Bengals first-round pick quarterback Joe Burrow and second-round pick wide receiver Tee Higgins graded out as the second-best choices from Pro Football Focus in the rounds they were selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. Burrow and Higgins will be contenders for the all-rookie team.
Higgins will contend with Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson and Chase Claypool of the Pittsburgh Steelers to be named first-team all-rookie. Jefferson had 88 receptions for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns in 2020, Claypool 62 for 873 and nine TDs and Higgins 67 for 908 and six TDs.
Burrow was on pace to set rookie records for quarterbacks. In 9.5 games Burrow completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 2,688 passes and 13 touchdowns. Burrow and Higgins give the Bengals a corps to build around on offense for the future. Drafting them in the same class is reminiscent of the 2000 San Diego Chargers draft.
The Chargers selected Pro Football Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson in the first round and future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees in the second round. With veteran RB Joe Mixon the Bengals might have their own version of QB Troy Aikman, RB Emmitt Smith and WR Michael Irvin were for the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s.
"1. CINCINNATI BENGALSCincinnati’s top 2020 Draft picks:PickPlayerPos.PFF gradeSnaps1Joe BurrowQB75.171033Tee HigginsWR75.980665Logan WilsonLB54.7343Joe Burrow’s Rookie season“Cincinnati fielded the second most valuable first-round rookie and the second most valuable second-round rookie. 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.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.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.”"
Burrow and Higgins were a special tandem as rookies before the 2020 top pick suffered a torn ACL in Week 11 during the Bengals loss to Washington in their tenth game of the 2020 season. After not playing week one, Higgins had six straight games with at least 62 yards receiving beginning in week six.
"Tee Higgins rookie season“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.”"
Logan Wilson has not lived up to Bengals expectations
The Bengals selection of Luke Wilson in the third round added depth to a linebacker corps that desperately needs it. Wilson played in 12 games with two starts. Wilson had 33 tackles, three tackles for loss, four pass breakups and one sack in his rookie season. The Bengals need him to take a bigger step forward in 2021.
"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."
Wilson performing poorly against the run was surprising. He recorded 105 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss in his senior year at Wyoming in 2019. Wilson had seven pass breakups, but only one sack in his senior season at Wyoming. The Bengals are likely to add more LBs in the 2021 NFL Draft to improve the talent on defense.
Offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji could be a steal in the sixth round. Adeniji stated five games in his rookie season, played every snap on offense in two games and 87 percent of the snaps in a third game. The 2021 NFL Draft will be critical for Cincinnati. Adding another playmaker and more OL have to be the priority for the Bengals.