In preparation for this week’s NFL Draft, which begins with Thursday’s first round and continues through Saturday, we took a look at the Cincinnati Bengals’ first 45 drafts to find the franchise’s best picks by round.
Including supplemental selections and the 41-player expansion picks in 1968, there have been 590 draft choices in team history. Many of the names are obscure and long forgotten, even by the oldest, most ardent Bengals fans. And we could probably put together a whole separate piece on draft busts, but this is an exercise to honor excellence.
Active players were not excluded from the process, but because their body of work is not complete, only a few who could not be ignored are included.
Many great names would be missing if this list solely was limited to the single best player from each round, so we’ve also included the best of the rest and an honorable mention, where players are listed alphabetically.
The entire compilation also appears on the Bengals blog online, where you can weigh in with your own selections and give us your opinion about ours.
While there have been a number of tremendous players picked in the first round, Anthony Munoz is the only one in franchise history to be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and therefore is any easy choice here.
Drafted third overall out of USC in 1980, Munoz went on to start 183 games at left tackle in 13 seasons while going to 11 consecutive Pro Bowls from 1981-1991. He led the Bengals to their only two Super Bowl appearances in 1981 and 1988.
Retired in 1992 and enshrined in Canton in 1998, Munoz still ranks fifth in Bengals history for career games played (185).
The two players drafted ahead of Munoz in 1980 — running back Billy Sims (Detroit) and wide receiver Lam Jones (New York Jets) — came nowhere close to excelling the way Munoz did.
Best of the Rest
OT Willie Anderson, 1996 – Played 12 of his 13 seasons in Cincinnati and went to four Pro Bowls. Anderson started 173 of 181 games, including 116 in a row from 2000-2007. He also was vocal and emotional leader for much of his tenure.
WR Isaac Curtis, 1973 – Played for the Bengals all 11 seasons and went to four Pro Bowls. Curtis holds the team record for average yards per catch in a career (17.1), ranks second in receiving yards (7,101), most 100-yard games (20) and third in receiving touchdowns (53).
DT/DE Eddie Edwards, 1977 – No. 3 overall pick played all 12 seasons in Cincinnati; still owns the franchise record for most career sacks (83.5) and most in a single game (5.0). He ranks second and third for most sacks in a season with 13 in 1983 and 12 in 1980.
WR A.J. Green, 2011 – The body of work is far from complete for this No. 4 overall pick who has gone to two Pro Bowls in his first two seasons. Green already ranks in top five in a number of single-season receiving categories, and last year he became first player in NFL history to record 100 catches, 1,500 receiving yards and 10 TDs in his first 20 games.
QB Carson Palmer, 2003 – Despite how his eight-year run in Cincinnati ended, it’s hard to argue with the two-time Pro Bowler’s numbers. He owns the franchise’s top three totals for single-season passing yards and ranks first in career completion percentage (62.9) and single-season touchdown passes (32 in 2005). He stands second in single-season completion percentage (67.8 in 2005), second in career completions (2,024), third in career passing yards (22,694) and career TD passes.
Honorable Mention: WR Eddie Brown, 1985; DE Ross Browner, 1978; C Bob Johnson, 1968; DT Mike Reid, 1970; C Dave Rimington, 1983
Picking the best of the best from the second round was far more difficult than the first round. First of all, there was no clearcut favorite. And second, you could argue the Bengals have been more successful drafting quality second-rounders than they have been with first-rounders.
But Boomer Esiason has to be the pick here. Drafted 38th overall in 1984, Esiason played his first nine seasons in Cincinnati and 10 overall. He still holds the franchise record for average yards per pass attempt (7.62), most passing yards in a single game (490 on Oct. 7, 1990, at the Los Angeles Rams) and most 300-yard games in a career (23).
Esiason shares the club record for most 300-yard games in a season (five) with Carson Palmer, and he ranks second in club annals in career touchdown passes (187), career passer rating (83.1) and career attempts (3,564) and is tied for third for most TD passes in a season (28 in both 1988 and 1989).
Best of the Rest
WR Cris Collinsworth, 1981 – Played all eight seasons with the Bengals, making 90 starts while going to three Pro Bowls and two Super Bowls. He still ranks fourth in career receptions (417), receiving yards (6,698), 100-yard games (18) and average yards per catch (16.1).
RB Corey Dillon, 1997 – Played his first seven seasons in Cincinnati and went to three Pro Bowls before a contentious split landed him in New England, where he won a Super Bowl in 2004. Dillon is still the career rushing leader for the Bengals with 8,061 yards and he owns the top three single-game performances in club history (278, 246 and 216). He also has the longest run in franchise history (96 yards v. Detroit, 2001) and the most 100-yard games in a career (28), and he is the only Bengals player to rush for four TDs in a game.
WR Chad Johnson, 2001 – The former Chad Ochocinco spent 10 wacky, entertaining seasons in Cincinnati and went to six Pro Bowls. He is the franchise leader in receiving yards (10, 783), receptions (751), touchdown catches (66) and most 100-yard games (31). In terms of receiving yards, Johnson owns the top five single-season totals in club history and the highest single-game total ever (260 vs. San Diego in 2006).
RB Pete Johnson, 1977 – Spent his first seven seasons in Cincinnati and his 64 rushing touchdowns are still the most in club history by a long shot (Rudi Johnson is second with 48). Pete Johnson went to one Pro Bowl in 1981 when also helped lead the Bengals to Super Bowl XVI. He still ranks fourth in career rushing yards (5,421) and third in rushing attempts (1,402). And proof that he was more than just a goal-line back is the fact he ranks fifth in team annals in career 100-yard games (14).
WR Carl Pickens 1992 – Pickens wouldn’t be on this list if it were a popularity contest as he wasn’t well liked by fans or teammates, but his numbers speak for themselves. He still holds the franchise record for most receptions in a game (13), touchdown catches in a season (17) and consecutive games with a touchdown (10). In terms of career numbers, he ranks second in receptions (530) and touchdown catches (63) and third in receiving yards (6,887).
Honorable Mention: S Tom Casanova, 1972; TE Dan Ross, 1979; RB Harold Green, 1990; WR Darnay Scott, 1994; OT Andrew Whitworth, 2006
KEN ANDERSON, 1971
Selected 67th overall out of little Augustana (Ill.) College, Anderson played all 16 of his seasons in Cincinnati and put together a career many view as worthy of the Hall of Fame.
He was voted to four Pro Bowls and led the Bengals to the Super Bowl in 1981, when he also was named NFL MVP. Anderson led the league in passing yards in 1974 and 1975 and finished in the top four three other times. He still ranks in the top 30 in NFL history in career completions and passing yards and is 22nd in total offense.
In Bengals history, Anderson ranks first in seasons played (16) and third in games played (192). He is the franchise leader in career attempts (4,475), completions (2,654), passing yards (32,838) and touchdown passes (197). And his 94-yard touchdown pass to Bill Brooks in 1977 remains the longest pass play in Bengals history.
Best of the Rest
S David Fulcher, 1986 – He played seven of his eight NFL seasons in Cincinnati and went to three Pro Bowls. Fulcher was a big hitter and one of the leaders of the defense in 1988 when the Bengals went to Super Bowl XXIII. His 31 career interceptions rank third in franchise history.
DE Michael Johnson, 2009 – Still a work in progress, but his career-high 11.5 sacks last year were the second most by a Bengals player since 1983, topped only by teammate Geno Atkins’ 12.5. Johnson, who has played in all 64 games since being drafted, already has 23 career sacks, leaving him only 11.5 shy of fifth place in team history.
LB Reggie Williams, 1976 – Williams spent his entire 14-year career with the Bengals, and while he surprisingly never made it to a Pro Bowl, he was a key force in the middle of the defense. Those 14 seasons rank as third most in Bengals history, and his 206 games played rank second, just one shy of Ken Riley’s team record 207. Williams also ranks third in team history with 137 consecutive games played.
Honorable Mention: DE/DT Gary Burley, 1975; TE Rodney Holman, 1982; OG Dave Lapham, 1974; LB Jim LeClair, 1972; RB Paul Robinson, 1968
RUDI JOHNSON, 2001
A few years from now Geno Atkins might be the pick here, but Rudi Johnson’s contributions during his seven years with the Bengals currently outweigh Atkins’ tremendous first three seasons.
Johnson still owns the two highest single-season rushing totals in franchise history with 1,458 in 2005 and 1,454 in 2004. He is second with 19 career 100-yard games and 48 career rushing touchdowns, and he stands third among Bengals rushers with 5,742 career rushing yards.
Johnson also is the only player other than Corey Dillon to rush for more than 200 yards in a game, putting up 202 against Cleveland in 2004.
Best of the Rest
DT Geno Atkins, 2010 – Has gone to two Pro Bowls in his first three seasons, and his 12.5 sacks last year were the most in team history by an interior lineman and the most by any player since Eddie Edwards had 13 in 1983. He tied for the NFL lead among interior linemen with 7.5 sacks in 2011 and won that honor with 4.5 more than the next closest player in 2012.
DE Robert Geathers, 2004 – Another active player, Geathers has spent his first nine seasons with the Bengals and is currently the longest tenured player on the team. He has played 134 career games with 104 starts. Geathers ranks first among active Bengals with 33 career sacks.
Honorable Mention: DT Domato Peko, 2006; CB Corey Sawyer, 1994
AL BEAUCHAMP, 1968
One of the original Bengals, Beauchamp was the 10th player selected in the team’s inaugural draft in 1968. He went on to play eight seasons in Cincinnati while missing only one game in his second season.
Beauchamp never made it to a Pro Bowl, but he had at least one interception in each of his eight seasons as a linebacker with the Bengals, and he had three career defensive scores.
His 15 career interceptions rank tied for 10th in Bengals history, and only Reggie Williams with 16 had more among non-defensive backs.
Best of the Rest
P Kevin Huber, 2009 – Cincinnati native has never missed a game since being drafted and last year set the franchise record for gross yards per punt (46.0) and net yards per punt (42.0) while leading the NFL in punts downed inside the 5-yard line (11). His 2012 performance also moved him into first place in team history on the career list for average yards per punt (44.0) and net yards (38.9).
P Pat McInally, 1975 – McInally also played wide receiver during his 10-year career, all of which was spent in Cincinnati. He was voted to the Pro Bowl during the team’s first Super Bowl season in 1981, and he still ranks second in career punts (700), career punting yardage (29,307). His 45.4 average in 1981 ranks as third best in team history.
Honorable Mention: Barney Bussey, 1984; LB Tom Dinkel, 1978
KEN RILEY, 1969
Another player with Hall of Fame credentials who never got the votes needed, Riley still ranks fifth in NFL history with 65 career interceptions 30 years after he retired.
Nicknamed “The Rattler,” Riley spent all 15 of his seasons as a cornerback with the Bengals and played in a franchise record 207 games. He had at least one interception in each of his 15 seasons, including a remarkable eight – one shy of his career high – in his final season at the age of 36. Also that season Riley returned two picks for touchdowns to give him five for his career.
Twice in his career he had three interceptions in a single game, the most in team history. His five career pick sixes also is a Bengals record, and his 18 fumble recoveries is an unofficial team mark.
Remarkably he was never voted to a Pro Bowl.
Best of the Rest
RB Essex Johnson, 1968 – Drafted as a returner out of Grambling State, Johnson spent the first eight of his nine-year career with the Bengals. He still ranks fifth in team history with an average rush of 4.5 yards per game, and his 86-yard touchdown against Cleveland in 1971 stands as the third longest run in club annals.
RB Larry Kinnebrew, 1983 – Kinnebrew spent five seasons in Cincinnati, and while he never rushed for more than 714 yards in any of them, he scored at least eight touchdowns in four of those five years and still ranks fourth in team history with 37 rushing scores. He also is the only Bengals player to rush for three or more TDs in a game at least three times and one of two to score four times in a game.
Honorable Mention: K Neil Rackers, 2000; DT Kim von Oelhoffen, 1994
LEMAR PARRISH, 1970
As a cornerback, kick returner and punt returner, Parrish recorded a total of 12 non-offensive touchdowns during his eight-year career with the Bengals.
Drafted out of tiny Lincoln (Mo.) College, Parrish started the first 58 games of his career. He still holds the team’s single-season record for punt return average in a season (18.8 in 1974) and punt return touchdowns in a career (four) and season (two). His 90-yard touchdown against Washington in 1974 ranks as the second longest punt return in club history.
Parrish also holds the Cincinnati record for kick return average in a career (24.7), and his 25 interceptions rank fourth in club annals.
Six of his eight Pro Bowl appearances came as a member of the Bengals.
Best of the Rest
CB Louis Breeden, 1977 – Spent his entire 10-year career with the Bengals and ranks second in career interceptions with 33. He also is one of six players in team history to record three interceptions in a game, and his 102-yard pick six in 1981 in San Diego is tied for the longest TD in team history.
WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, 2001 – Played eight seasons with the Bengals and still holds the team record for most receptions in a season (112) and ranks third in career receptions (507) and fifth in receiving touchdowns (37). Houshmandzadeh had 12 scoring catches in 2007, which is tied for second most in team annals.
Honorable Mention: OG Max Montoya, 1979; OT Joe Walter, 1985
DOUG PELFREY, 1993
The biggest – and most consistent – scoring threat on some awful Bengals teams in the 1990s, Pelfrey was for a time the most accurate kicker in NFL history.
He finished his career 153 of 198 (77.3 percent), which ranks second in team history to Shayne Graham (86.8). Pelfrey is the most accurate kicker the Bengals have ever had from long distance, going 8 of 17 from 50 yards and longer.
His 153 field goals are third most in team history, and he once made six in a game (vs. Seattle in 1994), which ranks second in Bengals annals.
Honorable Mention: WR Mike Martin, 1983; OG Bruce Reimers, 1984; S Solomon Wilcots 1987
BRUCE KOZERSKI, 1984
He played every position on the offensive line and spent his entire 12-year career with the Bengals.
The starting center on the 1988 team that went to Super Bowl XXIII, Kozerski played in 172 games with 138 starts and even got on the stat sheet with four career fumble recoveries.
He was never voted to the Pro Bowl but was selected as an alternate three times.
Honorable Mention: RB Stanley Wilson, 1983
TIM KRUMRIE, 1983
Drafted 276th overall in the 10th round, Krumrie went on to play his entire 12-year career with the Bengals as a nose guard and later worked as an assistant coach for the team for eight seasons.
Known for his grit and toughness, Krumrie was the emotional leader on defense for the 1988 team that went to Super Bowl XXIII, where he suffered a gruesome broken leg in the first half and famously insisted on staying in the locker room to watch the game on TV instead of going to the hospital to have the leg set.
He was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1987 and 1988.
His 34.5 career sacks rank fifth in team history, while his 188 games played are fourth most, as are his 122 consecutive games played.
Honorable Mention: RB Boobie Clark (11th, 1973); CB Robert Jackson (11th, 1985); TE Bob Trumpy (12th, 1968)
NFL Draft Schedule
Thursday, 8 p.m.: First round
Friday, 6:30 p.m.: Second and third rounds
Saturday, 12 p.m.: Fourth through seventh rounds