The NFL draft has become the first major event of the season that follows it. It has always been a big deal because it lays out the future of a franchise, but now it's a primetime television event. There are a lot of those who consider themselves draft experts and a lot of stock is put into what guys like Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. say in the weeks (more like months) heading up to the NFL draft. However, in the end, there are always surprises (see: Tim Tebow, Christian Ponder, and a billion more).
There are two schools of thought when it comes to the draft. One is that teams should draft based on need and the other is that teams should draft the best player available. Each has a point, but in my opinion, one of these theories has a major flaw.
The Bengals need a guard, running back, cornerback, safety and wide receiver among upgrades at a few other positions. What they don't need, is a quarterback. Andy Dalton showed everyone that he has what it takes to be starting quarterback in the NFL. So what would happen if Robert Griffin III happened to somehow fall to No. 17 (which will definitely not happen). That's the most extreme case of course, but there are other examples. Say this draft class' best inside linebacker, defensive tackle or offensive tackle happened to fall to the Bengals at 17.
Under the BPA theory, the Bengals would take one of those players, leaving their biggest needs unmet. If they draft for need, though, they could end up reaching for a player in the first round that isn't necessarily a first-round talent. If there are a handful of cornerbacks and guards taken off the board before the Bengals go on the clock, it wouldn't be smart for them to reach for a guy who shouldn't be taken till the second or third round.
There may be no right answer, but my theory is that teams should combine the two theories. The best case scenario for the Bengals is to draft for need early, as long as good cornerbacks, guards, running backs, safeties and wide receivers are still on the board, and then draft best player available after they fill some of the bigger holes in the depth chart.
What do you think the best draft strategy is?