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Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Poll: Bengals' best recent draft class is?

By Coley Harvey

It was a question for which I had multiple answers.

What is the best draft for the Cincinnati Bengals in the past 10 years, and why?

At first, I had one answer. Then I had another. And then another. And another. I ended up ultimately making one single selection, and I'll share it in this space Wednesday afternoon, keeping with our new weekly tradition of crafting a response to a Tuesday poll question that I pose to you, our loyal ESPN.com readers.

After looking at the Bengals' running game and the amount of carries the new Hue Jackson-led offense should give running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard, this week we're asking you to share your thoughts on the franchise's recent draft classes. Which one do you consider the best? Was it the 2009 class, headlined by Andre Smith and Rey Maualuga, that arrived months before Marvin Lewis' second playoff appearance as a head coach? Or was it the 2011 class that brought A.J. Green and Andy Dalton to Cincinnati?

The original question came from Twitter, where Bengals fan @ReithMichael was simply curious as to what my own thoughts were. The question was such a good conversation starter that I decided to bring it here to you. But it's tweaked a bit. What we're asking you is:

What recent draft class is the Bengals' best?

In an effort to keep this representative of players on the current Bengals team, we're only looking at draft classes between 2009-13. There are still players from the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Bengals' drafts currently playing, but far more members of the latter classes are contributing now. The 2009 season also is a good reference point because it has been since then that Cincinnati has been a consistent playoff contender. Other than their four-win 2010 season, the Bengals have been to the playoffs every other year since 2009.

What's important to note here is that you also vote with what you believe constitutes "best." That word is subjective. You might believe the "best" draft class was the one that had the best talent. You could think "best" means the one with the most underrated talent. You may consider the "best" class the one that gave the Bengals the talent to complete this transformation from a moderately relevant division team to one that could be picked to win it year in and year out. I'll share my thoughts on what constitutes "best" in this instance during Wednesday's response.

To give you a better idea of what the draft classes looked like each of those years, included below are the names (and in parenthesis, rounds) of the players the Bengals drafted each year since 2009.

Bengals drafts by year
2009: OT Andre Smith (1*), LB Rey Maualuga (2*), DE Michael Johnson (3*), TE Chase Coffman (3), C Jonathan Luigs (4), P Kevin Huber (5*), CB Morgan Trent (6), RB Bernard Scott (6), FB Fui Vakapuna (7), DT Clinton McDonald (7), WR Freddie Brown (7).

2010: TE Jermaine Gresham (1*), DE Carlos Dunlap (2*), WR Jordan Shipley (3), CB Brandon Ghee (3*), DT Geno Atkins (4*), LB Roddrick Muckelroy (4), OG Otis Hudson (5), WR Dezmon Briscoe (6), C Reggie Stephens (7).

2011: WR A.J. Green (1*), QB Andy Dalton (2*), LB Dontay Moch (3), OG Clint Boling (4*), S Robert Sands (5), WR Ryan Whalen (6*), CB Korey Lindsey (7), RB Jay Finley 7).

2012: CB Dre Kirkpatrick (1*), OG Kevin Zeitler (1*), DT Devon Still (2*), WR Mohamed Sanu (3*), DT Brandon Thompson (3*), TE Orson Charles (4*), CB Shaun Prater (5), WR Marvin Jones (5*), S George Iloka (5*), RB Dan Herron (6).

2013: TE Tyler Eifert (1*), RB Giovani Bernard (2*), DE Margus Hunt (2*), S Shawn Williams (3*), LB Sean Porter (4*), OG Tanner Hawkinson (5*), RB Rex Burkhead (6*), WR Cobi Hamilton (6*), OT Reid Fragel (7), C T.J. Johnson (7*).

*Indicates players who ended the 2013 season on the Bengals' roster.

So which recent Bengals draft class do you think is the best?