CINCINNATI -- We've talked often in this space about the Cincinnati Bengals' recent draft efforts and the inroads they have made toward building their current roster through them.
So, with less than six weeks until the 2014 draft, we're taking a look back at how those draft classes came together. In all, 32 players currently on the team were drafted by the Bengals in the last 10 drafts. Robert Geathers is the oldest homegrown product, selected in the fourth round in 2004.
Like my colleague ESPN NFL Nation Vikings reporter Ben Goessling has done with a similar series he's been running parts of the last two weeks, we're using Pro Football Reference's Approximate Value statistic to help evaluate how valuable of a draft pick each player has been. The AV statistic is a unique metric that assigns value to each season of a player's career, and averages it all out. The higher the number, the better.
Let's keep it going with a review of Cincinnati's 2007 draft:
First-round pick: No. 18 overall (Leon Hall, DB, Michigan ... currently on roster)
Number of picks: 7
Highest player AV: Hall, AV of 44 (Hall's AV ranks 17th in the draft class; 49ers LB Patrick Willis has highest AV with an 89)
How they fared: Hall is the only member of the Bengals' 2007 draft class who is still playing in the league. He also is the only player in the group who has an AV higher than 15. Three of the other six didn't make it to Year 2. Second-round running back Kenny Irons was among them. An ACL injury suffered in a preseason game and subsequent complications from it, ended his NFL career early. Quarterback Jeff Rowe (fifth round) guard Dan Santucci (seventh round) combined to play in three games. The remaining three draft picks played into 2010 (fourth-round DB Marvin White), 2011 (seventh-round DB Chinedum Ndukwe) and 2012 (sixth-round DT Matt Toeaina). Ndukwe, who recently invested into a real estate venture in downtown Cincinnati, may have had the best career of all the Bengals draft picks selected after Hall. He played in 55 games, spending all but one of his six seasons with the Bengals.
Pivotal pick: Because he had such impact despite being Cincinnati's last selection of the draft, Ndukwe may have been the most pivotal pick of this mostly poor class. He went on to intercept seven passes and record 7.5 sacks in his career. His most productive year from an interception standpoint was his rookie season when he intercepted three passes. In 2009, as a third-year player, the former 253rd overall pick had arguably his best year overall. He had 85 tackles, including two sacks. In Cincinnati's lone playoff game that year, he had an additional 10 stops.
Best pick: Without question, Hall was Cincinnati's best selection for the year, and may even rank high among their best picks of the last eight years. Injuries have sidelined much of the veteran's career of late, possibly negating a couple of Pro Bowl opportunities that he may have had coming his way. A late-season Achilles injury cut short his 2011 campaign. An injury to his other Achilles in Week 7 last season ended what started as a strong seventh season. A cornerback who can both play on the outside and in the slot at nickel corner, the 30-year-old is expected to play factor heavily in Cincinnati's defensive plans again this year. He's confident in his comeback and believes he will be ready long before preseason camp. In his career, Hall has 23 interceptions and has forced five fumbles.
Worst pick: Again, you hate to label a player a bust after his career was derailed by an injury, but Irons' selection is one that had to haunt the Bengals. He was a lauded running back out of Auburn with expectations so high that he was picked 49th overall. Cincinnati wanted him in its long-term future, but that didn't end up being the case.