Bengals Haven’t Traded Up in First Round Since Historical Bust at No. 1 Overall

Ki-Jana Carter

Getty Cincinnati Bengals running back Ki-Jana Carter.

If you’re waiting for the Cincinnati Bengals to move up in the first round of the NFL Draft via a trade, don’t hold your breath.

With the Bengals holding the No. 18 overall pick in the 2024 NFL draft, The Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. pointed out that Cincinnati hasn’t moved up in the first round by trade since selecting Penn State running back Ki-Jana Carter with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1995 NFL draft.

That year, the Bengals traded their No. 5 overall pick and the fourth pick in the second round to the Carolina Panthers to obtain Carter at the No. 1 spot.

Carter tore his ACL in his first preseason game and injuries forced him to miss all but four games in 1995, 1998 and 1999.

“Every year since, the Bengals have either stayed put, or three times slid back in the opening round, casually making their pick and going about their business,” Dehner Jr. wrote.

Bengals Have History of Whiffing on No. 1 Overall Pick

The Bengals signed Carter to a seven-year, $19.2 million contract with a $7.125 million signing bonus, which at the time was the largest rookie contract in NFL history. In five seasons with Cincinnati, Carter had just 747 rushing yards.

In 1995, four Pro Football Hall of Famers were taken in the first round — Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Tony Boselli (No. 2), Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp (No. 12), New England Patriots cornerback Ty Law (No. 23) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks (No. 28).

It was the second year in a row the Bengals whiffed on the No. 1 overall pick after taking Ohio State defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson in 1994. Wilkinson forced a trade to the Washington Redskins four years later without making a Pro Bowl and a ton of off-field issues.

Five Hall of Famers were taken in the first two rounds of the 1994 NFL draft, including running back Marshal Faulk at No. 2 overall to the Indianapolis Colts.

What Will Bengals Do With No. 18 Overall Pick in 2024?

The Bengals are coming off a disastrous 2023 that saw 2020 No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow miss the final seven games with season-ending wrist surgery and the Bengals miss the playoffs after winning the AFC championship in 2021 and making it to the AFC Championship Game in 2022.

The Bengals have a huge bargaining chip if they were to want to move up in the draft with wide receiver Tee Higgins requesting a trade after being hit with the franchise tag for 2024.

“As the draft tradewinds begin to blow with Stefon Diggs shipped to the Texans on Wednesday and Tee Higgins’ trade request still hanging in the air like an ominous rain cloud above Paycor Stadium, could this be the year the Bengals perform their latest buck of a franchise tradition?” Dehner Jr. wrote. “Probably not if leaning into history, need, draft strength and current messaging. But the Bengals possess more enticing options than most to consider.”

The latest mock draft from The Athletic has the Bengals picking Oregon State offensive tackle Taliese Fuaga in the first round. ESPN’s Matt Miller has the Bengals taking Alabama cornerback Terrion Arnold in his latest seven-round mock draft. 

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