After a 2-14 record during the 2019 season, the Cincinnati Bengals own the #1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday. The latest report has confirmed that LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is expected to be selected by the Bengals, granting them a franchise player.
Despite an endless amount of potential in Burrow, Cincinnati’s draft history has been questionable at best. Since 1968, the franchise has only drafted 11 players that have made a Pro Bowl.
Though they have made two Super Bowl appearances in franchise history, both times the Bengals fell short to the Bill Walsh and Jerry Rice-led San Francisco 49ers. For those who remember, the Bengals passed on Rice for troubled albeit talented wide receiver Eddie Brown.
The 1990’s were the dark ages, as the Bengals passed on Hall of Fame coach Bill Cowher for Dave Shula. At the time, the front office elected to move forward with a coach based on their personal feelings rather than professional judgement.
In 1992, Cincinnati invested in David Klingler during the draft. Much like this year’s top pick in Burrow, Klingler was a sensational college quarterback. In 33 games in the NFL however, he was sacked 83 times and threw for under 4,000 yards.
The defense wasn’t elite by any means, as defensive back Darryl Williams and defensive end John Copeland couldn’t get the job done by themselves. In 1994, the Bengals drafted Dan “Big Daddy” Wilkinson. While the pick wasn’t a “bust” by any means, he certainly wasn’t worth his draft stock.
In 1995, Cincinnati went with running back Ki-Jana Carter. Unfortunately, in his first pre-season game, guard Ryan Grigson missed a crucial block which led to Carter suffering an injury that derailed his rookie season and eventually his NFL career.
In 1999, the Bengals were offered a boatload of draft picks from the New Orleans Saints as they attempted to trade up for Ricky Williams. The Bengals declined all offers that came their way and instead selected Akili Smith. History repeated itself in 2000 when the Bengals selected Florida State wide receiver Peter Warrick; passing on a legendary talent in Brian Urlacher.
The Bengals had moderate success since then, grabbing multiple Pro Bowl talents such as Carson Palmer, Johnathan Joseph, and AJ Green.
Some will point fingers at former head coach Marvin Lewis for the franchise’s faults in recent years. However, does Zac Taylor bring a revolutionary change for Cincinnati? Electing to move forward with a younger head coach worked for the Los Angeles Rams when they hired Sean McVay, so does the ‘copycat’ logic work this round?
The Bengals will be the first on the clock on Thursday, and Burrow will be on his way to Ohio. While it’s impossible to predict the outcome of his future, the Bengals will need to surround him with talent throughout the early stages of his NFL career.