When it comes to the NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals have had their share of struggles lately. The Marvin Lewis era brought about many more solid picks than that of “The Lost Decade” that preceded his arrival, but some recent early-round misses have crippled the team in its three-year downward spiral.
Even so, the team has struck gold in the middle and late rounds to find some great values. Some of these players were utter surprises, in terms of their contributions, while others being valuable rotational players.
The key for the Bengals to have early success in the Zac Taylor era is in their ability to find many immediate impact players in his first classes. A part of that formula is in their ability to find late diamonds in the rough.
We discussed some past value picks on this week’s episode of The Orange and Black Insider. Of course, the definition of draft value varies from person to person, and respective impacts differ from player to player.
Usually, we’re talking about players from day two or three, and those who range from the middle-to-late rounds. For instance, when you’re getting capable or outstanding starters in rounds three or four, that’s solid value. And, if you’re netting players who made Pro Bowls after being drafted as “camp bodies”, that’s even better.
When we began kicking around names, most of the players who readily popped in our minds were from the Lewis era. It’s easy to start in that timeframe, as it was the most successful run, at least by some standards, by a Bengals head coach.
Some of Marvin Lewis’ greatest value picks:
Geno Atkins, defensive tackle, 2010 fourth-round pick: This is perhaps the poster child of value picks, given that Atkins was a day three pick and has parlayed that into a potential Hall of Fame career. He’s been nominated to seven Pro Bowls, and has three All-Pro nods to his name.
Frostee Rucker, defensive line, 2006 third-round pick: As of last season, this guy was still playing football, 13 years into his pro career. Rucker was another guy who was a standout rotational player, with many of his best years coming as a Bengal.
Domata Peko, defensive tackle, 2006 fourth-round pick: He wasn’t a perfect nose tackle, but he made his share of big plays for the Bengals over the course of 11 seasons. He was still going at it in 2018 with the Broncos.
Michael Johnson, defensive end, 2009 third-round pick: Johnson became a fan-favorite whipping boy later in his career, but he was a solid player for many years. Aside from the on-field play, he was known as a locker room leader. It’s unclear if he’ll be back with Cincinnati in 2019.
Pat Sims, defensive tackle, 2008 third-round pick: He’s not a guy who received a lot of notoriety, but he did the dirty work in the middle of some of Cincinnati’s best defenses. Sims played 10 years in the league—eight with the Bengals.
Bernard Scott, running back, 2009 sixth-round pick: The talented running back came with troubles in 2009, but as John Sheeran mentioned on our program, he contributed as a kick returner and runner. He lasted five years in the NFL.
Marvin Jones, wide receiver, 2012 fifth-round pick: The electric wideout had some nice numbers with the Bengals, but unfortunately, some of his biggest stats have come in his current foray with the Lions. He hasn’t made a Pro Bowl, but has one 1,000-yard season and has averaged 5.5 touchdowns per season in his seven-year career.
Clint Boling, offensive guard, 2011 fourth-round pick: The class that brought a great era of Bengals football had a steal to kick off day three. Boling’s versatility and toughness has anchored the team’s line since the departures of Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler.
Jonathan Fanene, defensive lineman, 2005 seventh-round pick: What was it with Lewis and his ability to find quality defensive linemen throughout the draft? Fanene was never a star or a true starter, but was a valuable rotational piece who had an eight-year NFL career.
Other value picks from different eras:
Lemar Parrish, defensive back, 1970 seventh-round pick: It’s surprising that Parrish hasn’t had more run as a viable Hall of Fame cornerback, given his eight Pro Bowl berths. Six of those were with Cincinnati, but as athletic he was on defense, he was even more well-known for his kick return prowess.
Ken Riley, defensive back, 1969 sixth-round pick: “The Rattler” anchored the other side of the defensive backfield with Parrish and many Bengals faithful believes he should be in Canton as well. Riley is fifth all-time in NFL interceptions.
Tim Krumrie, defensive tackle, 1983 10th-round pick: The guy who seemingly eats bowls of thumbtacks for breakfast was the heart of Sam Wyche’s defenses. He was a two-time Pro Bowl player, and was an All-Pro designee in the team’s 1988 Super Bowl run.
Bob Trumpy, tight end, 1968 12th-round pick: It’s crazy to say, but Trumpy helped to revolutionize his position 51 years ago to what it has become today. He was a two-time Pro Bowl nominee and averaged 15.4 yards per catch in his career during an era of the NFL that was run-heavy.
Rodney Holman, tight end, 1982 third-round pick: Speaking of tight ends, Holman was arguably the best the Bengals have ever had. He was truly a good all-around player at the spot, getting tabbed to three Pro Bowls.
David Fulcher, safety, 1986 third-round pick: There aren’t many safeties in the game today with Fulcher’s build (6’3”, 236 pounds), and even fewer could do what he was able to for Cincinnati’s secondary. The most intimidating member of the team’s “SWAT Team” of the 1980s was nominated to three Pro Bowls and two All-Pros.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, 2001 seventh-round pick: Another poster boy for late-round success is “Housh”. He was one of the early pioneers of what today’s slot receiver looks like and was one of the tougher players in his generation.
Who are some other best value picks by the Bengals over the years?
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