Not your average Joe: It’s Burrow for the Bengals at No. 1

Heisman-winning quarterback, Ohio native is top pick in NFL Draft

Credit: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Credit: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

The Cincinnati Bengals selected Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday.

Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin submitted the pick as expected from his home on the east side of Cincinnati, and Burrow, an Athens (Ohio) High School graduate who led LSU to the national championship this past season, is expected to become the Bengals’ successor to Andy Dalton.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor said he knew Joe Burrow was going to be the No. 1 pick a couple of weeks ago. Trade offers just further confirmed the pick for the Bengals.

"There was nothing that could happen to make us change our minds,” Taylor said. “... He’s deserving of the pick.”

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The draft is being conducted virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic preventing mass gatherings and travel to Las Vegas, where the three-day event originally was scheduled to take place. Barring any trades, Cincinnati next picks at No. 33 to start off Round 2 on Friday.

Bengals fans began embracing Burrow as their own in November, posting banners referencing the former LSU quarterback in the upper deck stands the last four games at Paul Brown Stadium, as Cincinnati struggled through the worst season in franchise history. The team was “Bungling for Burrow,” as the saying went around town, and the No. 1 pick in the draft.

The Bengals’ 2-14 finish ensured them the right to draft first, and with every player at their disposal, the narrative never really shifted from Burrow being their guy. At the NFL Combine in February, he squashed rumors he might not be willing to play for Cincinnati, saying instead that he would work hard for whatever team selected him. Going into Draft week, almost every major mock draft had Burrow going No. 1 to the Bengals, who are looking to replace nine-year veteran Andy Dalton, who is in the final year of his contract and set to make $17.5 million in 2020.

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Burrow began his career at Ohio State in 2015 but redshirted as a freshman and played just 10 games in a backup role over the next two seasons before transferring to LSU in 2018. After a decent junior campaign, he experienced a record-setting final season, throwing for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns with just six interceptions to lead LSU to the national championship.

“Talking in general about every player there are always some positives, some negatives, some questions you want answered,” Tobin said in a Zoom news conference last week. “There’s always improvement over time. In Joe’s situation, you have to play to get into a rhythm and feel. The more he played the more the more he got into that rhythm and feel. Certainly, the coaching down there brought him along quickly. Their schematics were great. I think the way that he was brought in by his teammates was great. His leadership down there was great. When those things all come together your play on the field tends to build and be ever-improving. So, with him, the more he played the better he got which is a good sign.”

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According to ESPN Senior NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the Miami Dolphins repeatedly called the Bengals to see if they would be willing to trade the No. 1 overall pick and the Dolphins were told in no uncertain terms Cincinnati would not trade the pick. Miami entered the draft holding three first-round picks and two more in the second round.

The Bengals haven’t had a No. 1 overall pick since 2003 when they selected former USC quarterback and Heisman winner Carson Palmer. Palmer left Cincinnati on a sour note in 2011 after demanding a trade and became a source of speculation Burrow might not want to play for the Bengals after Palmer said in multiple radio and TV interviews in late 2019 and early this year that the organization didn’t care enough about winning and no one should want to play there. Burrow was working out with Palmer’s brother, Jordan, this winter.

Burrow and any other rookies signed this offseason can join the Bengals’ virtual offseason meetings starting May 11.

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