Breaking down one of the riskiest draft moves by the Cincinnati Bengals over the past 25 years:
Round/overall selection: First, 26th
Did the risk pay off? In a word, "no." There are reasons the Bengals have only had one draft-day trade since 2004, a middle-round exchange that landed them center Russell Bodine in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. Exactly 10 years prior, the Bengals came out on the losing end of a first-round swap that led them to ultimately select the wrong running back. They believed in explosive former Michigan rusher Chris Perry and thought he'd be a good pick at 26th overall, the spot they were awarded after trading down with the St. Louis Rams. But much like 1995 first-overall Bengals selection Ki-Jana Carter, Perry only briefly showed flashes of what could've been. Also like Carter, injuries derailed Perry's career early. He only played in 35 games during five seasons (he missed 2007 with an injury) and started nine. He had just two career touchdowns and they came in his final season.
Meanwhile, the pick Perry was traded for -- No. 24 overall -- went to a player who just played his 12th season. Steven Jackson was the first running back taken in the 2004 draft (Perry was the second) and went on to rush for more than 1,000 yards eight times in nine years with the Rams. He had another two seasons with the Falcons before playing in two regular-season games and two playoff games with the Patriots last year. Jackson has been named to three Pro Bowls.
The risk to trade down two spots didn't work out as well as the Bengals hoped.
Was there a safer move? With the benefit of hindsight, the safest move was to simply stand pat and select Jackson with the 24th pick. Had Jackson been picked, he would have joined fellow former Oregon State standouts Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh on the Bengals' roster. A noted pass-catcher out of the backfield, perhaps Jackson's presence would have added a unique dimension to Cincinnati's offense. But as simple as that move may sound 12 years after the fact, it's important to note that the Bengals didn't only receive the 24th pick. The Rams also sent a fourth-round pick, No. 123. With it, the Bengals selected offensive tackle Stacy Andrews, an eight-year NFL player who spent five seasons in Cincinnati, including two as a starter.
Since the Bengals felt they needed that extra mid-round player and believed Perry to be the speedy back their offense needed to pair in the backfield with Rudi Johnson, it's hard to completely call this trade a dangerous one. It still ultimately came at a cost.