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Bengals look to strike 4th-round gold again with 3 opportunities

Geno Atkins is the shining example of Bengals’ success.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Cincinnati Bengals
Geno Atkins
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft has not always been good to the Cincinnati Bengals. Or maybe it’s just that the Bengals have not been all that good at the draft.

Like most teams, Cincinnati has its share of first-round successes, although there have been a number of busts, as well. Since 2000, though, not many teams have had the type of fourth-round success the Bengals have enjoyed.

Everyone knows about Geno Atkins, the Georgia defensive tackle Cincinnati selected with the 120th pick in 2010 NFL Draft. But there have been a number of other shining examples, as well.

It all began in 2001, when the Bengals selected Auburn running back Rudi Johnson with pick 100 in the fourth round. Johnson made the Pro Bowl in 2004, scoring 12 touchdowns and finished with a franchise-record 1,454 yards on the ground.

Robert Geathers, a defensive end out of Georgia, was Cincinnati’s 21st pick in the fourth round of the 2004 NFL Draft. Geathers spent 11 years with the Bengals and was the consummate professional. He never managed to repeat his 10.5 sack year in 2006, but he stuck around and filled a rotational role for longer than he was expected to do so.

Six picks later in In that same 2004 draft, Cincinnati added Stacy Andrews, an offensive tackle out of Ole Miss. Andrews only last five years with the Bengals, and went on to earn a Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants after the 2011 season.

Cincinnati selected Domata Peko with the 26th pick in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft. Peko spent 11 years with the Bengals and was the picture of consistency. He played in all 16 games every season but 2009, when he missed five games with a knee injury. To this day, he ranks 11th all-time in games played for Cincinnati.

When people talk about dependable back-up tackles, the name of Anthony Collins is sure to pop up. Cincinnati drafted Collins out of Kansas with pick No. 112 in the 2008 NFL Draft, and Collins lasted six years in Bengal stripes. He even managed to earn a $30 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers based on starting half of the 2013 season for the Bengals. Collins didn’t last long in Tampa, but the Bengals certainly got value for him.

Then there was Clint Boling, the Georgia guard that Cincinnati selected at the top of the fourth round in the 2011 draft. Boling started every game he played for the Bengals, and ran his streak to 106 straight games through the 2018 season. Boling retired in the 2019 offseason due to blood clots, but no one thought he was done as a player at that time. He was good for a long time.

Cincinnati’s most recent fourth-round success was Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson, who the Bengals selected with the ninth pick in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. Lawson was one of the better edge rushers in football last year, in terms of pressure, but signed as a free agent with the New York Jets during the offseason.

Recent fourth-round picks, such as defensive tackle Renell Wren, and linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither, are still relatively unknown players at this point in their careers. Their stories are still being written, but there’s hope they can become quality contributors.

Now, the torch has been passed to this year’s fourth-round crop of Cameron Sample, defensive end, Tulane; Tyler Shelvin, defensive tackle, LSU; and D’Ante Smith, offensive tackle, East Carolina.

Sample figures to come in immediately and give the Bengals a pass-rushing boost on third down. His size and explosion make him an ideal interior pass-rusher.

While Sample is shooting B-gaps on passing downs, Shelvin’s services will be saved for obvious running downs. He’s a big-bodied nose tackle that should provide long-term depth behind D.J. Reader.

Both Sample and Shelvin have roles to play this year. As for Smith, we probably won’t see him until next year. He needs to get stronger and continue filling out his frame. But he has the raw tools to be a starting tackle, and looks to be next in line at right tackle when Riley Reiff’s contract expires.

We can only hope that these three carry the fourth-round legacy as well as some of their predecessors.