CINCINNATI -- We've talked often in this space about the Cincinnati Bengals' recent draft efforts and the inroads they have made toward building their current roster through them.
So, with less than six weeks until the 2014 draft, we're taking a look back at how those draft classes came together. In all, 32 players currently on the team were drafted by the Bengals in the last 10 drafts. Robert Geathers is the oldest homegrown product, selected in the fourth round in 2004.
We started this eight-day look at the Bengals' recent drafts with 2006 on Tuesday. Wednesday looked at the 2007 class, headlined by cornerback Leon Hall. Thursday tracks the 2008 picks, led by former Bengals Keith Rivers and Anthony Collins.
Like ESPN NFL Nation Vikings reporter Ben Goessling has done with a similar series he's been running parts of the last two weeks, we're using Pro Football Reference's Approximate Value statistic to help evaluate how valuable of a draft pick each player has been. The AV statistic is a unique metric that assigns value to each season of a player's career, and averages it all out. The higher the number, the better.
Let's keep it going with a review of Cincinnati's 2008 draft:
First-round pick: No. 9 overall (Keith Rivers, LB, Southern California ... currently playing for the Bills)
Number of picks: 10
Highest player AV: Keith Rivers, AV of 22 (Rivers' career AV ranks 58th in the draft class; Falcons QB Matt Ryan has highest AV with a 76)
How they fared: For the first time in our draft review, a Bengals draft class features more than four players who are still playing in the league. The 2007 class has only one still playing: current Bengals cornerback Leon Hall. While the 10-player Bengals 2008 class still has six competing, none of them are playing with Hall in Cincinnati. Rivers is in Buffalo. Jerome Simpson (second round) is with the Vikings. Pat Sims (third round) just signed with Oakland after a stint with the Giants. Andre Caldwell (third round) is in Denver. Collins (fourth round) just left Cincinnati to sign with Tampa Bay and Corey Lynch (sixth round) is with the Colts. Caldwell and Simpson have gone on to be productive second and third receiving options for their teams. Rivers has been a contributor over the years at linebacker, as has Sims on the defensive line. After appearing in 57 games with the Bengals mostly as a reserve, Collins left last month to take Tampa Bay's starting left tackle job.
Pivotal pick: Since he had the longest Cincinnati tenure of all the 2008 drafted Bengals, and because he was a vital piece of the team's offense the last few seasons, Collins had to be the most pivotal selection. He was taken in the fourth round, 112th overall. When he arrived from Kansas, he was raw and young. Offensive line coach Paul Alexander made it a personal mission to get Collins to adapt to NFL life, to study film more closely and to understand the concepts that applied to playing tackle at this level. He saw the potential. That potential came through last year when Collins was forced into the lineup for a rare start during the season opener at Chicago. With sack specialist Julius Peppers lined up opposite him, Collins held his own. He didn't allow Peppers to get past him and sack quarterback Andy Dalton. He also didn't let any other defensive end or outside linebacker sack his quarterback during other spot starts and reserve action last season.
Best pick: There isn't a clear-cut "best pick" in this Bengals class. Part of that is because so many of them are still playing in the league, and so few have had big breakout seasons since their careers started. They've all had their flashes of success, but few have been long lasting. Simpson probably has had the better overall career, coming away with more than 2,000 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in just 57 games as a second, third and fourth receiving option. Caldwell has fulfilled a similar role, but only has 1,390 yards receiving in 75 games. He also has nine touchdowns. Rivers has had impact on the two teams he's played on, but none like what was expected for a player picked ninth overall. Other linebackers with higher career AVs who were selected after Rivers include: Jerod Mayo, Cliff Avril, Curtis Lofton, Geno Hayes and Philip Wheeler. Even current Bengals offensive lineman Mike Pollak, a 2008 Colts second-round pick, has a higher career AV.
Worst pick: None of the Bengals' final three picks made it through their first full seasons. Sixth-round tight end Matt Sherry and seventh-round selections linebacker Angelo Craig and receiver Mario Urrutia logged less than a year of service time.