With the Bengals having needs at many positions, conventional wisdom is to select the best player available when they pick 4th in the April 28th – 30th NFL draft. Reaching for a quarterback, even with the Carson Palmer fiasco looming over our heads, could backfire if the player isn’t able to live up to their draft position. Rewind to the 1999 NFL draft, when the Bengals were preparing to move into Paul Brown Stadium and Mike Brown desperately wanted to get a new quarterback to excite the fan base.
The Saints had offered the Bengals all of their draft picks in 1999 plus the 1st and 3rd round picks in 2000 for the 3rd overall pick so Mike Ditka could take Texas running back Ricky Williams. Brown declined the trade and instead drafted quarterback Akili Smith with the 3rd pick. The Washington Redskins, picking 5th, made the trade and used some of the extra picks to trade back up from 12 to 7 to select perennial Pro Bowler cornerback Champ Bailey. The following year, the Redskins used the Saints pick, #2 overall, to select linebacker LaVar Arrington. While Bailey and Arrington went to multiple Pro Bowls, Akili Smith was a monumental bust.
The Bengals will definitely have some great prospects on the board when their pick comes up in the NFL draft. Teams desperate for a certain player may even propose a trade. While the Bengals do have a glaring need at quarterback, they should consider the 1999 draft as a reason to pause and reflect on their choice. Sure, quarterbacks sell tickets and become the face of the franchise, but they also can be a total bust (Smith, Klingler) or a malcontent desperate to leave town (Palmer). Maybe Patrick Peterson from LSU is the next Champ Bailey. He said at the Combine that he even would consider a move to safety, which besides cornerback is another great need this offseason. Maybe Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller, who turned in a great workout Monday at the NFL Scouting Combine, will become a perennial Pro Bowler. There are many directions that we can go with the pick besides a replacement for Carson Palmer. Hopefully, Mike Brown will do what’s best for the team this time.