Thanks to their magical run to Super Bowl LVI this year, Cincinnati will have to wait till pick No. 31 before making their selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Throughout its history, Cincinnati has picked up some pretty good players in that range. Just how good, you might ask? The answer might surprise you.
A top-10 list of the best players the Bengals have drafted in the 30s might look something like this:
No. 10 Bill Bergey
Those of us old enough to know better will remember Bill Bergey as one of the greatest linebackers of his era. Bergey was drafted by Cincinnati in the second round of the 1969 NFL Draft, at pick No. 31. And the only reason he is not rated higher than this is because he spent only his first five years with the Bengals before finishing his career with seven seasons in Philadelphia.
Bergey made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season and went on to add four more selections with the Eagles. He was named first-team All-Pro after his first two seasons in Philadelphia and made the second team on three other occasions.
No. 9 Eric Steinbach
Every once in a while, the Bengals get it right when it comes to drafting interior offensive linemen. Selected in the second round of the 2003 NFL Draft with the 33rd overall selection, Steinbach was a plug and play guard for Cincinnati over the course of the next four years.
He was so good, in fact, that at the end of those first four years, Steinbach was widely considered one of the top offensive linemen in the league. He ultimately signed a seven-year, $49.5 million dollar contract with the Cleveland Browns that made him one of the highest-paid offensive linemen.
No. 8 Giovani Bernard
Cincinnati selected running back Giovani Bernard with pick No. 37 in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Bernard went on to become one of the most dependable third-down backs in the NFL.
In his eight years with the Bengals, Bernard amassed 3,690 yards rushing on 918 carries (an average of four yards per carry) and caught 342 passes for 2,867 yards. All told, he accounted for 33 touchdowns and lost just four fumbles.
No. 7 Ickey Woods
Nothing much needs to be said about Ickey Woods and his Ickey Shuffle. Like Bergey, Woods was drafted with pick No. 31 in the second round of the 1988 NFL Draft. Woods was named All-Pro after his rookie season, but injuries soon derailed his promising career.
Woods finished his career with 1,525 yards rushing on 332 attempts (an average of 4.6 yards per carry) and 27 touchdowns. He also caught 47 passes for 397 yards.
No. 6 Tony McGee
McGee was drafted in the second round of the 1993 NFL Draft with the 37th overall pick. He caught 44 passes for 525 yards as a rookie. In his second season, McGee was one of the top tight ends in the league as he finished with 55 receptions for 744 yards and four scores. The following year, he had 34 catches for 414 yards and six scores.
By the time he left the Bengals in 2002, McGee had climbed to No. 7 on the team’s all-time career receptions list.
No. 5 Dan Ross
Ross was selected by the Bengals with the 30th overall pick in the second round of the 1979 NFL Draft. Ross is widely considered to be the best tight end who ever suited up for Cincinnati. And he was especially good when it counted the most.
In the Bengals’ first Super Bowl run in 1981, Ross recorded 71 receptions (a team record that would stand for 14 years) for 910 yards and five touchdowns. But that was only the beginning.
In Cincinnati’s playoff-opening 28-21 win over the Bills, Ross led the Bengals with six receptions for 71 yards. Then, in the AFC title win over the Chargers, the game which came to be known as the “Freezer Bowl” as the coldest game ever played in the NFL, Ross had five catches for 69 yards in the 27-7 win.
Then, in the Super Bowl, he set the record for most receptions (11), most receiving yards (104) and most receiving touchdowns (two) by a tight end in a game the Bengals lost to the 49ers by a score of 26-21.
No. 4 Andy Dalton
The Red Rifle doesn’t get near enough credit for the good things he did as a member of the Bengals. Selected by Cincinnati in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft with overall pick No. 35, Dalton set franchise records for completions, pass attempts, pass completions, passing touchdowns, passer rating, passing yards per game, 300-yard passing games and most seasons with over 4,000 yards passing.
Dalton also led what had become a moribund franchise to five straight playoff berths from 2011 to 2015, although the Bengals did not win a single playoff game during those years.
No. 3 Cris Collinsworth
Most people know Cris Collinsworth as a sportscaster for NBC and the NFL Network. Not as many remember that he was also one of the better receivers to wear the Bengal stripes.
Collinsworth was selected with the No. 37 pick in the second round of the 1981 NFL Draft. During his eight-year career in Cincinnati, Collinsworth was selected to three Pro Bowls and was named second-team All-Pro on three occasions. He set the then franchise receiving record for a rookie with 67 catches, and exceeded 1,000 yards receiving four times.
In Super Bowl XVI, Cincinnati’s first appearance in the big game, Collinsworth caught five passes for 107 yards. Then, seven years later, in Super Bowl XXIII, Collinsworth contributed three receptions for 40 yards.
No. 2 Chad Johnson
With the 36th pick in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select Chad Johnson, out of Oregon State University. And what a selection it would turn out to be.
By the time he left the Bengals at the end of the 2010 season, Johnson owned franchise records for receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, yards from scrimmage, all-purpose yards, most games with over 100 yards receiving, most games with at least one touchdown, and most seasons with over 1,000 yards (seven).
Johnson was a six-time Pro Bowl Selection and made the All-Pro team on four occasions. He was the NFL’s receiving yards leader in 2006 (1,369) and was a member of the 10,000 receiving yards club. He has been nominated to the Pro Football Hall of Fame every year since 2017.
No. 1 Boomer Esiason
When the Cincinnati Bengals selected Boomer Esiason in the second round of the 1984 NFL Draft with the 38th overall pick, not many people knew what they were getting. But they found out soon enough.
Esiason served as a backup to Cincinnati legend Ken Anderson in his rookie season before taking over the following year.
Over the next eight seasons, Esiason was selected to three Pro Bowls and led the AFC in passing on two occasions. He also led the Bengals to their second Super Bowl after the 1988 season. Esiason was traded to the New York Jets in 1993, then went to Arizona in 1996 before finishing his career with Cincinnati the following season.
Esiason won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award in 1988 when he led the league with a passer rating of 97.4 and was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year in 1995. He is the only quarterback to hold a franchise record in single-game passing yards for two different teams, having thrown for 522 yards with the Arizona Cardinals and for 490 yards for the Bengals.
Football Nation ranked Esiason as the 25th greatest quarterback of the post-merger era.