Bengals: Was the 2019 draft class the worst in recent history?

The Cincinnati Bengals started a new chapter under head coach Zac Taylor in 2019, and his first decisions involved picking the 2019 draft class. The remaining players from that draft are as follows:

1st round: Jonah Williams.

2nd round: Drew Sample.

3rd round: Germaine Pratt.

It’s a pretty sparse list.

Plenty of teams have forsaken their draft picks for other forms of capital or player trades in the past. It just so happens that Cincinnati’s 2019 draft class has rapidly dwindled in the past two years.

To give Taylor a bit of flack: Taylor was supposed to start his own legacy in Cincinnati. The year of 2019 marked him choosing his own players as opposed to than ousting Marvin Lewis’.

Getting rid of seven out of ten of his own draft picks may have spotlighted Taylor’s poor choices, but it also may have been a blessing in disguise. Having so few remaining members in the 2019 draft class could mean the Bengals recognized their deficiencies early on, cut their losses, and moved forward.

Here’s where the lower draft picks ended up: quarterback Ryan Finley was traded to Houston in March and then waived by the Texans.

Guard Michael Jordan was recently claimed by Carolina, while running back Travyeon Williams and defensive tackle Renell Wren landed on the Bengals’ practice squad.

Linebacker Deshaun Davis plays in Canada now, running back Rodney Anderson was waived in 2020, and corner Jordan Brown was cut by the Bengals in 2019 and hasn’t played an NFL game since.

All those losses aside, the three remaining members of the 2019 draft class are set to be multi-year starters, with Williams being Taylor’s biggest pride and joy from that year. (And trading up for Finley was probably his biggest embarrassment.)

Cincinnati Bengals: 2019 draft class has dwindled to three remaining players

Williams sat out his rookie year and played in only 10 games in 2020 due to injuries, but he could enjoy a breakout year this season. Taylor choosing not to draft left tackle Penei Sewell in 2021 only bolstered the team’s faith in Williams, and he’ll play a crucial role in protecting Joe Burrow along with the rest of the O-line.

Sample also heads into 2021 with high expectations after some league analysts called him the Bengals’ “most underrated player.” As part of one of the deadliest offenses Cincinnati has fielded in years, the tight end could sneak his way into the top three pass targets this season.

Pratt’s selection marked the beginning of a new era of Bengals’ linebackers, and he’s since grown to be a seasoned leader of the defense. Taylor and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo wanted to diverge from the old prototype of bulky LBs (think Preston Brown) and were looking for more athletic players who could cover the run.

Pratt was their guinea pig, so to speak, and despite disappointing last season, he’ll be one of the Bengals’ only linebackers with starting experience.

If there was a weak link in this draft class, he was cut or traded. Only Williams, Sample, and Pratt have stuck around on the roster, but is that really such a bad result?

We believe the failings of the 2019 draft class shouldn’t be perceived as an accumulation of Taylor’s mistakes, but rather as a careful assemblage of potential franchise players the Bengals wanted to build around.

This is how Taylor wanted to start a new era, and he ultimately valued quality over quantity.

Cincinnati’s thinning 2019 draft class may resemble wispy hairs on a balding man’s head, but the ones that remain have got undeniable strength and pluck.

Don’t count them out.