Bengals might have drafted Tee Higgins' replacement in Round 3

2023 SEC Championship - Georgia v Alabama
2023 SEC Championship - Georgia v Alabama / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

After addressing both sides of the line with their first two picks in the 2024 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals mnay have drafted an eventual replacement for Tee Higgins in the third round. With the 80th overall pick in the draft, the Bengals selected wide receiver Jermaine Burton from Alabama.

The pick makes sense for the Bengals, who are likely to lose Tyler Boyd in free agency and are pretty thin at the position behind Higgins and Ja'marr Chase. Plus, Higgins' uncertain future with the franchise has to be factored in.

Higgins requested a trade at the onset of free agency, and even if his wish isn't granted, which is how the situation seems to be trending at this point in time, it's fair to wonder if he's long for Cincinnati. The team designated him as a franchise player for the 2024 season, but he could sign elsewhere as a free agent in 2025. Through that lens, the selection of Burton appears even more practical.

Assuming that Higgins is still on the roster at the start of the season, as he expects to be, Burton could potentially serve as the team's No. 3 receiver, and then perhaps he'd be ready to shoulder a larger load if Higgins leaves next offseason.

Burton was a very productive player during his four collegiate campaigns at both Georgia and Alabama. He compiled 132 receptions, 2,376 yards and 23 touchdowns. He has a solid combination of size and speed for the position that should translate well to the pros.

Burton's college coach weighs in

So, what does Burton need to do to succeed in the NFL? Well, according to his college coach Nick Saban, it has as much to do with what he does off the field as what he does on it.

“I really, really like this guy, (but) the No. 1 thing that he needs to do — and I think emotional maturity is the best way to say it — is do the right things all the time," Saban said. "He does the right things on the field. He knows the importance of what he has to do in the field. He wants to be a player. That’s all he thinks about.

“But you’ve got to do the right things in your life all the time so that you can do the best things that you can do on the field and be the best you can do. … When you get emotional, you make bad decisions and lose your brain.”

No one here is pushing Higgins out the door, and him ultimately agreeing to a long-term extension with the Bengals remains a possibility. But, if that doesn't happen, the team landed a solid insurance policy in the third round of the draft.