Nine months after they were drafted, Pro Football Focus kept Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow as the top-ranked signal-caller from the 2020 NFL Draft.
Bengals quarterback was on his way to challenge to be named the 2020 NFL Rookie of the Year before tearing his ACL in week 11 against the Washington Football Team. The top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft would have remained that way in the re-rankings of QBs by .
Joe Burrow was a huge upgrade for the entire Bengals offense in 2020. In 9.5 games in 2020, Burrow completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 2,688 yards, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions while running for another 142 yards and three TDs. Burrow as the cornerstone of the Bengals offense bodes well for the future.
The Bengals’ offense finished 29th in the NFL but struggled mightily in the five games beginning the week before the injury to Burrow. Cincinnati averaged 10 points per game. The Bengals rebounded with 64 points in the two games following that streak but lost 38-3 to the Baltimore Ravens in the season finale.
Cincinnati finished the season 27th in passing yards and 24th in rushing. In the 10 full games Burrow played in 2020, the 321.9 total yards per game, 227 passing yards and 94.9 rushing yards per game. On the season, the Bengals averaged 319.75 total yards per game, 215.5 passing and 104.25 rushing.
The reason Burrow gets the top spot projecting forward as opposed to the likely Rookie of the Year is that the things he did well are more stable. The Bengals quarterback was lights-out on intermediate passes as a rookie. His 92.5 passing grade ranked fifth among all quarterbacks in the NFL.
The only quarterbacks ahead of him were , , and . That’s not bad company to keep. It was only the fourth time a rookie has graded over 90.0 on such throws, with , and Wilson being the other three.
His feel and creativity at that level were already elite. Where he struggled was obviously throwing the deep ball. His 20.8% adjusted completion percentage on throws beat out only and among starting quarterbacks this season.
If there’s any silver lining, it’s that he wasn’t making bad decisions down the field; he just missed. And that wasn’t the case at all the year prior at LSU, which goes back to the projectable aspect of this.
Intermediate success is far more stable year to year than deep success, and I think with personnel better suited to win downfield in 2021, we could see a big bounce back from Burrow in this regard.
The only question at this point is whether the Bengals can fix their offensive line and Burrow can return fully healthy from his gruesome knee injury. If that happens, bet on Burrow grading out as a top-10 quarterback in 2021.
and give the Bengals a good tandem at WR. Cincinnati is likely to draft a WR in the early rounds to replace who is expected to leave in free agency. Boyd led the Bengals with 79 receptions and had 841 receiving yards and four TDs. Higgins had 67 receptions and led them with 908 yards and nine TDs.
Burrow will always be compared to Herbert who was drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers sixth in the 2020 NFL Draft and Miami Dolphins QB who was drafted fifth. Tagaovailoa has been praised for his accuracy but finished behind Burrow and Herbert. Burrow completed 65.3 percent of his attempts in 2020.
Herbert completed 66.6 percent of his pass attempts as a rookie in 2020 to rank 15th in the NFL. Tagoavailoa was 29th at 64.1 percent and Burrow finished 22nd. Burrow finished 24th in both passer rating and QBR at 89.8 and 56.5. Hebert finished 12th and 13th at 98.3 and 69.7 and Tagovailoa was 26th in both.
Drafting another playmaker on the outside for Burrow and upgrading the offensive line through free agency and the draft will be critical for the Bengals. The likelihood seems to be that they will select either a WR or OL, likely a tackle with the fifth pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Free agency begins before then in March.
Who the Bengals can sign in free agency will determine most of the draft. Who is still available when the Bengals pick fifth will more likely what direction they go in the draft. Penei Sewell who was thought to be the pick when the Bengals were projected to select third will likely be taken by the time the Bengals draft.
If Sewell has been drafted by the time the Bengals are on the clock the more likely pick seems to be Burrow’s college teammate or his successor as the Heisman Trophy winner, Alabama WR . Chase at 6’0 208 has better size than the 6’1 174 pound Smith. Either way gets Burrow a needed playmaker.