To casual football fans, the Cincinnati Bengals are probably best known for missing the playoffs in 14 consecutive seasons, with nary a winning season in the mix.
It’s sometimes hard to recall that the Bengals actually played in two Super Bowls in the 1980s, and came close to winning both of them.
One of the biggest reasons the Bengals went through such a long postseason drought – from 1991 through 2004 – is due to bad (or unlucky) selections in the NFL Draft.
It’s not hard at all to come up with a list of top draft busts (with Akili Smith, David Klingler and KiJana Carter coming immediately to mind).
The fortunes of the franchise appear to have changed for the better in recent years – thanks in large part to good draft picks.
Here is a Top Ten list of the best draft picks in franchise history.
1. Anthony Munoz
(1st round – 3rd overall, 1980, HOF
The Bengals certainly did not miss with this first-round pick, as the USC product was arguably the best player at his position – left tackle – in league history. NINE times a first-team All-Pro (11-time Pro Bowler), Munoz played 185 career games, all with Cincinnati. He played in two Super Bowls, protecting the two greatest quarterbacks in franchise history.
2. Kenny Anderson
(3rd round, 1971)
It is unclear why Anderson has not earned a Hall of Fame nod, after twice making the cut as a finalist. Anderson, a four-time Pro Bowler, passed for 32,838 yards in his career. He threw 197 TDs and rushed for 20 more. He had one of the best Super Bowls ever for the losing QB, completing 25-of-34 passes for 300 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs in Cincinnati’s 26-21 loss to San Francisco. He posted a stellar 8.82 Y/A in that game.
Anderson led the league in completions twice, completion percentage three times, passing yards twice and QB rating four times.
3. Boomer Esiason
(2nd round, 1984)
The franchise didn’t have to wait long for Anderson’s successor, as Esiason stepped into the starting role from his rookie season. He played the first nine years and the final year of his 14-season career in Cincy. Esiason holds the franchise record for passing yards, and threw for 37,920 career yards. He tossed 247 TDs and 184 INTs, while completing 57 percent of his career passes.
Esiason led the league in Y/A (9.2) and QB rating (97.4) in his best season, 1988 – which ended with a heartbreaking loss to Joe Montana and the 49ers in the Super Bowl.
4. Willie Anderson
(1st round – 10th overall, 1996)
For seven consecutive seasons, Anderson never missed a game at right tackle for the Bengals. Overall, he played in 181 games for the franchise over 12 years before finishing up with one final season in Baltimore. The four-time Pro Bowl selection was named first-team All-Pro three times. Anderson’s final game was a start in the 2008 AFC Championship, which Baltimore lost to arch-rival Pittsburgh.
5. Corey Dillon
(2nd round, 1997)
No other back in franchise history has rushed for more than Dillon’s 8,061 yards. The four-time Pro Bowler finished up his career with three excellent seasons in New England, winning a Super Bowl and closing out his career with 11,241 rushing yards and 82 rushing TDs (plus 7 receiving). Dillon rushed for over 1,100 yards in each of his first six seasons in Cincinnati (although his career high of 1,635 yards came with the Patriots in 2004). Dillon is 17th on the NFL career rushing list.
6. Chad Ochocinco
(2nd round, 2001)
The often entertaining and sometimes controversial WR holds the franchise mark with 10,783 receiving yards. The six-time Pro Bowl selection was named to the 1st team list in back-to-back seasons (2005-06). In those two years, he caught 184 passes for 2,801 yards and 16 TDs. Ochocinco has 67 career TD receptions.
7. Max Montoya
(7th round, 1979)
The UCLA product was named to four Pro Bowls in his 16-year career, the first 11 of which were spent in Cincinnati. The right guard played alongside Munoz for a good portion of his career, and spent the last five seasons with the Raiders. His best two back-to-back seasons were in 1988-89.
8. Chris Collinsworth (2ndround, 1981)
The Florida product played just eight seasons (all for the Bengals), but he made the most of them, posting four 1,000-yard seasons (and missing another by just 11 yards). In his career, he caught 417 passes for 6,698 yards and 36 TDs. Collinsworth made the Pro Bowl his first three seasons. He saved his best games for the Oilers, averaging 16.5 YPR in 16 career games.
9. Tim Krumrie
(10th round, 1983)
Perhaps best remembered for the gruesome injury he suffered during Super Bowl XXIII, Krumrie was a reliable part of Cincinnati’s defense for 12 seasons. The NT/DT made over 1,000 tackles in 188 career games, recovered 13 fumbles and recorded 34.5 sacks.
10. A.J. Green/Andy Dalton
(1st and 2nd rounds, 2011)
It’s doubtful any duo of draft picks in franchise history made such an immediate impact. The wide receiver out of Georgia and the quarterback out of TCU helped propel the Bengals into the playoffs last season. Green made the Pro Bowl after catching 65 passes for 1,057 yards and scoring 7 TDs. Dalton started all 16 games and passed for 3,398 yards.