In a few weeks, millions will tune in for the glitz, glamor and bright lights of the NFL Draft’s first round, all while nervously waiting as their team’s pick approaches. Will that prospect they’ve been eyeing since the combine stick around Radio City Hall’s green room long enough for, say, pick No. 21?
The first round is the main event. Thursday night in prime time, it’s the apex of the NFL’s offseason. College football’s best and brightest, all ripe for the picking.
Sure, a lot is made about first-round picks, and rightfully so. They make the most money, are considered the safest bet, and they often come with the most notoriety.
But truth be told, personnel departments earn their worth based on the evaluation of talent after the first round. A draft wouldn’t be considered a success if a team couldn’t find sufficient talent and build depth after the first round. For example, if the selection of, say, a high-ceiling defensive end from Florida and an overlooked defensive tackle from Georgia turn out to be spot-on, that draft is likely considered a success. We’re talking there, of course, about the Bengals 2010 draft, when
But when exactly can a team find value? Can an immediate starter be found in the fourth round? Can you get 16 games out of a sixth-round pick? How much of a shot do seventh-rounders really have at making the roster? Are teams willing to send a fifth-round pick to the practice squad?
Once again, history points to a number of trends that can answer those questions. In the third and final part of a Bengals.com series, we’ll take a round-by-round look at when the Bengals have found immediate-impact players. The results may be somewhat surprising.
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.
First-round draft picks under Lewis average 10.2 games played in their rookie seasons, which is less than the second and fourth rounds. They average 6.6 starts, which is less than the second round.
There have been six picks spent on offense, and five spent on defense.
Seven of the 11 first-round picks have played on opening day, including five who have started. Three were inactive, and one—
Four first-rounders have started 10 or more games, and three of those have come in the last three years.
Three first-rounders have spent time on Reserve/Injured –
Cornerback has been the most popular position in the first round, as three have been chosen there – Kirkpatrick, Hall and Johnathan Joseph (2006). Joseph, who battled injuries during several of his Bengals seasons, played in all 16 games as a rookie, with nine starts. Only two others—Hall and Zeitler—managed to play in all 16 games.
There have been 11 second-round picks – six on defense, and five on offense. They form an impressive group.
QB Andy Dalton (2011) and G Kevin Zeitler (a 2012 first-round pick) are the only two rookies of any sort to start all 16 games in the Lewis era. Three other second-rounders started 15 games – LB
Second-rounders have averaged 12.4 games played and 8.4 starts, both the highest of any round. Five second-rounders played in all 16 games (compared to three in the first round), and six started 10 or more games (compared to four in the first round).
Five—same as the first-round picks—started on opening day. DE Carlos Dunlap (2010) didn’t get a rookie start, but he wound up with 9.5 sacks as a situational pass rusher and is now one of the defense’s most promising young players. DT
The only second-rounder who hasn’t produced has been RB Kenny Irons (2007), who suffered what proved to be a career-ending knee injury in his initial training camp.
There have been 14 third-round picks – six on offense and eight on defense. Five wide receivers have been taken in the third round, the most of any position.
The most notable third-rounders include two current players, star DE
A total of eight third-rounders recorded a start as rookies, but only one started more than 10 games – LB Landon Johnson (2004). WR Chris Henry (2005) started five, with 14 games played. Seven players played on opening day, but only two started the first game – WR Jordan Shipley (2010) and LB Caleb Miller (’04).
Third-rounders have averaged 9.0 games and 2.8 starts, both the lowest averages of any of the first four rounds.
Besides Sanu, three third-rounders have spent time on Reserve/Injured – CB
The marquee name among Lewis’s fourth-round picks is of course Geno Atkins (2010), now rated among the NFL’s elite defensive tackles. As a rookie, Atkins had a solid season, playing in every game, but his star quality did not fully emerge until year two.
Overall, the fourth has been perhaps the most interesting round under Lewis. Fourteen players have been selected—seven offense, seven defense—and the picks have averaged 10.3 games played and 2.5 starts. Every fourth-rounder has played in at least one game as a rookie, and nine have started, the most of any round.
The fourth round has clearly been the “muscle round” for the Bengals, as nine of the picks have been linemen – five offensive and four defensive. Consider also that two others at ‘muscle’ positions—TE
Six Bengals fourth-round picks are still on the current roster, more than any other round. Those players are Atkins, Charles, G
Only one fourth-round pick has spent time on Reserve/Injured during his rookie season – DT Matthias Askew.
Four fourth-rounders have played in all 16 games – Charles, Atkins, Peko and Johnson, but only one player has recorded double-digit starts – Johnson (13). Of the nine linemen selected, Collins had the most starts (six), then Boling (three). No other fourth-rounders have started more than one game as rookies.
There have been 12 fifth round picks during Lewis’s tenure – six on defense, five on offense, and one specialist. The specialist—K
Fifth-round picks have averaged 4.7 games played and only 0.4 starts. Only one fifth-rounder has started a game – WR
Huber and LB Khalid Abdullah (2003) are the only fifth-rounders to play in every game as a rookie. Jones (11 games) is the only other player in double digits.
Two fifth-round picks have spent time on Reserve/Injured – CB
Four fifth-rounders played on opening day – Jones, Huber, Abdullah and S
The fifth round is where the Bengals have begun to draw the line for the practice squad. Two players from the fifth round have spent time on the practice squad as rookies – WR Maurice Mann (2004) and G Otis Hudson (’10). At pick No. 149, Mann was selected the earliest of any player to have spent time on the practice squad. Hudson was selected at No. 152.
In contrast to the fourth round, only three picks have been dedicated to linemen – two on offense, one on defense. Linebacker and safety have been the most popular positions in the fifth round, as each have been selected twice.
There have been 12 sixth-round picks during Lewis’s tenure – seven on offense and five on defense.
Sixth-rounders have averaged 5.5 games played and 0.2 starts.
Two sixth-round picks played in all 16 games – CB Morgan Trent (2009) and WR Tab Perry (’05). Scott was the only other player in double digits, with 13.
Again, in contrast to the fourth round, only two players selected in the sixth round were linemen – DT Matt Toeaina (’07) and DT Langston Moore (’03).
Four wide receivers have been taken in this round – Perry,
Four sixth-round picks spent time on the practice squad, and four spent time on Reserve/Injured. Only three sixth-rounders played on opening day.
There have been 16 seventh-round selections under Lewis, the most of any round. Seven picks were dedicated to offense, and nine to defense.
Understandably, seventh-rounders have averaged just 2.7 games played as rookies. Only five of the 16 have seen first-year action. The most notable rookie season participant among seventh-rounders has been S Ethan Kilmer (2006), who played in all 16 games.
Only two seventh-rounders have recorded a start – two for S Chinedum Ndukwe (2007) and one for DE Jonathan Fanene (’05).
Five of the last eight seventh-round picks were not with the team on opening day. The last seventh-rounder to play on his rookie season opening day was C Dan Santucci (2007).
Three players spent time on the practice squad, and one spent time on Reserve/Injured.