TDBH: Bengals beef up draft dealing away another first rounder

Posted Apr 11, 2018

This Day in Bengals History - April 12, 2012

After the A.J. Green-Andy Dalton draft of the previous April yields a surprising play-off berth, the Bengals continue their massive youth movement today when they trade linebacker Keith Rivers to the Super Bowl champion Giants for the last pick in the fifth round. That gives them nine picks in a draft that begins two weeks from today and can cement them as play-off contenders for the next five years since they already have a league-leading four Pro Bowlers 24 years old or younger. Four of the picks are courtesy of trades that include an extra first-rounder from the Raiders when they send disgruntled quarterback Carson Palmer to Oakland for the 17th pick at last season’s trade deadline.

So Rivers becomes the club’s second first-rounder dealt for picks in this draft in their fifth trade in the last 290 days. The run begins the first the day it can when the NFL lockout is lifted on the eve of the 2011 training camp and they ship their all-time receiver to the Patriots and get a fifth-round pick for Chad Johnson. It’s far from the first time this has happened. Rivers, the ninth pick in 2008, is the Bengals’ 11th first-round pick to get traded. It’s been a hard stint. His career has been consumed by injury and an injury fittingly defines his career when he misses the last nine games of his rookie season after Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward breaks his jaw on a controversial blind-side block. Dirty? The competition committee must say yes because they make the play illegal in the offseason. Too late for Rivers, who also misses all last season after wrist surgery. Even when he plays full-time in '09 and '10, Rivers basically splits snaps with third-down stalwart Brandon Johnson and last season Thomas Howard becomes a star in Rivers’ spot after he signs as a free-agent.

But the Bengals don’t stop after they deal Rivers. During the draft they trade down from No. 21 in the first round with the Patriots and select Wisconsin right guard Kevin Zeitler at No. 27 and with the extra third-round pick they get from New England they take Clemson defensive tackle Brandon Thompson for their 10th pick overall. Two days later the Bengals are the toast of the league. and The Sporting News give their draft an A-plus. NFL Network gives them an A. ESPN says they have as good a draft as anybody, Pro Football Weekly says two teams that stand out are the Bengals and Rams, and Sports Illustrated says the five potential starters in the first three rounds make it "elite." Pete Prisco of CBS calls it the NFL's best draft with Cincinnati's best pick Zeitler and the hidden gem fifth-rounder Marvin Jones, the speedy Cal receiver. "What's not to like?" Prisco asks. "The list of 10 is impressive. They acted like they owned the draft. Heck, they did.”

The Bengals go on to make the postseason four straight times with two AFC North titles and four players from this draft (Zeitler, Jones, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, safety George Iloka) come from the selections picked up in trades and start the 2015 Wild Card Game they should have won. Of course, Johnson is traded for that Cal wide out, Marvin Lewis Jones, the 166th pick that becomes a monster next to Green. The next pick belongs to the Bengals, too, at No. 167. The Rivers pick. And they get Boise State safety George Iloka, a starter from his second year on. Rivers becomes even more of a footnote when after the draft they take a flyer on controversial Arizona State middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict and when Howard tears his ACL hours before the third game. Burfict starts the next 30 games and goes to the 2013 Pro Bowl.

In the half-hour after the draft head coach Marvin Lewis hands out the credit like a point guard, from Bengals president Mike Brown to director of player personnel Duke Tobin and his scouts, to retiring director of football operations Jim Lippincott. He muses about holding on to those fifth-round picks. Because they almost don’t. “We talked about moving up in the third round a little bit, but we didn’t consider it all that much before that,” Lewis says. “We just felt like where we were sitting, we would gain value. I think it was brought up the other day, the fifth-round guys add a lot of value to this football team. If we do as good this year as we have in the past, then those guys will be around here for a while.” Lewis always says he doesn’t have a time machine, but maybe he trades for one.

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