Bengals don’t have a good history of holding onto first-rounders

Cincinnati Bengals. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
Cincinnati Bengals. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Bengals had some promising draft picks in recent years, but few turned out to be the players they expected.

Since 2014, more than half of their first-round picks have left the team. A few days ago, Cincinnati traded 2018 pick No. 21 Billy Price to the New York Giants in exchange for defensive tackle B.J. Hill and a conditional seventh-round pick.

Before Price, 2017 pick No. 9 John Ross played with the Bengals for four years, mostly underperformed, and signed with the Giants in March.

The Bengals’ first-rounders from 2014 to 2016 (Darqueze Dennard, Cedric Ogbuehi, and William Jackson) have also since been offloaded, with Jackson and Dennard recording just average levels of production during their tenure in Cincinnati.

Each first-rounder was, at the time, serviceable to a perennially floundering Bengals team, but none really lived up to their “first-round” potential. And none of them stayed.

So what’s up with all the disappointment?

It could be as simple as this: the Bengals have drafted poorly in recent history.

That opinion could change depending on how Jonah Williams, Joe Burrow, and Ja’Marr Chase fare in 2021, but even those first-rounders have their own obstacles to overcome.

Cincinnati Bengals: Woeful streak of disappointing first-rounders continues with Billy Price

Williams missed his entire rookie year due to a shoulder injury and continued to suffer from injuries well into the 2020 season. Burrow needs to be overly cautious in his second year as he recovers from a torn ACL.

And Chase…well, no excuses here. Chase failed this preseason (literally, earning a D+ grade from an NFL analyst) and needs to step up in a big way in 2021.

While Cincinnati’s draft record doesn’t exactly favor these first-rounders, we’re still hoping each budding franchise star can change Bengals’ history.

Williams played in nearly ever game since he started as a freshman, so there’s no reason to believe he’s an especially injury-prone player. Burrow’s college record speaks for itself, and if his O-line can actually protect him this year, he should impress early on.

All Chase needs to prove is he was a better choice than Penei Sewell, and his former LSU connection with Burrow should also buoy his performances this season.

As for the Billy Price trade, the Bengals arguably got the better half of that deal.

By letting go of Price, the team cemented its faith in starting center Trey Hopkins as well as in 2021 sixth-rounder Trey Hill, who still needs time to develop.

The player Cincinnati got in return, B.J. Hill, also adds tremendous snap-to-snap productivity to the Bengals’ defensive line despite being picked two rounds after Price.

Cincinnati’s tragic history of offloading its first-rounders hopefully ends with the 2019 draft class.

Next. 3 players Bengals should look to add following roster cuts. dark

We might blame the disappointment of Billy Price and of those other long-gone first-round draft picks on bad luck….for now.

Come 2021, the Bengals’ coaching staff (and by default, drafting committee) has just as much to prove as any pick – high or low – on the roster.