The draft, which had been scheduled to take place in Las Vegas, was successfully completed virtually from the homes of NFL coaches, general managers and other front-office staff because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Here’s a pick-by-pick look at how each player the Bengals have selected will fit.
Round 1, No. 1 overall: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
My take: The Bengals selected a quarterback who is expected to be the face of the franchise and the starter immediately. Getting Burrow acclimated to the NFL will be challenging, given the restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the 23-year-old figures to be up for the challenge. He’ll inherit an offense that has some notable playmakers but scored a touchdown on 14.9% of its drives in 2019, the third-lowest rate in the league. It’s not all going to come together immediately. Burrow is aware of this. He talked to Peyton Manning about the challenges of being a rookie for a bad team. But the more snaps Burrow gets during his first season, the shorter Cincinnati’s rebuilding process.
A perfect fit: Burrow excels in all the areas the Bengals are looking for in a starting quarterback. He makes strong pre-snap decisions, is rarely late getting the ball out of his hands and was college football’s most accurate quarterback in 2019. Much of that can be attributed to LSU’s offensive scheme, but Burrow showed some of those traits in LSU’s previous offense in 2018. Burrow’s leadership qualities will be needed if he replaces longtime starter Andy Dalton, as expected. That has Cincinnati as excited as anything Burrow does on the field.
Money on the move: Burrow’s strengths pair well with the areas Cincinnati struggled in last season. In 2019 at LSU, Burrow led all FBS quarterbacks in QBR under pressure and was ninth in QBR outside of the pocket (minimum of 100 attempts). If Cincinnati’s offensive line struggles like it did last season, Burrow is equipped to handle that. Burrow’s mobility is also great for extended plays on third downs or tucking the ball and running. Burrow had 28 carries of 10 yards or more during the Tigers’ title-winning season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Round 2, No. 33 overall: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
Check out highlights from Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins as we get closer to the 2020 NFL draft.
My take: The Bengals didn’t waste any time giving Joe Burrow another weapon to work with during his rookie season. Cincinnati opted not to trade down to take Higgins, who did some training with Burrow in California during the pre-draft process. With the addition of Higgins, Cincinnati helps solidify its long-term outlook at receiver. While Bengals coach Zac Taylor said Higgins doesn’t affect the future of A.J. Green, the 32-year-old on a one-year tag in 2020. But Green’s outlook after this season is unclear. The Bengals made the smart move in adding a wideout to pair with Burrow and setting the table for the next era in franchise history. Higgins became a Bengals fan after they drafted Green in 2011. Now, the two will get to be teammates and Higgins will get the chance to learn the ropes from the player that he molded his game after. “Now that this moment is here, it’s just surreal,” Higgins said.
Round 3, No. 65 overall: Logan Wilson, LB, Wyoming
Check out the best plays from former Wyoming linebacker Logan Wilson.
My take: Cincinnati couldn’t wait to pick up the phone and select Wilson. Not only was he at a position of need, he was one of the highest-ranked players on the Bengals’ draft board. The Bengals were impressed with Wilson when they met with him at Senior Bowl. When his tape matched up with the impression Wilson made in Mobile, it was a no-brainer at No. 65. Cincinnati considers Wilson a three-down linebacker and could easily be in the mix to be a starter on Week 1. He’ll also benefit from being in the same room as Josh Bynes, a veteran linebacker the Bengals signed during free agency.
What’s next: The Bengals addressed their three major needs in the first three rounds — quarterback, wide receiver and linebacker. Zac Taylor called it a “best-case scenario.” Cincinnati can rest easy and not chase during Day 3. They pick at the top of each of the next four rounds — Nos. 107, 147, 180, 215.
Round 4, No. 107 overall: Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, Appalachian State
Check out highlights of former Appalachian State’s OLB Akeem Davis-Gaither as he tackles his way through these highlights and into the NFL draft.
My take: Cincinnati goes for a linebacker in back-to-back rounds. And like ex-Wyoming LB Logan Wilson, Akeem Davis-Gaither was also in Mobile for the Senior Bowl. The Bengals have used the middle rounds to add needed depth in the middle of the defense, arguably the team’s weakest unit in 2019. Additionally, the Bengals have been looking for some leadership qualities on that side of the ball. Davis-Gaither was a team captain for the Senior Bowl, an aspect that wasn’t lost on Cincinnati’s coaching staff.
Round 5, No. 147 overall: Khalid Kareem, DE, Notre Dame
Check out highlights of Notre Dame’s defensive end Khalid Kareem as we get closer to the 2020 NFL draft.
My take: The Bengals liked Kareem’s length and wingspan, attributes that will suit him well at the next level. Cincinnati needs to increase the amount of pressure from its edge rushers and Kareem can provide that. He had 13 sacks in three years at Notre Dame and should be able to see the field during his rookie season. Kareem was also a team captain in college, a trait several of the Bengals’ 2020 draft picks share.
Round 6, No. 180 overall: Hakeem Adeniji, OL, Kansas
Take a look at the best blocks from former Kansas offensive tackle Hakeem Adeniji, making him a prospect in this year’s NFL draft.
My take: Adeniji is another prospect the Bengals grew fond of at this year’s Senior Bowl. Adeniji was a four-year starter at Kansas and primarily played tackle. As of now, he’s slated to stay on the right edge of the offensive line but he has the ability to play guard if needed. Bengals assistant Jim Turner considered Adeniji a favorite throughout the draft process. He’ll give Cincinnati some depth during his rookie year.
Round 7, No. 215 overall: Markus Bailey, LB, Purdue
Catch up on former Purdue Markus Bailey’s highlights as he turns on the power and speed to get ready for the NFL draft.
My take: The Bengals close Day 3 by adding their third linebacker in this year’s draft class. Bailey joins Logan Wilson (third round) and Akeem Gaither-Davis (fourth round) as new additions in the middle of the defense. He missed his entire senior season after he tore an ACL in September 2019. Aside from quarterback, linebacker was the biggest position the Bengals addressed in the draft.