A fun exercise among analysts is looking at past NFL Drafts. After all, you can’t really say who won the draft the days and nights of. It takes years for players to properly develop or show they weren’t worth being picked that high.
Some are now at that point with the 2020 NFL Draft, which Cincinnati Bengals fans remember fondly as the beginning of the Joe Burrow era. What followed was a disappointing season that landed the Bengals Ja’Marr Chase to pair with Tee Higgins. A nearly 30-year playoff drought ended, two consecutive AFC Championships going toe-to-toe with the Kansas City Chiefs and a Super Bowl appearance later, and you’d think things couldn’t get better, right?
This is where Diante Lee of The Athletic comes in. He did a redraft that has the Bengals selecting Justin Herbert over Burrow with the first selection.
“Frankly, there’s no need to mess with a good thing in Cincinnati — Burrow has played in a Super Bowl and consecutive AFC Championship Games. But I just can’t help myself. Herbert is the more talented quarterback, and it’s hard to imagine that his time with a supporting cast like Burrow has had in Cincinnati would be disappointing.”
It is frustrating that so many people will constantly overlook Burrow because he can’t throw the ball 70 yards on a string like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen or even Herbert. Too often, those highlights and box score watching lead to this thinking.
Let's ignore the fact that if Herbert were the pick, he wouldn’t have Higgins (he went 10th in this redraft) and probably not Chase either since Burrow got hurt that season right as this team’s offense started to get going. We have seen Burrow step up in HUGE moments. Herbert has had his, but after three years, his only postseason game is one of the most embarrassing losses in the history of the playoffs as they allowed the Jacksonville Jaguars to erase a massive deficit.
People may not think that is a quarterback stat, and it doesn’t fall squarely on Burrow or Herbert’s shoulders. It is just a stark difference in how one guy went to a drowning franchise and three years later has them sitting as one of the few legitimate contenders that can compete with the Chiefs consistently.
And the other has put up great stats, but the wins and success haven’t followed. It is biased to say, but it feels like if the roles were reversed, we’d see the Los Angeles Chargers having the success the Bengals are currently having. Burrow’s “it” factor is just something you can’t quantify.
The funny thing about the reason for this change is that this writer thinks Cincinnati has a MUCH better supporting cast, and to be fair, they do. However, all the neigh sayers leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft said Cincinnati would never be able to surround Burrow with talent. Isn’t it funny how the goalposts move?