Deion Sanders was one of the finest cornerbacks ever to play the game. His play gave rise to the term “shutdown corner.” He is a first-ballot member of the National Football League Hall of Fame. And he was a pretty fair baseball player to boot.
He also might have been the greatest player ever selected with the No. 5 pick in an NFL Draft. Ever. The Atlanta Falcons nabbed Sanders with the No. 5 selection in the first round of the 1989 NFL Draft.
Barring a trade down, the Cincinnati Bengals own the No. 5 selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. And, according to most experts, a pair of generational talents await in former LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase and former Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell.
And, judging by the history of the No. 5 pick, the Bengals have a pretty good chance of success, regardless of who they pick.
It all started in 1961 with the selection of Mike Ditka by the Chicago Bears. Ditka went on to a Hall of Fame career as a tight end, and later coached the Bears to a Super Bowl championship.
In 1969, Cincinnati selected quarterback Greg Cook with the No. 5 pick. Cook was arguably one of the most talented quarterbacks ever to play the game, but injuries derailed his career.
The Bengals also grabbed safety Rickie Dixon with the No. 5 selection in 1988. Dixon was a consensus All-American and winner of the Jim Thorpe Award at Oklahoma. Dixon was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2019 and died on August 1, 2020 due to complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau was the fifth selection in the first round of the 1990 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers, who also selected Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson with the No. 5 pick in the 2001 NFL Draft.
The now Washington Football Team selected safety Sean Taylor with the No. 5 pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. Taylor’s Hall of Fame career was cut short after only four full seasons when he was shot by intruders at his Miami home during the 2007 season.
Recent selections at the No. 5 position included Khalil Mack now of the Chicago Bears (2014); Brandon Scherff of Washington (2015); Jalen Ramsey of the now Los Angeles Rams (2016); Corey Davis now of the New York Jets (2017); Bradley Chubb of the Denver Broncos (2018); Devin White of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2019); and Tua Tagovailoa of the Miami Dolphins (2020).
While clubs have had plenty of good fortune with the No. 5 pick in the first round, success has been a lot harder to come by at the same position in the second round. But, interestingly enough, most of that success has come at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals.
In 1969, Cincinnati selected Bill Bergey with the fifth pick in the second round. Bergey spent his first five seasons with the Bengals before being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, where he earned four of his five Pro Bowl selections and was named All-Pro on two occasions.
In more recent times, the Bengals nabbed Chad Johnson with the No. 5 selection in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft. Johnson went on to become Cincinnati’s all-time leading receiver and a potential Hall of Fame selection. Johnson was a six-time NFL Pro Bowler, was named to four All-Pro teams and was voted as the No. 1 wide receiver on the Bengals’ 40th Anniversary team.
Then, in 2013, Cincinnati selected running back Giovani Bernard with, again, the No. 5 pick second round. Bernard, who released during the offseason and signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, set a Bengals’ record for receptions by a running back and was one of the better change-of-pace backs in the league.
All in all, the odds are in the Bengals’ favor that whoever they take at No. 5 will prove to be a good one, and their track record in the second round in grounds for optimism, as well.