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Monday, February 10, 2014
Morning Stripes: The Bengals' blueprint

By Coley Harvey

We spent part of last week writing about whether the Seattle Seahawks' title-winning blueprint was foreshadowing of what success in the NFL's immediate future would look like.

If having a tough, smashmouth defense and a collection of offensive playmakers will indeed be the way that championships are won from here on, then the Cincinnati Bengals seem to be marching well down that path. If they can only win a playoff game, then maybe they can take steps toward proving in the coming seasons that Seattle's method can be replicated.

While the Bengals haven't yet laid down their own blueprint to winning the Vince Lombardi Trophy, they do appear to have one when it comes to the NFL draft. Arguably since 2009, they have been drafting with the best of the teams in the league and have figured out a way in recent seasons to turn all sorts of draft talent -- whether early-, mid- or late-round or undrafted -- into impact professional players.

Four of the players from the Bengals' 2009 draft class were on the roster for last month's playoff game, including third-round defensive end selection Michael Johnson. After getting franchise-tagged for the 2013 season and performing well during it, Johnson is looking at a hefty payday as he truly tests free agency for the first time in his career.

Since being claimed in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, defensive tackle Geno Atkins has gone on to star on the Bengals' defensive front, earn two Pro Bowl nods and prove to be difficult to replace. Fifth-round 2012 receiver Marvin Jones has emerged as one of the top passing targets for 2011 second-round pick, quarterback Andy Dalton. The first-round selection from the 2011 draft, A.J. Green, has been Cincinnati's most dominant pass-catching threat since his arrival. Then there are the first- and second-round selections from the 2013 draft, tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard. Both contributed as rookies this past season.

From 2009 through the present, the Bengals have had their greatest run of regular-season success in team history. They have been to the playoffs in four of those five seasons, including a string of three straight since 2011. Each of the aforementioned players had some hand in allowing that streak to happen.

So, yes, when it comes to the draft, there is a Bengals blueprint. And opposing teams are taking notice.

That's where we turn for the start of this particular Monday edition of the Morning Stripes: