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A Brief History Of Bengals No. 1 Draft Picks

Cincinnati has cornered the market.

Pre-draft chatter is beginning to pick up regarding which position the Bengals should address with their first pick of the NFL Draft, the 24th overall.

With two of their top three wide receivers due to become unrestricted free agents, should the Bengals take a receiver first?

Holding together a secondary that could be decimated by the defection of as many as four top-of-the-line defensive backs, isn't it time the Bengals go cornerback again at the top of the draft?

What about defensive end, or defensive tackle, where there appears to be a need or two, or three.

Linebacker, anyone?

Did we miss an area?

The Bengals have said that they select each pick regardless of need, and publicly tweak that from time to time. But they do have their drafting tendencies insofar as which positions usually get selected where.

For example, the Bengals haven't drafted a defensive tackle since 1994. That doesn't mean that they won't in April. But, there sure seems to be a trend there. That's because the Bengals since they took "Big Daddy" Dan Wilkinson with the first pick of the 1994 draft, have demonstrated they can get quality defensive tackles in the middle rounds (see Glen Steele, Geno Atkins, Domata Peko, all fourth-round picks).

In the first round of the 13 drafts in the Marvin Lewis Era (2003-present), the Bengals have selected four cornerbacks, two tight ends and two offensive tackles. They have taken one each from among QB, RB, DE, LB, and WR.

Cincinnati drafted two tight ends and a pair of offensive tackles in last year's draft, all four players slotted behind existing starters at their respective positions, so it seems unlikely the Bengals go for another TE and OT this year.

Historically, that leaves cornerback, where the Bengals have groomed two young players, former No. 1 picks Dre Kirkpatrick (2012) and Darqueze Dennard (2014), who nevertheless have yet to fulfill their draft status.

Kirkpatrick was the 17th overall pick, taken before Patriots Pro Bowl defensive end Chandler Jones at No. 21 and Vikings Pro Bowl safety Harrison Smith at No. 29. Dennard two years later went 24th overall, one spot ahead of Chargers Pro Bowl cornerback Jason Verrett. It's easy to second guess in hindsight. The Bengals also have sniffed out their share of draft bargains, to say nothing of the undrafted gems they've unearthed over the years.

So, if you're forced to guess which position the Bengals seem most likely to address first in this year's draft, history says cornerback. In the second round, it's not so clear cut, though running back is a favorite spot to address. The Bengals have taken three running backs, two cornerbacks, two offensive tackles, two guards and two linebackers in the second round of the draft in the 13 years under Lewis, with one each at QB, DE and WR.

When you combine Rounds 1 and 2, and total the number of players selected at each position over the past 13 Bengals drafts under Lewis, cornerback comes out ahead with six such picks, followed by four offensive tackles, four running backs and three linebackers.

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