With the NFL combine now here, the next several days will be important in helping the Cincinnati Bengals frame their immediate future.
Personnel matters are at the forefront at this week's combine in Indianapolis. With an eye on free agency, team officials are able to finally get their draft evaluations going in earnest. For the first time, they will get to watch potential Bengals go through a series of drills that test their skills, and interviews that could reveal whether or not those players ought to be welcomed into Paul Brown Stadium's home locker room.
While all seven of the Bengals' draft picks -- they likely will end up having three more selections in compensatory picks -- will end up being important, none will get as much attention between now and May 8 as their very first one. Cincinnati selects 24th in this year's first round.
As of now, signs point to the Bengals selecting a cornerback with their first-round pick, but those plans could change if a better player of need is on the board when it's time for the selection to be made.
Much will be made in the coming months about who that drafted player should be. Recent NFL history has shown that the player taken in that spot stands a good chance at being a long-term contributor to the franchise who selected him. Aaron Rodgers and Dez Bryant may be the biggest names on the list below, but Steven Jackson and Dallas Clark would up having quality careers with the teams who drafted them before eventually leaving for other opportunities. The Bengals are hopeful the player who they take 24th in this draft will end up having a positive impact for years to come.
Here's a look at the last 11 drafts and the players who were selected 24th:
2013: Indianapolis, DE Bjoern Werner (Florida State)
2012: Pittsburgh, OG David DeCastro (Stanford)
2011: New Orleans, DE Cameron Jordan (California)
2010: Dallas, WR Dez Bryant (Oklahoma State)
2009: Atlanta, DT Peria Jerry (Mississippi)
2008: Pittsburgh, RB Rashard Mendenhall (Illinois)
2007: New England, DB Brandon Meriweather (Miami)
2006: Cincinnati, CB Johnathan Joseph (South Carolina)
2005: Green Bay, QB Aaron Rodgers (California)
2004: St. Louis, RB Steven Jackson (Oregon State)
2003: Indianapolis, TE Dallas Clark (Iowa)