Given the Bengals needs and the players available when they picked, I think most would say they came away with good players. But this year, there was a little wrinkle, the Bengals turned down a trade offer from Atlanta.
I don't know exactly the deal the Bengals would have gotten, however, it sounds like for trading from the 4th pick to the 27th pick in the first round the Bengals would have gotten something like:
- A 1st round pick next year
- A 2nd round pick this year
- A 4th round pick this year
- A 4th round pick next year
Not a bad haul but not necessarily a "Godfather" offer that you can't refuse. The argument most make for refusing the trade is simply that picking 4th overall gives you a shot at high caliber players you just can't find at 27th overall, and the Bengals need to take that shot. I am fine with someone making that argument, it sounds plausible enough, but I haven't seen any real data backing it up.
In fact, a little over a year ago, we started compiling our own data at WDR (with the help of a reader) on the Bengals draft history. Here's the updated spreadsheet for those interested: Download Bengals Draft Pick Database
We've drafted in the first round 23 times since 1991 (including 2011), 13 picks in the top 10 and 10 picks below the top 10. Based on my subjective ranking of these players from 1-5 (1 being the highest ranking), the Bengals actually drafted better the in the lower half of round 1 (average of 2.5) versus drafting in the top 10 (average of 2.92). If you change it to the top 5 instead, the results are almost the same (the Bengals still draft better when they are lower in the first round).
Perhaps it is more valuable to be in the top 5 as people say, but I don't see that with the Bengals.
What about the non-first round picks? Based on my analysis, the Bengals pretty much draft equally as well in the first and second rounds. So that extra 2nd rounder would have been just as valuable as a first rounder to them. After the first and second rounds, the Bengals skill in drafting seems to drop a notch - well, more likely the talent level really does fall off after two rounds. Whether they are drafting in the third or fourth rounds doesn't seem to make much difference. And they have traditionally found some decent guys in those rounds, so the two fourth round picks aren't without value.
To sum it all up, while I don't have a strong opinion on the trade, I think the Bengals should have taken it because it gave them 2 extra picks in rounds where they draft pretty much as well as they do when they pick in the top 5 or top 10.
One explanation, of course, for the relatively meaningless difference you see when the Bengals draft in the top 10 under Mike Brown, is that most of those top 10 picks came from the "pre-Marvin" era. Quite simply, prior to 2003, the Bengals drafts were an abomination. Perhaps with the small marginal difference in professionalism Marvin brings to the Bengals (and dare I say it, perhaps Mike Brown & Co actually learning a thing or two), drafting in the top 10 is more valuable now (evidence so far inconclusive: Andre Smith, Keith Rivers, and Carson Palmer...two misses and one big hit).
The limits of our small scouting department become doubly frightening when you see them also revisit another scary trend from past years: picking from small time football schools. If they can't cover all the big time programs, then they have no business trying to find overlooked talent in lesser programs. This year, they used high picks on TCU and Nevada as well as picked players from Southern Illinois, Baylor and Stanford. Now, that is nowhere near as bad as their draft in 1992 (see my previous breakdown for more info) and a school like TCU clearly has jumped into the big time now (and Nevada was really nasty last year too) but when the Bengals venture outside the giant football factories things get dicey.
We won't be able to evaluate how well the Bengals did to fill needs until we find out what happens with Chad and Carson. Until we do, I probably won't have much of an opinion on the draft. I will say, looking back at 2010, the Bengals did really well. Hopefully they hit gold again. But if we are starting over at QB, don't get your hopes up for any winning soon.