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Boomer Esiason leads Bengals' best draft class

The Cincinnati Bengals have drafted their share of stars during their 48-season existence, but they haven't often come from the same draft class. Still, which class was their best? The 2006 group -- headlined by current Bengals Andrew Whitworth and Domata Peko -- arguably laid the foundation for the franchise's current run of success.

Similarly, the 1977 draft class, led by onetime Bengals single-season sacks leader Eddie Edwards, was part of the core to the Bengals' 1981 Super Bowl run. The Bengals also rattled off a string of successful classes just after 1977, including the 1980 class that featured the franchise's only Hall of Famer, Anthony Munoz. But 1977, 1980 and 2006 aside, the 15 players from the 1984 draft class -- nearly half of whom came from small schools -- comprised the Bengals' best all-time draft class. It was also what the Bengals got a couple years after the 1984 draft that made the class have even more impact.

Here's a closer look at a few of the 1984 draftees:

Ricky Hunley, LB, Arizona, first round, seventh overall: Cincinnati's first pick in 1984, Hunley never officially wore a Bengals jersey. Because Hunley didn't attend training camp, the Bengals withdrew their contract offer and traded their rights to him to Denver. In exchange, Denver gave up its first- and third-round picks in 1986 and its fifth-round pick in 1987. Bengals fans might recognize two of the players who were taken with those picks: receiver Tim McGee and safety David Fulcher. Both were key pieces on the Super Bowl XXIII team.

Boomer Esiason, QB, Maryland, second round, 38th overall: Unlike Hunley, Esiason did play for the Bengals, and he had an illustrious career doing so. The highlight of his two tours in Cincinnati was the 1988 Super Bowl season. Esiason holds the Bengals' record for most 300-yard passing games with 23.

Stanford Jennings, RB/KR, Furman, third round, 65th overall: Most remembered for his go-ahead 93-yard kick return in the final minute of Super Bowl XXIII's third quarter, Jennings spent the first seven of his nine NFL seasons with the Bengals. The only other kick-return touchdown he had in his career came earlier that season when Jennings took back a 98-yard return in a loss at Kansas City.

Barney Bussey, DB, South Carolina State, fifth round, 119th overall: Although he wasn't a primary starter until his penultimate season in 1994, a year he spent in Tampa Bay, Bussey was the Bengals' top special teams tackler in 1988. He had nine defensive stops that postseason, too.

Bruce Kozerski, C, Holy Cross, ninth round, 231st overall: It wasn't until the 1986 season before Kozerski became a regular starter. Once he became the starter, though, he held onto that role until his career ended following the 1995 season. He was Esiason's center for much of the quarterback's tenure in Cincinnati, including during the Super Bowl season.

Next-best Bengals draft class: After the 1984 class, you have to consider Edwards' 1977 group the Bengals' next-best. That draft class also came together just before a Super Bowl run, and it included players who spent many seasons in the NFL. Edwards (Miami -- Florida) spent his entire 12-year career in Cincinnati where he posted 47.5 sacks. His 13.0 sacks in 1983 were a Bengals single-season record before Carlos Dunlap picked up 13.5 last year. Fourth-round offensive tackle Mike Wilson, and seventh-round cornerback Louis Breeden also were part of the 1977 class. Keep an eye on how the careers of the Bengals' 2006 and 2014 draftees shake out. Both could work their way onto this list in the future.