Draft Thoughts on Super Sunday


It’s Super Bowl Sunday, and the Cincinnati Bengals…aren’t playing. Oh well, neither are 29 other teams, and at least the Bengals can hang their hats on their second AFC North championship in five seasons. However, winning their third in six seasons will require a solid draft this coming April, and I grow more uneasy each time I start thinking about the draft.

Why? Because it’s practically a foregone conclusion that the Bengals will cash in most, if not all, of their premium picks on offensive skill positions — and the team’s recent track record in that regard is terrible.

Wide receivers? Since 2003, the Bengals have drafted Kelly Washington (3), Maurice Mann (5), Chris Henry (3), Tab Perry (6), Bennie Brazell (7), Jerome Simpson (2), Andre Caldwell (3), Mario Urrita (7) and Freddie Brown (7). That’s a total of nine picks — including one second- and three third-round selections — across seven drafts, and the only guy worth a damn out of the whole group was Henry. And he’s dead.

The list of running backs is shorter, but no less painful. Jeremi Johnson (4), Chris Perry (1), Kenny Irons (2), Bernard Scott (6) and Fui Vakapuna (7). Johnson had a couple decent years before his weight problems caught up with him and Scott flashed some ability last season, but it was free agency and Cedric Benson which revived the Bengals running game in 2008 and 2009, not any successes in the draft.

Tight end? Since 2002, the Bengals have drafted precisely two, count ’em, two TEs, Matt Sherry (6) and Chase “Crash Dummy” Coffman (4). Somehow, other teams around the NFL can draft and utilize all these college TEs who allegedly can’t block. But the mystery appears too deep for the Bengals.

When you add it all up, the Marvin Lewis Bengals have used 16 picks on WRs, RBs and TEs (and that doesn’t include picks like QB Reggie McNeal, whom they tried to convert to a WR). These include one first, two second, three third and two fourth-round picks. Remaining from that group are Jeremi Johnson, who failed to impress in 2009 after missing all of ’08 due to weight and injury issues; Coffman, who couldn’t beat out Dan “Butterfingers” Coats for a roster spot; Simpson, who has barely seen the field in two years and who was thrown under the bus by QB Carson Palmer last season; and Caldwell, who failed to live up to expectations (admittedly high) in 2009 after performing surprisingly well in his rookie season.

So, when I read and hear how the Bengals are going to spend pick after pick on offense, my spirits sink. They have simply not shown any ability to identify, draft and develop top-tier offensive talent, with the notable exception of offensive linemen, in the Lewis era. Indeed, the biggest bangs have come from free agency and guys like Benson and Reggie Kelly, though they’ve had their share of FA flops as well.

I don’t know what the answer is, but the Bengals need to re-evaluate their evaluation process, and re-examine their priorities and strategies, on the offensive side of the ball ahead of April’s draft. Business as usual will only lead to calamity.