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Marvin Lewis Draft History: Defense and Special Teams

Posted Apr 4, 2013

In Part II of a Bengals.com series, we take a look at how draft picks from the defensive side of the ball fared during their rookie seasons. How much do defenders generally play right away, and where have the Bengals found value in the past? Also, where do the Bengals find their special teams contributors? The last 10 drafts provide more than a few clues.


DE Michael Johnson, a third-round pick in 2009

If anyone can find flaws in a Bengals defense that finished sixth in the NFL last season after ranking 29th through three games, it’s no-nonsense defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

On the surface, that defense, which played so well down the stretch, looks again to be in good shape for next year. One-time free agent question marks Michael Johnson, Adam Jones and Terence Newman will join most of last season’s defensive regulars again in stripes for 2013. Zimmer, though, would be quick to point out the word ‘most.’

Gone to Oakland is veteran DT Pat Sims, while veteran S Chris Crocker and CB/S Nate Clements don’t figure to return either.

And what about special teams? Linebacker Dan Skuta, who led the special teams in tackles two of the last three seasons, signed last month with San Francisco. Safety Jeromy Miles, who finished second in special teams tackles last year and led the team in ’11, has not yet signed a tender offer extended to him by the Bengals, but it’s expected he’ll be back in the fold.

That brings us back to the draft. Today, in Part II of a Bengals.com series, we take a look at the Bengals defensive draft history under head coach Marvin Lewis. How much have rookie defenders played, and at what positions have the Bengals found value late in the draft? Also, where have the core special teams players come from? The last 10 drafts certainly point to some trends.
 
The guidelines for this analysis are as follows:
--It concerns draft picks only. No college free agents, and no one selected by other teams.
--Rookie seasons only. Nothing after a rookie season is included here.
--Regular season only. Though playoff participation is occasionally noted separately, it is not included in the data.
--Marvin Lewis era only. Lewis’s first draft was in 2003.
--Bengals participation only. If a player went to another team as a rookie, his participation data on that other team is not included here.


DEFENSIVE TACKLE

There have been 10 defensive tackles selected during Lewis’s tenure. Seven played in at least three games as rookies, and each of those were selected before the sixth round.

Three DTs—Pat Sims (third round, 2008), Geno Atkins (fourth round, ’10) and Domata Peko (fourth round, ’06)—played in at least 11 games. Peko and Atkins played in all 16 games.

Despite the high percentage of participation, only three DTs recorded a rookie start – Sims (six), Atkins (one) and Peko (one).

The fourth round has been the most popular for selecting DTs, as three players—Atkins, Peko and Matthias Askew (2004)—were taken there. The Bengals have spent two third-round picks, one second-round pick, and zero first-round picks on DTs.

Five of the six highest defensive tackles taken in the Lewis era were still with the Bengals in 2012. The only one not still around was Askew. But that number still with Cincinnati will drop to four this season with the free agency departure of Sims.

The three DTs taken after the fifth round—Matt Toeaina (sixth round, 2007), Langston Moore (sixth round, ’03) and Clinton McDonald (seventh round, ’09)—all spent a majority of their rookie seasons on the practice squad and never played in a Bengals game. However, all three eventually (not always during their rookie seasons) became regular contributors over multiple seasons with other teams.


DEFENSIVE END

The Bengals under Lewis have drafted seven defensive ends. However, only one played on opening day – Michael Johnson (third round, 2009). Five others were inactive for the first game, including current fourth-year standout Carlos Dunlap. Only one DE—Angelo Craig (seventh round, 2008)—was not with the team on opening day.

The seventh round has been the most popular for selecting DEs, as three have been selected there – Craig, Jonathan Fanene (2005) and Elton Patterson (2003). Fanene is one of only two DEs to have started a game; Robert Geathers (fourth round, 2004) is the other. Fanene and Geathers, though, each started only one game.

Four of the seven DEs played as rookies. Johnson was the only one to play in all 16 games. Carlos Dunlap (second round, 2010) played in 12 games, Geathers played in 14 and Fanene played in three.

Frostee Rucker (third round, 2006) spent 13 games on the Reserve/Injured list. He was the only DE to spend time on IR.


LINEBACKER

The Bengals have drafted 10 linebackers during Lewis’s tenure, and nine have played in at least two games as rookies. The one player who did not play in any games—Dontay Moch (third round, 2011)—was inactive for all 16 games, held back initially by a foot injury and later by migraines.

Seven of the 10 linebackers played in at least 13 games, and six started at least three games. Two linebackers spent time on the Reserve/Injured list – Keith Rivers (first round, 2008) and Rey Maualuga (second round, ’09). Maualuga, though, spent only one game on IR.

The Bengals haven’t often taken linebackers in the late rounds. Seven of the 10 linebackers selected were taken before the fourth round, and none have been taken later than the fifth round. (It’s important to note that last season saw the relative rarity of two undrafted rookies, Vontaze Burfict and Emmanuel Lamur, seeing significant playing time. Both were signed as college free agents. Burfict’s 14 starts are the most in team history by a CFA.)

The Bengals have spent three third-round picks on linebackers, the most of any round at that position. Two picks were spent in both the first and second rounds.

Seven linebackers played on opening day, including four who started – Rivers, Maualuga, Odell Thurman (second round, 2005) and Caleb Miller (third round, ’04).

None of the 10 linebackers spent time on the practice squad, and all of them were with the Bengals through their entire rookie seasons (includes those on IR).


CORNERBACK

The Bengals under Lewis have selected 10 cornerbacks, and seven of those have played as rookies. Only two, however, started a game – Leon Hall (first round, 2007) started 10 games, and Johnathan Joseph (first round, ’06) started nine games.

Health-wise, the Bengals have truly had split luck with cornerbacks.

On one hand, four players have played in all 16 games – Hall, Joseph, Keiwan Ratliff (second round, 2004) and Morgan Trent (sixth round, 2009). On the other hand, four players spent time on the Reserve/Injured list – Dre Kirkpatrick (first round, 2012), Brandon Ghee (third round, ’10), Shaun Prater (fifth round, ’12) and Greg Brooks (sixth round, ’04).

One player – Korey Lindsey (seventh round, 2011) – was cut after training camp and was not with the team at any point in the season. The other CB was Dennis Weathersby (fourth round, 2003). Weathersby was limited to four games, due to rehab from injuries suffered in an accident prior to the draft.

The most popular round for taking corners has been the first round, where three have been taken – Kirkpatrick, Hall and Joseph.

None of the cornerbacks have ever spent time on the Bengals practice squad.
 

SAFETY

The Bengals under Lewis have drafted seven safeties, but only two were selected before the fifth round – Marvin White (fourth round, 2007) and Madieu Williams (second round, ’04).

Every safety played in at least one game, and four played in at least 14 games. Three safeties have started as rookies – Williams had 13 starts, White had three and Chinedum Ndukwe (seventh round, 2007) started two.

Four safeties played on opening day, but only one (Williams) started.

All of the safeties were with the Bengals throughout the entire season (includes those on IR), and none spent time on the practice squad.

The fifth and seventh rounds were the most popular for drafting safeties, with two picks spent in each round.


SPECIAL TEAMS

Only one specialist has been drafted during Lewis’s tenure – punter Kevin Huber (fifth round, 2009). He played in all 16 games.

Long snapper Clark Harris entered the NFL as a seventh-round pick of the Packers in 2007. Kicker Mike Nugent was a second-round pick of the Jets in 2005.

Each of Cincinnati's top five tacklers on special teams last season entered the NFL as college free agents, including four who originally signed with the Bengals. In 2011, four of the top five tacklers on special teams were originally college free agents (three entered with the Bengals).

The last rookies to crack the top five in special teams tackles were LB Roddrick Muckelroy and CB Brandon Ghee, both in 2010.

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