Cincinnati Bengals NFL Draft History — The Best And Worst

The NFL Draft is one of my favorite events of the year. The draft spurs so much reaction and emotion from fans and analysts despite us knowing literally nothing about how these players’ careers will turn out. One fan is screaming “SUPER BOWL!” while the fan beside them is screaming profanities. There is truly nothing like it.

The Cincinnati Bengals, after falling short of a Super Bowl 56 victory, will have their latest first-round pick in team history. Despite representing the AFC in the Super Bowl, the Bengals have the eleventh-shortest odds to win Super Bowl 57, per DraftKings Sportsbook.

Still, hopes are high this week as the Bengals prepare for the 2022 draft. Even though the Bengals are riding high, there is still a chance to get some of their selections wrong. Of course, they’re likely to get some right, too.

This is a great time to reflect on some of the most memorable Bengals draft picks. Here are what I believe to be the Bengals’ best and worst 1st round draft picks since 2000. (I’m not going to pretend like I know anything about Anthony Muñoz or Mike Cobb, and as a Penn State alum, this also protects me from mentioning Ki-Jana Carter.)

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Bengals’ Worst First-Round Draft Picks

Let’s start on a sour note, shall we?

Keith Rivers, 2008

A top-10 selection, Rivers was the second first-round linebacker drafted by the Bengals in four years after David Pollack had his career ended by a spinal injury in 2006. Rivers suffered an injury of his own in his rookie season and didn’t play after Week 7. He battled injuries throughout the next three years in Cincinnati which ultimately ended with Rivers being traded to the New York Giants for a fifth-round pick in 2012 and then retired in 2015.

Cedric Ogbuehi, 2015

Ogbuehi was widely talked about as one of the top prospects of the entire 2015 class but slid to 21st overall due to a January ACL tear. This wasn’t an issue for the Bengals, as their offensive line was held together by Andrew Whitworth on the left and Andre Smith on the right. Some analysts even thought Ogbuehi could wind up the “steal of the draft” in time.

*Narrator voice:* That was not the case. The former Texas A&M Aggie more or less had a redshirt rookie season and started 25 of 48 games over his next three seasons with Cincy. Ogbuehi played for the Ravens and Seattle Seahawks last year, starting just one game.

Billy Price, 2018

Continuing the trend of the Bengals drafting already-injured offensive linemen with the 21st pick, Billy Price is next on the list. Price tore his pectoral muscle during the bench press at the NFL Combine. He recovered from that injury but suffered a foot injury early in his rookie season, costing him six games. The 10 games Price started as a rookie was the most action he saw with the Bengals, starting eight games in 2019 and just one in 2020. If there’s any silver lining here, Price was traded to the New York Giants for B.J. Hill prior to the 2021 season. Hill was an incredibly important defensive piece for Cincinnati last year and earned himself a three-year, $30 million contract extension this offseason.

Honorable Mentions: John Ross, Chris Perry

While these are popular names filed away as “busts,” injuries never really allowed either player to disprove that label.

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Bengals’ Best First-Round Picks

Leon Hall, 2007

Let’s kick off the good stuff with one of the more underrated players (by those outside Cincinnati) to come through the Bengals’ organization. Leon Hall was a cornerstone of Cincy’s defense for the first four years of his career before injuries started to pile up for the former Michigan Wolverine. Hall was a fan favorite not only for his impact on the field but because of the way he carried himself off the field and approached the game.

A.J. Green, 2011

Being drafted fourth overall comes with lofty expectations. A.J. Green delivered on those expectations and then some. Green was a dominant wide receiver as soon as he stepped on the field for the Bengals, kicking off his career with five straight 1,000-yard seasons. Had Green not missed six games during his sixth season, he would’ve had seven straight. The end of Green’s tenure in Cincinnati was unfortunately the opposite of what fans came to expect from the former Georgia Bulldog, as he played in 23 of 48 games during his last three seasons with the team before moving on to the Arizona Cardinals.

Carson Palmer, 2003

Listen. I get it. The Palmer Era in Cincinnati will go down as another frustrating, disappointing chapter in the franchise’s history books. There’s also the whole “forcing his way out” thing. Despite that, Palmer deserves to be on this list for the mere hope he gave the team as the starting quarterback. In his second season as the starting signal-caller, Palmer helped lead the Bengals to their first winning season and playoff appearance in 15 years. His knee injury against the Steelers in the Wild Card game will be one of sports’ great “What Ifs” that’s playing out on some alternate timeline. For a team that had been coined The Bungals, Palmer at least helped keep that moniker at bay for a few seasons.

Honorable Mentions: Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase

Although it’s probably going to look silly having these guys as honorable mentions in the near future, I find it hard to include them with such a limited sample. Both Burrow and Chase had fantastic seasons in 2021 but we’ve all seen the fall from grace before.

According to FanDuel Sportsbook, Burrow is tied with Cowboys QB Dak Prescott for the sixth-shortest MVP odds at +1200.

Chase is tied for the third-shortest odds (with Chiefs TE Travis Kelce and Raiders WR Davante Adams) to lead the NFL in receiving yards at +1200.

AP Photo/Al Drago

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