CINCINNATI -- We've talked often in this space about the Cincinnati Bengals' recent draft efforts and the inroads they have made toward building their roster.
So, with less than a month until the 2014 draft, we've been taking a look back at how those draft classes came together. Thirty-two players on the team were drafted by the Bengals in the past 10 drafts. Robert Geathers is the oldest homegrown product; he was selected in the fourth round in 2004.
We started this look at the Bengals' recent drafts last week with the 2006 class. Then followed it with reviews of the 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 drafts. We close it out Thursday with the 2013 group headlined by Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard.
We're using Pro Football Reference's Approximate Value statistic to help evaluate how valuable a 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 out. The higher the number, the better.
First-round pick: No. 21 overall (Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame ... on roster)
Number of picks: 10
Highest player AV: Giovani Bernard, AV of 9 (Bernard's career AV ties for fifth in the draft class; Bears OL Kyle Long has highest AV with a 12).
How they fared: Only six of the Bengals' 10 draft picks from last April appeared in games as rookies last season. One of them, Reid Fragel, was waived and picked up by the Browns. The rest remain in Cincinnati and look to become bigger contributors as they enter their second seasons. As the first- and second-round picks, Eifert and Bernard rightfully received more attention than any other players in the class. For the most part, they lived up to the hype. Bernard might have played better than advertised, and Eifert wasn't too far off what was expected of him. Margus Hunt (second round) and Shawn Williams (third round) also saw limited action. Hunt was a reserve, and Williams was mostly used on special teams. Others like Tanner Hawkinson (fifth round), Rex Burkhead (sixth round), Cobi Hamilton (sixth round) and T.J. Johnson (seventh round) will be hoping to log more time on the active roster this season.
Pivotal pick: It might be difficult to see right now, but Williams could end up being the most pivotal pick in this draft. He spent his rookie season impressing in workouts as a reserve safety, and turning heads on special teams. With the likes of Reggie Nelson, George Iloka and Danieal Manning playing safety ahead of him, Williams' opportunities will be limited this season and maybe next season, too. But as long as he continues progressing, and performing on special teams, he could end up being the best pick in this class not named Eifert, Bernard or Hunt.
Best pick: It's too early to determine a true best pick of the class, but because of where they were drafted, Eifert, Bernard and Hunt are the top candidates. Now that Hunt has the opportunity to play defensive end without losing snaps to Michael Johnson, he could emerge as a key weapon. Eifert could eventually replace Jermaine Gresham as the top tight end if Gresham isn't retained after his contract expires next offseason. And Bernard has a chance to develop into one of the best young backs in the league. At the moment, Bernard would be the choice for best pick. He's had the chance to do a little more as a playmaking pass-catcher and runner. A fan favorite for his knack of making defenders miss, Bernard has already had his play match his acclaim.
Worst pick: Just like selecting a best pick, it's tough to name a worst one, but Fragel has had the worst start of the Bengals' picks as the lone 2013 draftee to get released.