Bungled

O, BY THE WAY

No question: Team's '05 draft was a disaster

On the Cincinnati Bengals

May 20, 2008|By BILL ORDINE

With the release of inside linebacker Odell Thurman yesterday, the Cincinnati Bengals' 2005 draft can officially go into the books as one of the worst in franchise history - not that it wasn't already pretty clear.

The conventional wisdom is that you can't tell the true quality of an NFL draft until three or four years down the road. But that Bengals' 2005 draft began revealing a lot about itself soon - partly because of bad luck and partly because of bud judgment by the Cincinnati organization.

None of its first three picks from that draft will likely be playing on the team this season. First-round selection David Pollack (No. 17 overall) is still on the roster posted on the team's Web site. But last month, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said that Pollack - whose career was essentially ended by a fractured neck at the beginning of the 2006 season - is expected to retire. The second- and third-round picks in 2005 were Thurman (No. 48 overall) and wide receiver Chris Henry (No. 83).

Thurman played well as a rookie but then missed two seasons because of league-imposed substance-related suspensions. Then, after being reinstated just a month ago, he missed team workouts because of family issues. After Thurman's grandmother died and more time slipped by with Thurman failing to report for duty, Lewis cut him loose.

Henry was released last month after being charged with assault for allegedly punching a man. The wide receiver's rap sheet had grown to five arrests since being drafted and he had already spent time in NFL commissioner's Roger Goodell's penalty box.

The bottom line on Cincinnati's 2005 draft, the one that should be paying dividends right now, is that the Bengals picked up a center Eric Ghiaciuc (fourth round) and a backup defensive end Jonathan Fanene (seventh), who recovered Steve McNair's fumble in a game last season.

In their next two drafts, the Bengals did a little better, mainly bolstering their defensive secondary, but the 2005 draft has left a gaping hole in the roster - not to mention the more subtle damage the turmoil has caused the franchise.

When you think back to the 2005 season after that draft, the Bengals finished 11-5 (at one point, they were 11-3) and won the AFC North. Of course, star quarterback Carson Palmer was hurt in the opening playoff game, but Cincinnati certainly looked poised to be a threat for years to come. Since then, they have finished 8-8 and 7-9, and star wide receiver Chad Johnson wants out of town the way Steve McQueen wanted out of that German prisoner-of-war camp in The Great Escape.

Peering into the future, Las Vegas oddsmakers aren't too keen on the Bengals, either. The over-under on Cincinnati's win total for 2008 is set at seven, with a somewhat positive lean on the odds (a bettor needs to lay $140 to win $100 on the over).

It's all very disappointing for a team that has a Pro Bowl quarterback supposedly in the prime of his career and a coaching staff going into the sixth year of its program. And a fair amount of it goes back to that one disastrous draft in April 2005.

bill.ordine@baltsun.com

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