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    Worst Cincinnati Bengals Draft Picks of All Time: From John Ross to Ki-Jana Carter

    The Cincinnati Bengals are among the league leaders in top 10 draft picks, but some of them rank among the worst decisions in team history.

    Not all draft picks pan out to be Joe Burrow. Or even anywhere remotely close.

    As is the case with most NFL teams, the Cincinnati Bengals have more busts than booms in their draft history. When a fourth-round pick flames out, not many notice. But when it’s a first-rounder, he enters the conversation to be on the list of worst in franchise history.

    Sometimes, the discussion drifts away from the Cincinnati player’s performance and focuses on who the Bengals passed over instead.

    Those tend to hold more weight in determining the quality of a draft pick — or lack of it — than the unpredictable nature of injuries that derail a high pick’s career.

    Ranking the Worst Draft Picks in Cincinnati Bengals History

    10) Ricky Hunley, LB, Round 1 (No. 7 Overall) | 1984

    The only player on the list who never played a game for the Bengals, the Ricky Hunley discussion is a complicated one.

    His inclusion isn’t about his production in the NFL, although starting just 30 career games as a No. 7 pick isn’t a glowing endorsement. What made this such a bad pick for the Bengals was the team’s inability to sign Hunley, who used the USFL as leverage.

    One of the few people to ever make Mike Brown blink, Hunley remains the longest holdout in team history. He stared down Brown, then the team’s lead negotiator, until October 1986, when the Bengals traded him to Denver for three draft picks.

    The only thing keeping the Hunley pick from being higher on the list is the fact that two of the three picks Cincinnati got from Denver ended up being wide receiver Tim McGee and safety David Fulcher.

    9) Sean Brewer, TE, Round 3 (No. 66 Overall) | 2001

    It’s tough to put any third-round pick on this list, given how few actually go on to do great things in the league. But when the pick is a chain-smoking tight end who never caught a pass and only played in three games, how can he NOT be on the list?

    It wasn’t until after the Bengals drafted Sean Brewer that they discovered his pack-a-day cigarette habit.

    Eight picks later, the Carolina Panthers drafted wide receiver Steve Smith Sr.

    8) Tom Smiley, RB, Round 2 (No. 55 Overall) | 1968

    Cincinnati’s front office could afford to take some chances in its inaugural draft, given that the Bengals possessed 41 picks, but the Tom Smiley pick was a clunker on multiple levels.

    A fullback out of Lamar, Smiley averaged 2.3 yards per attempt as a rookie while fumbling three times on just 63 carries. The Bengals quickly recognized their mistake and traded him for wide receiver Eric Crabtree in the offseason.

    Making the Smiley pick worse was the fact that Cincinnati drafted four running backs after him who had solid careers — Paul Robinson (No. 82), Jess Phillips (No. 84), Warren McVea No. 109), and Essex Johnson (No. 156).

    And by taking Smiley at 55, Cincinnati passed over three future Hall of Famers in tight end Charlie Sanders (74), defensive end Elvin Bethea (77), and offensive tackle Art Shell (80).

    7) David Klingler, QB, Round 1 (No. 6 Overall) | 1992

    Was the pick bad, or was David Klinger doomed to failure before his career began?

    Thrown to the wolves behind a terrible offensive line, Klinger was sacked 18 times in four starts as a rookie and 40 times in 13 starts in his second season, and he never recovered.

    Playing for some of the worst teams in Bengals history, Klingler went 4-20 as a starter while throwing just 16 touchdowns and 21 interceptions during his four seasons in Cincinnati.

    A sixth-round pick in 1992, Jeff Blake finished with nearly 10 times as many victories as Klinger despite an awful 39-61 record as a starter.

    6) John Ross, WR, Round 1 (No. 9 Overall) | 2017

    Enamored by John Ross’ record-breaking 40-time of 4.22 at the NFL Combine, the Bengals used the No. 9 pick on the slightly built receiver against head coach Marvin Lewis’ wishes.

    Ross battled injuries and confidence issues throughout his career. He lost a fumble on his first career touch and rarely showed any glimpses of the promise that should come with a top-10 pick.

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    Ross appeared in just 27 games during his four seasons in Cincinnati and was the least reliable receiver in the league. During the span of his Bengals career from 2017-2020, Ross had the worst reception percentage in the NFL at 41.5, with Jerry Jeudy coming in a distant second nearly five percentage points higher.

    Part of that was due to Ross’ league-leading drop percentage of 23.9, but there were also wrong routes and an infamous deep ball that he quit on, which resulted in a rare display of anger from quarterback Andy Dalton.

    5) Mike Cobb, TE, Round 1 (No. 22 Overall) | 1977

    First-round tight ends were rarer in 1977 than they are today, but the Bengals used the No. 22 pick on Mike Cobb, who was cousins with 1976 second-round pick Sherman Smith.

    Cobb played in 13 games for the Bengals as a rookie and never caught a pass. It didn’t take long for the front office to realize its mistake, as Cincinnati traded Cobb to Chicago for an undisclosed draft pick in August 1978.

    In four seasons with the Bears, Cobb caught a total of 11 passes for 134 yards and no touchdowns.

    4) David Verser, WR, Round 1 (No. 10 Overall) | 1981

    The highest-drafted receiver in Bengals history until the team took Peter Warrick at No. 4 in 2000, David Verser never started a game.

    In four seasons with Cincinnati, Verser caught just 23 passes for 454 yards and three touchdowns. His biggest impact came as a kick returner, but his 23.8-yard average as a rookie plummeted each subsequent season.

    Magnifying Verser’s failings as a receiver was the fact that second-round pick Cris Collinsworth made the all-rookie team and was voted second-team All-Pro in each of his first three seasons — on the way to becoming one of the best receivers in team history.

    3) Jack Thompson, QB, Round 1 (No. 3 Overall) | 1979

    This one is more damning of the position the Bengals drafted than the person.

    Ken Anderson was eight years into a borderline Hall of Fame career when the Bengals used the No. 3 overall pick on a quarterback. Anderson would go on to lead Cincinnati to the Super Bowl and win NFL MVP two years later. He remained the starter through 1984, while Thompson spent four years on Cincinnati’s bench before moving on to Tampa Bay, where he was 3-13 as a starter.

    Even if you want to defend the idea of drafting a quarterback to back up a 30-year-old starter, the Bengals still whiffed on Thompson by passing on Phil Simms and Joe Montana, (although every team passed on Montana until the fourth round).

    The player selected after Thompson at No. 4 was Hall of Famer Dan Hampton, while Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow went 13th.

    2) Ki-Jana Carter, RB, Round 1 (No. 1 Overall) | 1995

    Some may argue that Ki-Jana Carter is too high on this list, given that 28 of the other 29 teams would have taken him at No. 1 overall. The only definite exception was the Panthers, who accepted the Bengals’ offer of a second-round pick (No. 36) to move up from No. 5 to No. 1 to take Carter, a presumptive can’t-miss superstar — until he tore his ACL on the third carry of his first preseason game.

    The Bengals gave Carter a seven-year, $19.2 million contract with a rookie-record $7.1 million signing bonus, and though he recovered from the ACL injury and played seven NFL seasons, he was never the same.

    During his four seasons in Cincinnati, Carter averaged 3.3 yards per attempt and never rushed for more than 464 yards.

    There were four Hall of Famers drafted in the first round in 1995, including offensive tackle Tony Boselli, who went one pick after Carter to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Bengals also could have had Warren Sapp (No. 12), Derrick Brooks (No. 8), and Ty Law (No. 23).

    1) Akili Smith, QB, Round 1 (No. 3 Overall) | 1999

    There’s no debate here, and there wouldn’t be even if Akili Smith were involved in the discussion.

    Everything from Smith’s draft slot — No. 3 overall and one of five quarterbacks selected in the top 12 — to his career stats (17 starts, 3-14 record, five touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 46.6 completion percentage, 4.8 yards per attempt) to what the Bengals could have had factor into this ranking.

    The Bengals famously turned down what would have been a franchise-altering trade offer from the New Orleans Saints that would have brought them every one of the team’s draft picks in 1999, two future first-round selections, and a future second-rounder. All Cincinnati would have had to do to land that haul was move back nine spots to pick 12.

    KEEP READING: Best Cincinnati Bengals Draft Picks of All Time

    Not only did the Bengals pass on New Orleans’ thirst for Ricky Williams, but they took Smith, who only started one season in college, instead of Daunte Culpepper.

    And while picks 4-7 weren’t quarterbacks, Edgerrin James (Hall of Fame), Williams, Torry Holt (seven Pro Bowls), and Champ Bailey (HOF) would have been infinitely better choices.

    After going 2-9 as a starter in his second season in 2000, Smith would start only two more games and was out of the league by 2003.

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