the likely fate for this Bengals team, so where does that leave them for the draft?

Over the past 10 years, teams who have finished with six wins have picked no higher than seventh and no lower than 13th. The overall distribution looks like this:

Distribution of 6-Win Teams’ Draft Spot

Overall Pick Number of 6-Win Teams Percentage
Overall Pick Number of 6-Win Teams Percentage
7th 7 2.7%
8th 48 18.3%
9th 90 34.2%
10th 60 22.8%
11th 33 12.5%
12th 12 4.6%
13th 13 4.9%

In short, teams that finished 6-10 or 6-9-1 (like the Bengals back in 2016) have a greater chance of drafting either ninth or 10th overall more than the other five spots combined since the 2009 NFL Draft. That 6-9-1 Bengals’ team drafted ninth as most of you should remember.

A double digit-loss season typically means a single-digit spot in the first round, not always, but more times than not. So if this is your primary concern, then you can relax a little.

So we have the range of possibilities of where the Bengals will end up when they close out the year 0-2. But what’s the value of drafting in the top six compared to the 7-13 range that they’ll almost surely end up in?

If the goal is to draft All-Pro and Pro Bowl players in the first-round — which it should be — then we can quantify where those kinds of players are drafted in the first round since 2000. Here’s that distribution:

First-Round Picks Since 2000

Overall Pick All Pro % Pro Bowl %
Overall Pick All Pro % Pro Bowl %
1-6 26.32% 26.69%
7-13 25.26% 24.89%
14-32 48.42% 48.42%

The perception is that all the “blue chip” prospects go off the board first, but that’s simply not the case. For both All-Pro and Pro Bowl outcomes, there is just a slightly greater of drafting one in the top 13 picks compared to the rest of the first round, and there’s also a near equal chance of drafting one in the 7-13 range as there is in the 1-6 range.

If you end up drafting in the bottom half of the top 10 or just outside the top 10, your chances of getting a high quality player are practically equal of that in the top six.

So the only gripe remaining is the organization being too far away from the top of the order to draft a quarterback. But there’s a simple truth that must be realized when taking a quarterback in the first round: you’ll almost alway have to trade up for one.

Outside of the Browns, who drafted Baker Mayfield first overall after going 0-16 and being locked in to that spot initially, every quarterback who has been drafted in the first round since 2016 has been traded up for. Every one. All nine of them besides Mayfield.

If the Bengals want to take a quarterback with their first-round pick, chances are they’re going to be competing with other teams drafting in front of them (or around them), who will have the same mindset as them. Even if the Bengals end up with a pick in the single digits, they’ll most likely need to give up assets to take the first or second quarterback in the draft — and based on early reports, that’s as many quarterbacks that will garner first-round grades.

So if you’re still freaking out and thinking that the Bengals blew their chances of getting a top-tier talent in the 2019 NFL Draft, don’t be. Even if the Bengals managed to win one of their last two games, the bigger issue will be whether or not head coach Marvin Lewis returns. If that’s the case, then the draft is the least of our worries.