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PFF ranks Bengals’ rookie class No. 1 in the NFL

The Bengals had the best rookie class in 2020, according to Pro Football Focus.

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NFL: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Burrow headlined the Bengals’ 2020 draft, but the Bengals did a great job of drafting in nearly every round this year.

Of course, with the worst record in the league, they got the first pick of each round. Zac Taylor said that he considers Tee Higgins (33rd overall) to be a first round pick.

Add Logan Wilson to the list, and you have a stellar first three rounds.

Pro Football Focus ranked all 32 teams’ rookie classes, and gave the Bengals the top spot on the list.

“Cincinnati fielded the second most valuable first-round rookie and the second most valuable second-round rookie,” wrote Anthony Treash. “And Joe Burrow, whom they selected first overall, was on pace to be the most valuable rookie in the entire class this year before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 11.”

Though Burrow’s season was cut short, he logged 710 snaps and logged a 75.1 grade.

Here’s what Treash said about Burrow:

Burrow’s rookie campaign was nothing short of incredible, given the situation that he was thrust into. Yes, his deep ball wasn’t a strong suit as it was in his college days, and he also took a few too many sacks — something the Bengals QB admitted himself — but he was exceptional in the stable areas of play.

As expected, the 2020 first overall pick showed off his pinpoint accuracy on non-deep throws, finishing sixth among his peers in passing grade on throws up to 19 yards downfield. Burrow also cracked the top 10 in negatively graded throw rate from a clean pocket, finishing second in that metric to only Russell Wilson’s 2012 debut among all rookie quarterbacks since 2010.

As good as Burrow was, he wasn’t the Bengals’ highest rated rookie. That honor belongs to Tee Higgins at 75.9.

While it would have been hard for Cincy to miss on the No. 1 overall pick this year with Burrow there for the taking, hitting on the 33rd overall pick was a much harder endeavor. But we here at PFF agreed with the Bengals’ decision to select Tee Higgins, who was 25th on our big board at the time, and Higgins repaid that decision by racking up 908 receiving yards and six scores on 67 catches, earning a 75.9 PFF grade in the process. Before Burrow’s injury, Higgins had teamed up with his classmate for more combined first downs and touchdowns than any other rookie wide receiver in the NFL, with 32 through Week 10.

Finally, there’s Logan Wilson, with a grade of 54.7.

The Bengals’ first pick of the third round, Logan Wilson of Wyoming, wasn’t as much of an impact player, finding a place as a rotational piece at off-ball linebacker before suffering an injury that ended his season in Week 14. Wilson’s run defense was perhaps the biggest weakness, given that he earned a 48.1 grade in that facet, but his blitzing was also largely ineffective. Wilson was sent to rush the passer 47 times yet came away with just three pressures in Year 1.

Most of the class got involved this season. Akeem Davis-Gaither and Hakeem Adeniji had plenty of playing time, and Khalid Kareem even got rotated in as well.

The Bengals got their franchise quarterback, a replacement for A.J. Green, and the quarterback of the defense. Not a bad haul.