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Looking Back to the Present: Grading the Bengals’ 2006 Draft

Published: May 4, 2009

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A week after the 2009 NFL Draft closed, the Cincinnati Bengals have received high marks for their 2009 class. Despite character questions for several of their picks (a merry-go-round the Bengals just can’t seem to get off), national pundits generally believe Marvin Lewis and Mike Brown put together a good group of rookies.

But the truth is we won’t know whether they’re right until 2012. The same experts who give out their grades the day after the draft happily tell you a draft can’t be properly graded for three years.

So as the Bengals Class of ’09 wraps up its first mini-camp, I thought I’d have a look at the players who did the same thing three years ago.


No. 1: Johnathan Joseph CB:

I was for picking Ohio State C Nick Mangold with this selection, since Rich Braham was on his last legs, but Joseph rapidly became a solid player for the Bengals. He has the speed and skills to be a shutdown corner, and he defended a lot of passes in his rookie season.

However, he still knocks down or drops more balls than he catches (a reason he’s a DB), and he’s struggled to stay on the field in his three seasons in Cincinnati. This was a solid pick, but he hasn’t shot out any lights.

Grade: B    GPA: 3.0


No. 2: Andrew Whitworth OL:

A lot of people wondered why the Bengals would make this pick when they did. Levi Jones and Willie Anderson had just signed big extensions, and Whitworth played LT.

But the Bengals recognized his versatility, and they knew Eric Steinbach was going to be leaving in free agency the next year. Whitworth played 10 games at LT when Jones got hurt in 2006 and then moved over to LG the following season, where he’s been a rock.

Now, Anderson is gone and Jones soon will be. This was the best pick of Cincinnati’s draft.

Grade: A   GPA: 3.5


No. 3: Frostee Rucker DE:

Rucker looked like a decent pick when they made it, but he struggled first with off-field troubles (which the Bengals knew about when they took him) and then with injuries. He finally got on the field regularly in 2008 where he contributed, but did nothing to improve the Bengals anemic pass rush.

Grade: C   GPA: 3.0


No. 4: Domata Peko DT:

Peko flashed in his rookie season and moved into the starting lineup the following year. The Bengals recognized his talent and signed him to an extension last year.

He’s a high-character guy (having stopped to rescue a man in a crash on his way to church), who is a load in the middle. Despite that, he hasn’t been a real difference-maker. He’ll give you a lot, but he’s not going to make the other team scheme for him.

Grade: B    GPA: 3.0 


No. 5: AJ Nicholson LB:

Nicholson struggled with injuries his rookie season, then got arrested the following offseason, resulting in him getting cut the next day.

Grade: D    GPA: 2.5


No. 6: Reggie McNeal WR/QB:

The Bengals took a chance on converting McNeal to WR, hoping maybe to run some gadget plays with him. McNeal contemplated not signing a contract, then came to camp flashing attitude and never developed into much. It wasn’t a bad experiment for a sixth-round pick, but McNeal was totally the wrong guy.

Grade: D   GPA: 2.33


No. 7a: Ethan Kilmer S:

Kilmer flashed his rookie season, highlighted by returning his first NFL interception for a touchdown to sink the Saints. He’s a solid special teamer, but he hasn’t developed into much else due to injuries. Still, for what they got, Kilmer was a find in the seventh round.

Grade: B    GPA: 2.42


No. 7b: Bennie Brazell WR:

Brazell had blazing speed and showed a lot of promise at WR. But he kept getting hurt and just couldn’t get on the field. This could have been a steal if he’d stayed healthy.

Grade: C  GPA: 2.38


No. 3 (Supplemental) Ahmad Brooks LB:

In the Bengals’ defense, they knew they were losing Odell Thurman for an extended period of time, and they had to do something. So they took a chance on the troubled kid from Virginia.

It worked out only a little better than Thurman. Brooks played one season for the Bengals in which he played inconsistently.

He lost his job the next season and was off the roster the year after. For a third-round pick, this was a disaster that was mitigated only by the need created by Thurman’s off-field issues.

Grade: D      GPA: 2.22

So the Bengals finished with a 2.22 GPA, good enough for a C. Whitworth has been a stud, Joseph and Peko have been solid contributors.

The rest struggled to offer much. If a C is average, you can’t throw too many stones at the Bengals.

They did okay. But they need to do much better if they’re going to turn things around. Succeeding classes need to be in the A and B range.

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