The last five years of first-round selections by the Bengals have, for the most part, not been good. For teams that regularly utilize free agency, this wouldn’t be too big of an issue, but it is devastating for a team that builds through the draft like the Cincinnati Bengals.
2015 was the last time the Bengals fielded a playoff team and was also the beginning of this series of bad luck first-round draft picks. From the 2015 NFL Draft to now, the Bengals have been unsuccessful in getting starters in the first round. It all started with everyone’s favorite offensive tackle, Cedric Ogbuehi.
2015: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Pick 21
The start of it all. Ogbuehi was always a risky pick, as he was coming off of injury and based his play on athleticism rather than technique. He was supposed to be the heir to Andrew Whitworth and was likely a reason they let him walk. The Bengals have since spent half of a decade trying to fix the offensive line.
During the two seasons that he started or played in most games, he allowed 14 total sacks and was regularly manhandled in all phases of the game. Ogbuehi also barely played during his rookie season (a common trend among these picks) as he was recovering from a torn ACL in college. He is now on the Seattle Seahawks, most likely fighting for a back end roster spot.
2016: William Jackson III, CB, Pick 24
As of now, William Jackson is the Bengals’ only worthwhile first-round pick of this time frame. Jackson did miss his rookie season with an injury, so the Bengals went the entire season without their first-round pick in 2016. There isn’t much negative to his game, as he immediately burst onto the scene as a lockdown corner and is likely going to be a mainstay of the Bengals defense for years to come. But you aren’t reading this to hear about good draft picks, next.
2017: John Ross III, WR, Pick 9
The speedster that broke the NFL Combine’s 40-yard dash record, John Ross definitely caught the Bengals eye as they were looking for a complement to A.J. Green. They had the right idea, but the pick just hasn’t panned out. Coincidentally enough, Ross did not play for most of his rookie season due to a combination of injury and disdain from Marvin Lewis.
Furthermore, Ross has been injured for most of his NFL career and has only recently started playing to his potential, but even then, his future is uncertain. For now, Ross is considered a bust.
2018: Billy Price, C, Pick 21
Have you caught on yet? Billy Price missed a decent chunk of his rookie season due to injury. This comes after playing 55-straight games at Ohio State. While he started his rookie season when healthy, he has fallen out of favor. He was obviously not getting the job done and has since been relegated to a backup role. There is even some uncertainty if he will even make the final roster this season, which says a lot, considering the state of the Bengals offensive line.
The Bengals traded with the Buffalo Bills to move back in the first round and receive Cordy Glenn. Glenn has since been released. Not only is Price a subpar pick, but he was also part of a trade that has now backfired.
2019: Jonah Williams, OT, Pick 11
Now we are at the stage where it is too early to tell if the players will be worthy of their selections. While it remains to be seen if Williams will be the Bengals solution at left tackle, he followed the trend of being an injured first-round rookie. He missed his entire rookie season with a torn labrum. Williams is expected to be the starting left tackle next season, so time will tell if he is a bust or not.
2020: Joe Burrow, QB, Pick 1
As of June 8th, 2020, Joe Burrow is the only Bengals first-round selection since 2015 to not have been injured and is expected to start all 16 regular-season games. Will Burrow be the end of the curse it seems that the Bengals have had, or will he follow in line like the other first-rounders?
Hopefully, for the sake of Burrow and the Bengals, his career begins differently. The Bengals have entered a new era with Zac Taylor, so perhaps this change will lift the curse. But, if recent history is any indication, the football gods are not going to let them off the hook so easily.