The Bengals had the most recent first overall selection and used it to wisely pick LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. They have had that honor a few times the last 50 years, though. The folks over at Draft Wire recently ranked the last 50 first round picks going back to 1970.
Where do Cincinnati's pick rank in that list?
Burrow is not included in this list as it goes from 1970-2019. It would also be hard to rank him in this list considering he hasn’t played a down yet, Here is to hoping he ends up pretty high on this list when it is all said and done.
46. Running back Ki-Jana Carter 1995
Coming out of Penn State, Carter was viewed by many as a top prospect in 1995. It might sound strange to some younger fans that a running back would go so high, but back in that era running back was far more important as the passing game wasn’t as wide open. Also offensive schemes weren’t as refined at this point.
Carter was coming off 2,500 rushing yards the previous two seasons in college and had 30 touchdowns (23 in 1994). So the Bengals moving from fifth overall to first for just giving up the 36th overall selection seemed like a tremendous move, and for all we know it really could have been. Carter suffered a torn ACL in his first preseason game after looking tremendous at practice before that.
An ACL injury wasn’t as always easy to bounce back from as it is today. He was just never the same player, and he ultimately never had the impact the Bengals needed him to. He suffered a few more injuries that prevented him from catching on anywhere else for very long either. It is unfortunate because had it not been for his injuries, we could be talking about a very different era of Cincinnati football in the 90’s.
33. Defensive lineman Dan Wilkerson 1994
You want to talk about some big hype and an even bigger person? Then we need to talk about Wilkerson. It seemed like a perfect match. Born in Dayton Ohio and playing at Ohio State, Wilkerson looked unstoppable at times.
He topped off a stellar career with the Buckeyes by blowing up the combine by running a 4.72 40-yard dash at over 300 pounds. He also benched 225 pounds over 30 times. His highlights were also some of the most amazing you’ll see from an interior defensive lineman.
The problem with Wilkerson was a lack of drive to consistently be that great player that showed up on his highlights. He was a good player who would flash that ceiling that so many people expected him to reach, but he just never did. He was still very solid, and he had a career that lasted over 10 years. Only four years with the Bengals, but he obviously wasn’t the worst first overall pick in the past 50 seasons.
14. Quarterback Carson Palmer 2003
Bengals fans still have some strong feeling about how Palmer left town. The fact still remains that Palmer helped turnaround the franchise with Marvin Lewis. By 2005 he was being talked about with quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, the Bengals were headed to the playoffs and it had been a long time since it was so exciting to be a fan.
That excitement was quickly pulled out from under Bengals fans’ feet when Palmer suffered a knee injury in the playoff game on the first offensive series. That set forward a series of seasons where we saw the roster gradually decline as Palmer recovered from the injury. He led the Bengals to another playoff appearance before forcing his way out of town.
Why is Palmer so high? It is likely for what he did after his time in Cincinnati. Not directly after though because he had some very rough seasons with the Raiders, but when he landed with the Cardinals he hit another stride late in his career, which included a couple more playoff appearances with a deep playoff run in 2015 where he was a game away from playing in the Super Bowl.
Palmer may not be in line for the Hall of Fame, but he did help stabilize a couple a franchises. That is something that most first overall picks struggled to do.