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. Thirty-two players on the team were drafted by the Bengals in the last 10 drafts. Robert Geathers is the oldest homegrown product; he was selected in the fourth round in 2004.
We started this eight-day look at the Bengals' recent drafts with 2006 on Tuesday. On Wednesday, we looked at the 2007 class, headlined by cornerback Leon Hall. On Thursday, we tracked the 2008 picks, led by former Bengals Keith Rivers and Anthony Collins. Friday is all about the 2009 class that included Rey Maualuga and Michael Johnson.
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.
First-round pick: No. 6 overall (Andre Smith, OT, Alabama ... currently on roster)
Number of picks: 11
Highest player AV: Rey Maualuga, AV of 33 (Maualuga's career AV ranks 15th in the draft class; Packers LB Clay Matthews has highest AV with a 50)
How they fared: The book on Cincinnati's 2009 draft class is still being written. All but four of the 11 players selected by the Bengals that April are still playing in the league. Smith became a starter at right tackle during his third season and has seldom come out since. Maualuga (second round) has played in a starter's capacity the entirety of his career. Johnson (third round) had been one of the team's most important defensive linemen before he signed a large contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that will pay him more than $8.7 million per year. Like Smith and Maualuga, punter Kevin Huber (fifth round) will be entering his sixth season with the Bengals this fall. RB Bernard Scott (sixth round) is still in the league, playing a reserve role with the Ravens, and seventh-round defensive tackle Clinton McDonald just joined the Bucs with Johnson after winning the Super Bowl with the Seahawks in February.
Pivotal pick: Smith's selection could be considered the most pivotal because in time he has become a major long-term part of the Bengals' offensive line. His addition came one year after Anthony Collins became a backup tackle and three seasons after the team drafted Andrew Whitworth. By the time Jay Gruden took over as offensive coordinator in 2011, Smith and Whitworth, in particular, had enough experience to carry the entire unit. Maualuga's selection was important, too, because it laid the foundation for a linebacker corps that's now arguably among the more respected in the league.
Best pick: Simply because of how bright his star shined in the five years he spent in Cincinnati, Johnson earns the nod for best pick of the Bengals' 2009 class. He picked up 26.5 sacks and three interceptions during those five seasons. He also played a key role in preventing a number of potentially game-changing throws from advancing past the line of scrimmage during his time with the Bengals. He deflected a league-high eight balls at the line last season. Since he was picked in the third round and has had the impact of a first-rounder, it's safe to say Johnson's value has been quite high.
Worst pick: Since neither played a down for the Bengals, running back Fui Vakapuna or receiver Freddie Brown could be considered the draft group's worst pick. Both were seventh-round picks, though, and didn't really have high expectations. Of the classes we've evaluated so far since 2006, this class had the most overall talent and few picks that could be considered busts.