While the Cincinnati Bengals would obviously enjoy drafting the best player available, during the Marvin Lewis era, the team typically addresses the positions that were often described as desperate needs in the first round. A philosophical debate always foreshadows an insurrection of a unified community. Should a team select the best available player, even though the position that that player is drafted for is solid? Maybe.
The best available player at a position considered strong for a team makes it that much stronger, directly aiming an eye towards the future of limiting exposure for desperate needs later. Then again, once a team enters the phase of desperate needs, doesn't it make the argument for best available player null? Wouldn't it be better to address gaps on the roster, picking safe players at a position of desperate need rather than filling it with undrafted free agents? Consider this. If a collection of big safety prospects were available in this year's draft that the Bengals could draft in the first round, don't you think the whole wide receiver argument becomes lesser for the debate?
The team's recent history proves that they view needs higher than the best available player. Prior to the NFL Draft in 2010, contributions in the passing game turned into an obsession, needing weapons for quarterback Carson Palmer. The Bengals drafted Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham, who broke a franchise record for most receptions by a rookie tight end (52). Oddly enough after getting what he wanted, Palmer had another sub-par season, throwing interceptions and touchdowns to the other team at such a rate, that his demand for a trade was met with scorn and relief. Disbelief briefly existed because no one believed it was in his personality to address the situation through the media.
Before the 2009 NFL Draft, the Bengals needed an offensive tackle and selected Alabama's Andre Smith, who was saturated with red flags surrounding his work ethic before the draft. Thanks to a foot injury, Smith has only started five games and missed 19 in two seasons. Some point to a lack of work ethic that caused a lengthy rehabilitation that forced him to miss time during training camp after a February foot procedure. Regardless, the team needed help on the offensive line after intense pressure often forced Ryan Fitzpatrick out of the pocket in 2008; the same year that Palmer missed 12 games due to an elbow injury and had his nose bloodied during the preseason.
Linebackers were a serious problem in 2007, especially after starters Caleb Miller, Ahmad Brooks and Lemar Marshall suffered season-ending injuries early in the season. The Bengals started guys like Anthony Schlegel and Corey Mays at points during the season. Rashad Jeanty and Landon Johnson were the only solid linebackers until the team signed Dhani Jones off the streets to stabilize the position. Once the season concluded, it was painfully obvious the team needed to rebuild a position that was originally going to feature guys like David Pollack and Odell Thurman (more on that below).
After signing Brandon Johnson and Darryl Blackstock away from the Arizona Cardinals, the Bengals drafted USC's Keith Rivers in the first round. Aside from a injury-shortened rookie season, Rivers ranks second on the team in tackles behind Dhani Jones in the past two seasons. Needing to replace Tory James and Deltha O'Neal, the Bengals selected South Carolina's Johnathan Joseph and Michigan's Leon Hall in 2006 and 2007.
The Bengals drafted Pollack and Thurman in 2005 after it was obvious Brian Simmons' career was slowing down. Kevin Hardy was, at best, a serviceable stop-gap solution while Nate Webster suffered a season-ending injury early during the 2004 season. The Bengals traded Corey Dillon after the 2003 season and Rudi Johnson was largely an unknown. So the team drafted a running back in the first round during the 2004 NFL Draft. And during the 2003 NFL Draft, the Bengals selected a franchise quarterback in the first round. A need at the time.
So really, no matter whom the Bengals select, you better believe it'll be a big need on their roster. And if that need happens to be the best player available, so much the better.