Bengals Draft History: How Well do They Draft Quarterbacks?
Photo Credit: LSU Athletics
By all accounts, the Cincinnati Bengals will be drafting Joe Burrow with the first pick of the 2020 NFL Draft this week. Mike Brown has been the Bengals general manager since 1991, and has helped the front office select a host of quarterbacks since then.
Here is a full list of quarterbacks the Bengals have selected in the draft since the 1992 NFL Draft: David Klinger, John Walsh, Scott Covington, Akili Smith, Carson Palmer, Casey Bramlet, Reggie McNeal, Jeff Rowe, Andy Dalton, A.J. McCarron, Logan Woodside, and Ryan Finley.
In this article, I will dive a little deeper to consider the relative value of these quarterbacks using Pro Football Reference’s approximate value statistic. There is a good explanation of the statistic here, but in short, it is a pretty good way to succinctly measure the value of a player’s career and helps in understanding relative comparisons made in the NFL Draft.
Below are the career approximate value ratings for each of the aforementioned quarterbacks.
|Player||Round Drafted||Career AV||Career AV / Seasons|
Day Three Failures
The Bengals clearly haven’t had success selecting quarterbacks on day three of the NFL Draft. Ultimately, this isn’t much of a concern though, because this is common for all NFL teams. It is very unlikely for a late-round quarterback to have material success in the league.
The most we can honestly interpret from this data is that the Bengals are not uniquely adept at selecting quarterbacks in the late rounds of the draft.
The Early Busts
Since 1992, the Bengals have selected four quarterbacks in the first 35 picks of the NFL Draft. This year, Joe Burrow will be the fifth.
Two of those quarterbacks are two of the biggest busts in NFL history: Akili Smith and David Klinger. Both were selected early in the first round of the draft and neither were successful in the NFL.
Klinger was drafted with the sixth-overall pick in 1992. He started 24 games for the Bengals from 1992-1994, but played poorly. He had a dismal completion percentage, completing less than 60% of his passes each year. In 1993 and 1994, he threw only 12 touchdowns in 20 starts.
Upon comparison, though, the Bengals couldn’t have done a whole lot better drafting a QB in 1992. The 1992 quarterback class was not good. The best of the group was Jeff Blake, who wasn’t drafted until the sixth round and the only other quarterback drafted in round one was Tommy Maddox, who also failed to perform well at the NFL level.
Akili Smith career statistics were worse than Klinger’s. He only started a total of 17 games during his brief four-year NFL career. His career completion percentage was below fifty percent, and he threw for only five touchdowns with thirteen interceptions.
The 1999 draft and the Bengals’ failure to draft a good quarterback is more problematic than the 1992 draft was. First, its worth mentioning that the first three picks of the draft were quarterbacks. Tim Couch – another prominent draft bust – was drafted first by Cleveland. Next was long-time Eagles starting quarterback Donovan McNabb – a real success story. Then came Akili Smith. The next quarterback selected is the problematic part of the story: Daunte Culpepper at pick eleven.
Here is the full breakdown of career approximate value for the five quarterbacks drafted in the first round in 1999.
|Player||Career AV||Career AV / Seasons|
The Last Number One Overall
Carson Palmer is the closest comparison to Joe Burrow we have in terms of evaluating the Bengals success. This is because Palmer was the last quarterback the Bengals took first overall. While not all of Palmer’s success came with the Bengals, his career overall was a good one.
The 2003 NFL Draft featured four first-round quarterbacks, including Carson Palmer, Byron Leftwich, Kyle Boller, and Rex Grossman. Palmer rates out as the best among that group for approximate value. He also had the highest approximate value of any quarterback selected in the first-round since Peyton Manning was picked first overall in 1998 (and held that title until the next year when Eli was selected).
Finally, we come to Andy Dalton. While some would likely suggest the fact the Bengals will be moving on from Dalton means Dalton’s career in Cincinnati was ultimately a failure. The numbers don’t exactly indicate this. Dalton has had an above-average career statistically as the Bengals quarterback and led the team to a winning record in his first five seasons.
The Bengals have struggled since, and have the opportunity to get one of the best quarterback prospects in recent memory. This isn’t exactly an indictment of Andy Dalton; its an indicator of how significant this opportunity is for the franchise.
Dalton’s career approximate value currently stands at 98, which is about 10.89 per season. Only one quarterback from the 2011 NFL Draft rates higher and that is Cam Newton, who was the first overall pick.
Three other quarterbacks (apart from Cam Newton) were drafted in the first round ahead of Dalton (Dalton was picked in round two), yet Dalton has had a much more successful career than them all. Additionally, the numbers indicate the Andy Dalton has been the second most successful quarterback drafted in rounds two or three of the NFL Draft (behind Russell Wilson) since 2010.
Dalton was a tremendous value in the second round of the draft.
The first part of the last twenty years was a challenge for the Bengals in terms of success drafting quarterbacks. Since then, they have fared pretty well. Their last two picks – Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton – were success stories.
Joe Burrow comes into the 2020 NFL Draft as one of the most highly-regarded quarterback prospects in recent memory. I believe the Bengals will continue this upward trend following this year’s draft.
(Career Approximate Value Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com)