The Bengals 2020 NFL Draft class will be the cornerstone that the future of the franchise is built on. Top overall draft pick Joe Burrow was impressive before suffering a season-ending knee injury against the Washington Football Team Week 11. Second-round pick, wide receiver Tee Higgins also had a productive rookie season.
Higgins had 67 receptions for 908 yards and six TDs in his first NFL season. Higgins was generally regarded as the third-best rookie WR in 2020 behind Burrow’s former LSU teammate Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings and Chase Claypool of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Higgins has a bright future.
Third-round pick, LB Logan Wilson did not provide the consistency Cincinnati needs at LB. The remainder of the Bengals rookies mostly provided depth making 15 starts combined led by offensive lineman Akeem Adeniji who made five starts. Wilson only started twice and recorded 33 tackles on the season.
The Bengals enter the 2021 NFL Draft needing another class like the one they had in 2020. Improving the offensive line, adding another playmaking WR, an edge rusher and depth at cornerback are all priorities. With the fifth pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Bengals have a lot of options.
1. CINCINNATI BENGALS
Why they’re ranked here: Quarterback Joe Burrow (No. 1 overall) finished the 2020 NFL season as the second-most valuable first-round rookie, while wide receiver Tee Higgins (No. 33 overall) ranked second among second-round selections.
Both players far exceeded the production that was expected of them, and Burrow 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.
How their top pick fared: Despite missing nearly the entire second half of his rookie campaign, Burrow still finished as the 16th most valuable quarterback in the NFL. His deep ball wasn’t as finely tuned as it was in his historic 2019 season at LSU, but he was on the money on just about every other throw.
In fact, he recorded the sixth-best passing grade in the NFL this year when throwing between 1 and 19 yards downfield. Burrow also recorded the lowest rate of quarterback-fault incompletions (4%) from a clean pocket this season, two percentage points better than any other NFL quarterback in 2020.
The future is bright for the Bengals with Burrow leading the offense.
Pro Football Focus praised the Bengals with their 2020 NFL Draft selections. If Burrow returns healthy from the torn ACL, he and Higgins will be one of the top QB-WR tandems in the NFL for a long-time. Getting better protection for Burrow will be important through free agency and in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Burrow was on pace for a record-setting rookie season. The 268.1 yards per game Burrow averaged are third for a rookie in NFL history behind Andrew Luck in 2012 and Justin Herbert this season. That included playing just over half the game before being injured against Washington. Burrow and Herbert will always be linked.