Bengals fans have been struggling for years to get over the one that got away.
You know who I’m talking about.
He was the next man picked after the Bengals selected John Ross III, and many fans refuse to get over it. Especially after he won the Super Bowl MVP.
It’s painful to say his name, but you all know I’m talking about Patrick Mahomes . *cue the sad slow jam
And if I ever (ever fall) in love again (again)
I will be sure that the lady is a friend
And if I ever (ever fall) in love so true (so true)
I will be sure that the lady’s just like you
- Shai “If I Ever Fall in Love”
But it’s okay, Bengals fans have a new boo.
He’s a local guy. Which beats long distance. Super cool. He’s even got a graduate degree.
Of course, there are always those who will say he’s too good for you, but as Taylor Swift says, “...the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake. I shake it off. I shake it off.”
His name is Joe Burrow and I don’t want to put any pressure on it. I know we just met, but I think he could be the one.
And all my life I prayed for someone like you
And I thank God that I, that I finally found you
All my life I prayed for someone like you
And I hope that you feel the same way too
Yes I pray that you do love me too
- K-Ci and Jojo “All My Life”
Yes, everyone is very excited about Burrow, and rightfully so. We all like it, but in order to put a ring on it, they’ve got to get him a little help.
Fortunately, when it comes to the NFL Draft, I am a bit of a player.
That’s not true.
I’m not a player, I just crush a lot... of film.
Here are a few of my draft crushes who I would love to see in stripes alongside Burrow.
It’s very possible that there won’t be a true off-the-ball linebacker worth taking with the 33rd overall pick. Mock drafts are now regularly taking Kenneth Murray and Patrick Queen off the board in round one.
There are a pair of edges with the potential to play linebacker as well. Both have some first-round buzz, but could definitely slip. Wisconsin’s Zack Baun got some reps at linebacker during the Senior Bowl, but the one who has me all hot and bothered is Josh Uche.
Most of Uche’s film at Michigan has him either rushing the passer or lined up over a slot receiver in coverage, but he did get some reps in the box. His ability to rush the passer (14.5 sacks in the last two seasons at Michigan) and the coverage ability that he demonstrated at the Senior Bowl make him a very intriguing prospect. If he can develop as a box player, getting off of blocks and filling gaps, he could be a real steal. He is the type of moving-piece that is perfect for Lou Anarumo’s defense.
And babe, I’m fist-fighting with fire
Just to get close to you
Can we burn something babe
And I run for miles just to get a taste
Must be love on the brain
- Rihanna “Love on the Brain”
The Bengals almost had a chance encounter with Prince Tega Wanogho, who was supposed to play for the South team in the Senior Bowl, but serendipity was not on their side. He was flagged in his medical evaluation due to a lingering knee problem.
I know, I know... he’s totally the Bengals’ type isn’t he?
Wanogho is a very interesting story. The seventh of 9 children in his family, Wanagho was born in Nigeria, but a basketball coach from Alabama discovered him and offered him a scholarship to Edgewood Academy.
Who would have guested that it was a sport he had never played before that would get him a college scholarship to Auburn and perhaps a professional career?
Watching Wanogho on film has me catching feels.
He has incredible feet in pass protection. In the run game he locks on and drives his opponent down the field. He could be an incredible NFL tackle.
Linebacker and tackle are obvious positions of need for the Bengals, but with Ross and A.J. Green’s questionable contract status and injury concerns, the Bengals would be wise to add another pass catcher that can operate as a deep threat.
It has been well publicized that this is an excellent class of wide receivers. Personally I don’t care because having a large selection doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to find Mr. Right. There may be plenty of fish in the sea, but that doesn’t matter when you only care about finding the right fish.
Denzel Mims is a speedy wide receiver from Baylor, but he’s more than that. He is an excellent route runner who knows how to get separation. He has soft hands and makes great adjustments to the ball in the air. He’s really the ideal wide receiver to pair with Burrow.
I was on him early and everything I see makes me even higher on him.
You’re the habit that I can’t break
You’re the feeling I can’t put down
You’re the shiver that I can’t shake
- Louis Tomlinson “Habit”
Have you ever met somebody who was the complete package? Someone who literally had everything you were looking for.
I have. And his name is Antoine Winfield Jr.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers’ safety had seven interceptions this past season. Seven! As you would expect he makes great reads and has excellent ball skills, but that is not all. He is a physical tackler who plays aggressively downhill against the run and short passes.
Adding a versatile playmaker like Winfield would take their defense to the next level.
My head’s under water but I’m breathing fine
You’re crazy and I’m out of my mind
‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
- John Legend “All of Me”
And if it’s turnovers that turn you on, Winfield isn’t the only defensive back who should be catching your eye.
Louisiana Tech cornerback Amik Robertson is a turnover machine. To paraphrase Paul McCartney, “Maybe I’m amazed at the way he gets turnovers all the time.” He has 14 interceptions over the last three seasons. He has excellent ball skills and makes great reads in zone coverage. Robertson is also very good in man coverage. He has smooth hips and plays physically at the line of scrimmage in press coverage.
These guys would all be great gets, but our one and only true love, our future, is Burrow.
This season started so poorly that we all knew a change at quarterback was inevitable.
Evaluating the top quarterback prospects early in the season, Burrow kept standing out on film. He was accurate and made great decisions with the football, but what really made him stand out on film was his ability to create when the play broke down.
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was very impressive early in the season as well. In fact, if Tagovailoa was healthy for the entire season, there would be a lively debate over who the Bengals should take with the first pick.
Burrow though, is just my type. All of the songs quoted in this article (loosely) represent how I feel about the prospect. Watching Burrow early in the season, I didn’t want to fall too fast. I didn’t want to get caught up in my excitement, but I knew I was smitten.
Don’t wanna get ahead of myself
Feeling things I’ve never felt
- Leon Bridges “Beyond”
But Burrow was not just a crush. In fact, the more you get to know him, the better he is. Early in the season he thrived in the quick game. Later, as people started rushing fewer defenders and dropping more into coverage, Burrow would patiently wait for a receiver to get open. In both cases he was highly efficient and LSU’s offense was dominant.
Then came the National Championship. Burrow and LSU faced one of the best defensive coordinators in all of football, Brent Venables. Clemson had a good defensive game plan and some of the best defensive players in college football. Still, they couldn’t stop Burrow and LSU from putting up 42 points.
Burrow has it all, and we should all have butterflies in our stomachs as we wait to knock on his door.
Be sure to check in next week when I use Boyz II Men’s “Water Runs Dry” to explain how the Bengals and A.J. Green shouldn’t split up.