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One good reason Cincy should stay at 24

5/5/2014

CINCINNATI -- For a while now I've been hoping to sit down and give you a nice breakdown of the history of the NFL draft's No. 24 pick. That, as you well know, is the spot where the Cincinnati Bengals will be making their first-round selection Thursday night.

A modest hat tip to CBS Sports' Will Brinson for giving me some added motivation to finally dive a little deeper into this pick.

Analysis from Brinson vis-a-vis Pro Football Reference's career approximate value -- a numerical value Pro Football Reference has devised to show a player's overall value over time -- shows that since 2002, the 24th pick in the draft has gone on to have a better career than most of the other 31 picks.

According to Brinson's calculations, since 2002, the 24th pick has a higher career approximate value than every pick other than the 11th. The career approximate value for the 24th pick across that time span is 46. The value for the No. 11 pick is 49. If you're the Bengals, what's one takeaway from those numbers?

Don't trade away the 24th pick.

Right now, there's no indication the Bengals are even planning on making any draft-day trades. Besides, doing so isn't really in their DNA. It's simply not a common practice for them. They've only pulled two draft-day trades since 2004, the same year they shipped away a familiar pick -- No. 24 -- to St. Louis in exchange for the No. 26 and 123 selections.

That year, both the Rams and Bengals picked running backs at 24 and 26. St. Louis took Steven Jackson, a back who rattled off eight straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons between 2005 and 2012. He's still in the league. Cincinnati took Chris Perry, a player who hasn't been in the NFL since 2008. He started only nine games in his four-year career.

Perry's career approximate value: nine. Jackson's: 70.

There you go.

While that trade may not have worked out for the Bengals, it's worth noting that the other, the 2012 trade down from 21st to 27th, did. The Bengals wanted guard Kevin Zeitler with their 21st pick and traded down with the Patriots to 27. They got Zeitler there anyway, and he's been a starter since.

Other players who have been selected at 24th overall include Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (88 CAV, drafted in 2005), longtime Ravens safety Ed Reed (108 CAV, drafted in 2002) and current Jets running back Chris Johnson (63 CAV, drafted in 2008). Dez Bryant, Dallas Clark, Cameron Jordan, Brandon Meriweather, Eric Moulds, Craig Heyward, J.T. Thomas, Calvin Hill and the late Korey Stringer are among those who also have been selected at No. 24.

In 2006, the Bengals took cornerback Johnathan Joseph with the 24th pick. Running back Archie Griffin was selected there in 1976.

You can read Brinson's full post here. It goes into a little bit of a deeper breakdown of the overall draft and uses charts and graphs to do so. One final bit of analysis from there that I will point out here, though, is the fact that the 24th pick is home to the third-most All-Pro selections since 2002. There have been 25 All-Pro players who were picked at 24 in the last 12 drafts. The pick slot with the most All-Pros since then (with 30) was the No. 3 overall selection.

Does being the No. 24 pick alone impact how good a player's career is and can be? No. Not in the least.

But this is at least a sign that there's no need to panic. Even late in the first round, the Bengals can theoretically find a true gem. Will they find one this year? And if so, which one? Only three more days until we find out.