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Greatest Draft Ever?


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So on the occasion of Justin Smith's retirement, Hobson wites:

Justin Smith retirement closes out Bengals greatest draft class

The retirement of 49ers defensive lineman Just Smith closes the books on the Bengals’ most successful draft ever, the 2001 edition where the Bengals selected four players that ended up in their top four all-time for receiving, rushing, and sacks.

Smith, out of Missouri, played 111 of his 221 NFL games during his first seven NFL seasons in Cincinnati as a 4-3 right end. After they took him with the fourth pick, his 43.5 sacks put him fourth on the Bengals’ all-time list.

Then in the next round they took wide receiver Chad Johnson out of Oregon State and 751 catches and 10,783 yards later he left after the 2010 season as the club’s all-time leading receiver.

In the fourth round they plucked running back Rudi Johnson out of Auburn and in seven seasons he finished as their third all-time rusher with 5,742 yards.

Then they finished it off by going back to Oregon State and grabbing Johnson’s running mate in the seventh round, wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. In eight seasons he caught 507 balls for third most all-time in Bengals history, and set their season record with 112 catches in 2007.

Smith's 221 NFL games in 14 seasons are 14 more than the Bengals' record, held by cornerback Ken Riley since he played the last of his 207 games in 1983, his 15th season.

Eh, I dunno. I think you could argue that it was a classic pre-Marvin "Bungles" draft. In the first round, the Bengals reached for need, taking Smith fourth overall. Back then Smith was viewed as the best of a weak DE class and was projected for a successful but not elite NFL career. In taking him the Bengals passed on LaDainian Tomlinson (and yes, I know, they still had Dillon) and DT Richard Seymour, the next two players off the board. Smith was, as expected, OK but not great in stripes and his later performance in SF suggests that he was never used correctly by the coaching staff.

In round two they took Chad, who was a great player early when his head was in the game and a mess later on when he morphed into "Ocho Cinco." In any event he's the poster child for the old Bengals' habit of spending high picks on guys who drop because of character flaws, and having the pick eventually implode on them.

(Then in the third round of this greatest draft ever they took Sean "two packs a day" Brewer. In my book no draft that includes some guy who calls himself "Gee-Oh Dawg" can be the greatest of all time.)

Rudi was probasbly the brightest spot in this draft, a legitimately good dude who would eventually provide a welcome antidote to the Burger Flipper. If I had to say which selection was the best pick of the 2001 draft it'd be Johnson.

And then finally TJ Houshmanzadeh. Yes, he turned out to be a massive steal, talentwise. But he eventually checked out on the Bengals after management wouldn't pay him what he thought he was owed, resulting in an ugly end to his time in Cincy. On the issue of money, I think you can argue both sides, but the bottom line is that deciding not to pony up more coin for TJ in 2006 was as bad a call as the decisions to give big extensions to Willie and Levi. And I think that lesson was reflected in this year's first and second round picks.

It was a very good draft strictly from a talent perspective, but overall I think it encapsulates a lot of bad things this team used to do.

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