June 26, 2017

Think Different

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.


  1. ItsSkylineTime says:

    I appreciate what you’re saying, Bill, but like with all things draft – only time will tell. Zeitler is a mauler, no doubt, and we needed one. But if his weaknesses in pass pro end up getting Dalton hammered, that’s going to be a problem. DeCastro was perhaps not as much a mauler as Zeitler, but better in pass pro and more athletic for pulls and second-level blocking – in my view, that has value and is why I’d rather have him. Maybe Zeitler will work out fine and Thompson will be a run stuffer extraordinaire – I certainly hope so. But if not, it’ll be real easy to look back and say wow, I wish we’d have taken DeCastro. And he’ll be watching him twice a year every year over in PIT.

  2. I don’t understand the knock on Zeitler handling pass protection. The dude hasn’t given up a sack his “whole” college career. Explain to me how you can be better than that? It’s all about results in my mind and this guy produces. Early in the draft process I wasn’t a big fan of Decastro since I heard he has issues in the run game.

  3. I’d rather have Kevin Zeitler AND Brandon Thompson than just DeCastro. The more I compare Zeitler and DeCastro the more I like Zeitler better. By watching tape Zeitler is no doubt the stronger man. And I would even say better pass protector. DeCastro is just gonna put on a good footwork show at the combine. Plus Jonathon Martin (DeCastro’s Linemate) slipped as well when people thought he was going in the first round to a team like Chicago or even the Steelers. And honestly I would have to say that the Bengals have had waaaaay more success drafting from the teens on than in the top 10. The exception has obviously been AJ Green but he broke the loooong trend of top 10 Bengal busts. I’d sat they hit on Gresham, Hall and Joseph. Not enough space to put the top 10 busts.