By Arnie Leshin
If anyone expected the Cincinnati Bengals to by pass Joe Burrow with their No. 1 pick, for-get-about-it.
Because if the Bengals weren’t sure, Burrow certainly knew where he was headed, and for him it was like going to class before school even started.
“I was well in touch with Cincinnati,” said the Heisman Trophy winner who quarterbacked Louisiana State University (LSU) to the national college football championship, “and I went over several of their offensive plays for the last two weeks. It’s best to be prepared, and I was.”
And so it was that not only did the Bengals pick first in each of the seven rounds, but the Bayou Tigers had a even dozen players drafted for the most of any school. Now the question is, can Barrow lead Cincinnati out of the NFL basement? He’s a winner, the Bengals have been losers.
Only time will tell, but at least this was a done deal unlike the year 2000 when quarterback Eli Manning of Mississippi State was No. 1 in the draft and taken by the then-San Diego Chargers, but Eli, his older brother, Payton, and dad, Archie, did not him want him to settle down in Southern California. Their top choice were the New York Giants, who had in turn choose quarterback Phillip Rivers as the No. 2 selection.
The Mannings got their way, Eli was instead signed by the Giants and Rivers by the Chargers. And that’s where they stayed and played until Eli retired after last season and Rivers signed with the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent. Meanwhile, that’s history and Cincinnati is happy to welcome aboard a confident able satisfied player like Burrow.
Now link this with Ohio State, for Burrow, the No. 2 pick defensive end Chase Young chosen by the Washington Redskins, and Buckeyes’ senior running back J.K. Dobbins, a second round pick by the Baltimore Ravens, all played for the 2017 Ohio State team. Burrow though transferred to LSU for his junior year.
Otherwise, this different kind of NFL college draft pieced together for the first time sans empty seats, draft prospects at home with family and friends, the media, other officials, and coaches were also working the draft from their own homes. And in the basement of his home in Bronxville, N.Y., NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ran the draft from start to finish by announcing each selection.
At their homes, the players chosen were celebrating with joy for making it this far, with all of this shown on the tubes.
But it worked thanks to modern technology. Now the NBA can give thought to its own college draft. Here, there were several surprise picks, some far-reaching ones, and some good and bad news along the way. Otherwise, the bottom line is that these chosen ones have got to arrive with hope and leave on the rosters of teams that selected them. That’s No. 1, No. 2 is the welcoming of official practice, the time to see how your draft picks look, and No. 3 is the hope of the regular season kicking off.
Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shopped well for their new quarterback, 43-year-old Tom Brady. He already has five quality receivers, so the Bucs added some offensive tackles, running backs, and defenders. The New York Giants were looking at Clemson linebacker Isiah Simmons, who has played six different defensive positions, but thought more of protecting second-year quarterback Daniel Jones and chose offensive tackle Andrew Thomas of Georgia, with Simmons gladly taken by the Arizona Cardinals.
Same with their New Jersey fellow residents, the Jets. They were searching for one of the quality wide receivers in this draft, and probably would have reached for the gifted Cee Dee Lamb of Oklahoma fame, but then made a late switch to their own offensive tackle to protect quarterback Sam Darnold, and he became the huge but swift and athletic Mekhi Becton, who goes 6-foot-7 and tips the scale at 337, but at the NFL complex, he sped a remarkable 4.39 for 40 yards. As for sure-handed explosive Lamb, he was happily picked by the Dallas Cowboys as the 17th pick.
The Philadelphia Eagles, also in the NFL East with the Giants and Cowboys, selected former Alabama and Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round. This was a good day for quarterbacks and Hurts was the fifth QB named. The second signal-caller selected was Tua Tagivailoa out of Alabama, with the Miami Dolphins, who had 13 picks, taking Tagivailoa, who is still recovering from a surgical hip injury,
Next came the Chargers and they came away with quarterback Justin Herbert from Oregon as the possible replacement for Rivers. The Green Bay Packers, figuring on lone-time quarterback Aaron Rodgers perhaps retiring soon, went with quarterback Jordan Love from Utah State as the No. 26 pick. Running backs were there, but none of the franchise type, with Georgia’s D’Andre Swift the first one named as the Detroit Lions’ 35th choice.
The Giants picked probably the best safety in the draft when they chose Alabama’s Xavier McKinney as the 36th pick. And the Jets did get a receiver by selecting Denzel Mims out of Baylor with the 59th pick. The Colts gathered in two running backs, Michael Pittman (USC) and Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin) with the 34th and 41st respective picks. The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Florida corner back C.J. Henderson with the ninth pick, and now he’s just a short way from Gainesville.
The New Orleans Saints figure that Drew Brees will still be their quarterback, so they skipped that position in the early rounds, and made center Cesar Ruiz (Minnesota) their initial pick at No. 24. He is recognized as the top player at that position. The Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs went with their 32nd selection being running back Clyde Edwards-Helaiire’s who carried the ball for LSU.
The Denver Broncos took back-to-back wide receivers by making Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy their 15th pick and K.J. Hemier of Penn State at No. 46. The new Las Vegas Raiders made that position their 12th pick by choosing speedster Henry Ruggs III of Alabama. The Sea Hawks chose Texas Tech linebacker Jordan Brooks as their initial pick at No. 29. The Eagles’ first pick was wide receiver Jalen Raigor of TCU as their 21st selection.
Oh, and New England, no doubt still upset with the loss of franchise quarterback Brady, chose a safety in the first round, Kyle Dugger from mid-major Lenoir-Rayne, and did not select a quarterback among its 10 picks. Go figure. The Carolina Panthers chose not to resign former starting quarterback Cam Newton, named Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown their top pick at No. 7. and also did not take a QB with their eight selections.
The Atlanta Falcons still have Matt Ryan as their quarterback and made corner back A.J. Terrell out of Clemson their top pick at No. 16, with punter Sterling Hofrichter of Syracuse their final choice as the 228th selection in the seventh round. The Tennessee Titans took the other Georgia offensive tackle, isaiah Wilson, as their No. 29 pick. The Pittsburgh Steelers reeled in a wide receiver, Chase Claypool, of Notre Dame, as their second round pick at No. 49, and San Francisco went for defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw (South Carolina) at No. 14.
The Minnesota Vikings also hopped on the LSU bandwagon by choosing wide receiver Justin Jefferson at No. 22 as their initial pick. The Los Angeles Rams picked up running back Cam Akers out of Florida State as their first choice at No. 52, and he could
surprise after being the Seminoles’ top offensive threat along the ground. The Houston Texans chose defensive tackle Ross Blacklock from TCU with their second round pick at No. 40.
Another Notre Dame player, tight end Cole Kemet, was taken by the Chicago Bears as their second round selection numbered No. 43. Winding down, the Buffalo Bills drafted defensive end A.J. Esperesa of Iowa at number 54 of the second round, and the Baltimore Ravens got a first-round pick in linebacker Patrick Queen of LSU.
And last was the Giants with the 255th pick being the annual irreverent final selection of Tae Crowder, a linebacker from Georgia, so new head coach Joe Judge got his first and last picks out of Georgia.
In other news, the Redskins finally made a deal for disgruntled offensive tackle Trent Williams by dealing him to San Francisco. The Bears decided they are not expected to pick up quarterback Matt Trubisky’s 5th year option, Tampa Bay expects to get a healthier, rejuvenated Gronkowski after he did not resign with New England to instead reunite with Tom Brady, the Packers infuriate their fans by not drafting a receiver, and this NFL draft set a third-straight television ratings record.