By now you have read (or at least read about) the outstanding grades that the Bengals are receiving for their work in this year’s draft. They were able to find value picks that matched nicely with needs again and again. It was a wonderful thing to watch unfold.
You may have noticed, however, that a number of Bengals fans have repeatedly cited a blemish — or a perceived blemish — in the draft strategy. Did the war room make a mistake? Or have the fans made a mistake? I think we fans need to learn to think differently when it comes to the draft.
How many times have you heard/read these words from a fan since the end of Round 1? “I would rather have had DeCastro.” I have heard it a number of times now. I get it, but it is a perfect illustration of a flaw in our thinking.
Over the Mike Brown era, we have become conditioned to drafting high. We have gotten used to being able to select from the elite of the draft class in Round 1. We want the guy that all of the draftniks agree is the #1 take at his position. We are even rather used to getting him.
I, for one, am tired of that. I’m ready to start missing out on the best guy at his position. “How can you not want the guy that everyone says is the best, Bill?” Easy.
First, I don’t want the Bengals drafting in the top 6-8 where the “can’t miss” guys are. (Some “can’t miss” guys still miss.) I want them drafting in the twenties… and eventually in the thirties. And that means learning to see deeper than the top guy.
Second, the gulf in skill between the #1 guy and the #2 and #3 guys often isn’t as wide as we make it out to be. We will have to learn see the benefits of the guy who grades out at a 9.3, and not just complain that they missed out on the guy who graded at a 9.6. Both are still really good. The lower guy might not be as pure as the top guy, but he may bring other skills or intangibles that make him just as desirable for the team.
And last, the guy who fits the system best should be ranked highest. Mel Kiper’s Big Board isn’t gospel. If the Bengals were targeting Zeitler even though Mel Kiper ranked him third, does that mean the war room doesn’t know what they are doing? Or maybe that the Bengals know who fits their system best?
If the Bengals keep drafting like this, we will have to learn to make this mental adjustment. There will be a need at some position every year. But the Bengals don’t have to snag the top guy at that position to adequately address the need. (Especially if settling for the second guy nets an extra quality pick like trading with NE did this year.) There can be satisfaction with the next best guy.