David Klingler. Ki-Jana Carter. Akili Smith. Peter Warrick.
These are just a few of the names that come to mind when one mentions the Cincinnati Bengals' all-time draft day busts. Cincinnati has picked in the upper half of the first round for the better part of two decades, yet rarely have they gotten it right.
Klingler, star quarterback from the University of Houston, and the Bengals sixth overall pick in the 1992 NFL draft, was thought to be the face of the Bengals franchise for the next decade. An up and down performance thru three seasons would lead the Bengals to bench Klingler in favor of undrafted backup Jeff Blake.
Carter, a No. 1 overall pick as a running back from Penn State, would be labeled a bust as well after suffering a career ending torn ACL early in his career.
Yet none of these individuals can be considered the biggest draft day regret in Bengals' history. That distinction would have to go to Dan Wilkinson, defensive tackle from Ohio State and No. 1 overall pick in the 1994 draft.
The Bengals thought they had selected the anchor to their defense, as Wilkinson came to the team as an All-American nose tackle for the Buckeyes (in his junior year at OSU, he amassed 13 tackles for loss.) In 1995, he would sack opposing quarterbacks eight times, leading all AFC interior linemen.
Yet early into his career Wilkinson would get into a nasty contract dispute with management, which would end up with Wilkinson making some very derogatory remarks toward the Cincinnati front office. In 1997 he would eventually be traded to the Washington Redskins.
Prior to the 1994 NFL Draft, the Bengals had many potential trade partners, including the New England Patriots, who were willing to give up their pick (No. 4-they selected future Pro Bowl LB Willie McGinest.) and other players, and the Arizona Cardinals who were willing to give up their pick plus running back Garrison Hearst.
In addition to passing up trades with New England and Arizona, the Bengals also passed up on future hall of fame running back Marshall Faulk (drafted 2nd overall by the St. Louis Rams) and future Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sam Adams.
Given that Wilkinson complained from the start that the Bengals weren't giving him a fair shake, they may have been better off going any other route.