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Tuesday Trenches: Grading the last 10 Bengals drafts

Taking a look back at a 10-year span of Bengals draft classes that featured some epic gaffes and potential all-time greats.

NFL: NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time! The draft is just a couple of days away, and with the championship window garage door wide open, Cincinnati Bengals fans are excited to see what the team will do to add to their roster.

This year should be fun too. The Bengals have done enough work in free agency to allow the team to go in several different directions when they go on the clock Thursday night. They could take a tight end, an offensive tackle, a defensive lineman, or maybe a cornerback with their first-round pick. We don’t really know what will happen, and that’s what makes this year so exciting!

We’ve beaten the upcoming draft to death, so let’s take a look back at the last 10 draft classes and give them grades.


  • Tyler Eifert
  • Giovani Bernard
  • Margus Hunt
  • Shawn Williams
  • Sean Porter
  • Tanner Hawkinson
  • Rex Burkhead
  • Cobi Hamilton
  • Reid Fragel
  • T.J. Johnson

This class was fairly solid. Eifert in the first round was a great pick. He had a couple of great seasons in Cincinnati, and if it weren’t for injury issues, he could have had a great career as a Bengal. Bernard was a solid running back for the Bengals, as was Burkhead, and Hunt and Williams produced as well.

Grade: B


  • Darqueze Dennard
  • Jeremy Hill
  • Will Clarke
  • Russell Bodine
  • A.J. McCarron
  • Marquis Flowers
  • James Wright
  • Lavelle Westbrooks

This class was okay. Dennard underwhelmed and bounced around the league a little after leaving Cincinnati. Hill fumbled away the game in the Bengals’ home playoff loss to the Steelers (though the blame doesn’t rest solely on his shoulders). The rest of these guys played in some games, but none of them really did anything huge. None of them are in the NFL anymore.

Grade: D+


  • Cedrick Ogbuehi
  • Jake Fisher
  • Tyler Kroft
  • Paul Dawson
  • Josh Shaw
  • Marcus Hardison
  • C.J. Uzomah
  • Derron Smith
  • Mario Alford

Listen, I understand why the Bengals moved on from left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Do I wish they hadn’t done it? Absolutely, but they saw an aging left tackle they thought they could replace in the draft. They did the math, but this particular year, they were very bad with numbers. Ogbuehi was a bust. He’s still in the league, but he never lived up to his No. 21 overall status. Uzomah and Kroft save this draft class from being a total bust. Uzomah was a solid tight end for the Bengals and is now with the Jets, and Kroft has contributed quite a bit as well. He’s currently a free agent but could sign somewhere.

Grade: C-


  • William Jackson III
  • Tyler Boyd
  • Nick Vigil
  • Andrew Billings
  • Christian Westerman
  • Cody Core
  • Clayton Fejedelem

Jackson started for the Bengals for five years before leaving in free agency, signing with the Washington Commanders. He struggled in Washington, though, and is currently a free agent. Boyd, of course, is still with the Bengals and is a member of what is likely the best group of wide receivers in the league. This is likely his last year in Cincinnati. Vigil played well for the Bengals for a few years but has bounced around since. Billings contributed as well, and he signed as a free agent with the Chicago Bears this offseason. Westerman and Core are out of the league, but Fejedelem is entering the last year of a three-year deal with the Dolphins.

Grade: B-


  • John Ross
  • Joe Mixon
  • Jordan Willis
  • Carl Lawson
  • Josh Malone
  • Ryan Glasgow
  • Jake Elliot
  • J.J. Dielman
  • Jordan Evans
  • Brandon Wilson
  • Mason Schreck

There’s a little bit of good and a little bit of bad in this one. The Ross pick, which was straight out of the Al Davis playbook, was not a good one. Ross was fast, but that was about it. He’s currently signed with the Chiefs. Mixon, of course, is still the Bengals running back, for now. He was a pro bowler 2021 and helped the Bengals get to the Super Bowl. He’s likely headed to free agency as a cap casualty, but that also depends on how the draft pans out. Willis is signed with the Raiders, Lawson is now with the Jets, while Malone, Glasgow, Dielman, and Evans have been out of the league. Wilson was on the Bengals roster last year and is currently a free agent. Elliot is still with the Eagles, as he has been since the Bengals cut him right after they drafted him, and Schreck is on the Texans roster.

Grade: C


  • Billy Price
  • Jessie Bates
  • Sam Hubbard
  • Malik Jefferson
  • Mark Walton
  • Davontae Harris
  • Andrew Brown
  • Darius Phillips
  • Logan Woodside
  • Rod Taylor
  • Auden Tate

Again, this one is a little good and a little bad. The Price pick was a disaster, but the Bengals were able to trade him for B.J. Hill, and that has been fantastic. Bates is one of the best free safeties in the league. Hubbard is a cornerstone of the Bengals defense. Jefferson is on the Cowboys, Harris and Woodside are with the Titans, Brown is with the Bears and Tate is with the Cardinals. Everyone else is a free agent. Bates and Hubbard really save this one.

Grade: B-


  • Jonah Williams
  • Drew Sample
  • Germaine Pratt
  • Ryan Finley
  • Renell Wren
  • Michael Jordan
  • Trayveon Williams
  • Deshaun Davis
  • Rodney Anderson
  • Jordan Brown

Here’s where we’ll see a lot more guys who are still on the roster. Williams demanded a trade after the Bengals signed Orland Brown Jr., but if he isn’t traded, he’ll be the team’s starting right tackle. He has started the last few seasons as the team’s left tackle, and while he struggled last year, he has been a good tackle overall. Sample re-signed with the Bengals one a one-year deal for depth, but he never lived up to the hype. Pratt has become one of the best linebackers in the league as was just re-signed, and Trayveon Williams is set to have a larger role in the Bengals backfield this season.

And There’s this:

Grade: B


  • Joe Burrow
  • Tee Higgins
  • Logan Wilson
  • Akeem Davis-Gaither
  • Khalid Kareem
  • Hakeem Adeniji
  • Markus Bailey

What is there to say about this one? This could go down in history as the best Bengals draft class in franchise history when it’s all said and done. Burrow is likely going to reset the quarterback market, Higgins and Wilson could, and hopefully will, be signed to extensions as well. Davis-Gaither could have a larger role this season. Adeniji is a solid backup offensive tackle, and Bailey is a solid backup linebacker. Kareem is no longer with the team and has since signed with the Colts.

Grade: A+


  • Ja’Marr Chase
  • Jackson Carman
  • Joseph Ossai
  • Cameron Sample
  • Tyler Shelvin
  • D’Ante Smith
  • Even McPherson
  • Trey Hill
  • Chris Evans
  • Wyatt Hubert

The Chase pick was great. His prior connection with Burrow from their time together at LSU instantly made the team’s offense explosive, leading the team to the Super Bowl. Carman has been disappointing, but he provides solid depth. That’s kind of what the rest of this draft was. A lot of solid depth and rotational pieces. You also have Evans, the team’s new kicker, who was also a big part of the team getting over the playoff hump.

And then there’s Evans and whatever his role is on the team. Who knows?

Grade: A-


  • Daxton Hill
  • Cam-Taylor Britt
  • Zachary Carter
  • Cordell Volson
  • Tycen Anderson
  • Jeffrey Gunter

We know a little bit about this draft class, but we’ll know a lot more after the 2023 season. Taylor-Britt stepped up when Chidobe Awuzie went down with a knee injury and proved he can be a starting cornerback in the league. Volson is the team’s starting left guard, and had an okay year, considering he was a rookie. If he takes a good step forward in his second year, he could turn out to be a steal in the fourth round. Carter has started to come into his own, and Gunter got in on a few plays this year. The question marks are the safeties, Hill and Anderson. Hill will be replacing Bates, who has some big shoes to fill. The Bengals selected Hill in the first round, but we haven’t really seen him play yet. Anderson spent most of the year on injured reserve.

Grade: ?

So, what did we learn? The Bengals have gotten better at drafting, and they’ve needed to, because they don’t have as many picks anymore. Now that they’ve changed their philosophy on spending in free agency, the number of compensatory picks has gone down. Now that they’re getting ready to pay Burrow a literal ton of money, they’ll need to have guys they draft step up and contribute, as they may not have a ton of money to sign outside free agents for very much longer.

Enjoy the draft!

Who Dey!