Bengals have had mixed success with fifth overall draft pick

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UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1969: (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1969: (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /
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The Cincinnati Bengals have had a mixed level of success when selecting fifth in the NFL Draft. The Bengals chose Cincinnati quarterback Greg Cook with the fifth pick in 1969, safety Rickey Dixon from Oklahoma in 1988, and defensive end John Copeland from Alabama in 1993. None of the three ever earned All-Pro or Pro Bowl honors.

Cook’s short career is almost mythological. During his rookie season, Cook showed a lot of promise before suffering what would be a career-ending injury. In 11 games, Cook led the Bengals to a 4-6-1 record by completing what was then a decent 53.8 percent of his passes for 1,854 yards, 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Cincinnati began the 1969 season 3-0. Cook completed 30 of 52 passes for 581 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions while running six times for 39 yards. In a week two victory over the San Diego Chargers, Cook threw for 327 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. That was Cook’s pinnacle.

In a week three victory over the eventual Superbowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs, Cook tore his rotator cuff after being tackled that went undiagnosed. Cook missed three of the next four games. Cook set rookie records that he still holds averaging 9.411 yards per pass attempt and 17.5 yards per completion.

The Bengals also defeated the Oakland Raiders who finished with the best record in the last season of the American Football League at 12-1-1. Cook also reportedly suffered a detached biceps muscle. Cook would have three operations following the season and didn’t play again until a failed comeback attempt in 1973.

Dixon was drafted by the Bengals after a storied career at Oklahoma. Dixon was a key part of the Oklahoma secondary when the Sooners won the 1985 National Championship, was a Consensus All-American in 1987 and won the Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in college football in 1987.

Dixon started all 16 games for Cincinnati during his second season in 1989. That was his only full season as a starter. Dixon had probably his best season with three interceptions as the Bengals finished 8-8 coming off of a Superbowl appearance. Dixon spent three more years in Cincinnati before being traded to Oakland.

In his final season in the NFL, Dixon played nine games with the Raiders before retiring. Dixon returned to his native Texas to become a physical education teacher. Dixon was diagnosed with  Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2013 and passed away in 2020 from the disease that afflicts many former NFL players.

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Copeland had an eight-year career and was a mainstay of the Bengals defense during one of their worst eras. In 107 career games, 102 starts, Copeland had 324 tackles, 24 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, four pass breakups, nine forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Cincinnati never had a winning season in Copeland’s career.

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