Zero doubt exists over who will be the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow has had a record-breaking season, one of the best by a collegiate passer in recent memory. Controlling Burrow’s fate, the Cincinnati Bengals have first dibs in the draft. Or do they?
There’s a precedent for surefire No. 1 picks convincing teams not to take them. The question on everyone’s mind: Would Joe Burrow be happy if the Bengals drafted him?
Joe Burrow’s path to the NFL
The 23-year-old recently capped off a historic season at LSU with a dominant victory over the Clemson Tigers in the national championship game. Burrow led the team to 15 wins. Here’s what he accomplished during this legendary year:
- Completed 76.3% of his passes
- 5,671 passing yards
- 60 touchdowns (setting the NCAA single-season record, surpassing Colt Brennan’s 2006 record of 58)
- Six interceptions
- Won the Heisman Trophy
- Won 2019 AP Player of the Year
- Won 2019 SEC Player of the Year
With stats and results like this, it’s no wonder why Burrow is everyone’s pick for the top draft spot. But if Burrow isn’t interested in the Cincinnati Bengals, history tells us he may have a way out.
A history of unhappy quarterbacks in the NFL Draft
A quarterback is often the No. 1 player taken in the draft. When there’s a clear-cut option for the first pick, the athlete may express his displeasure with the team holding the No. 1 pick in order to force a trade. This is an attempt to avoid joining a franchise the quarterback doesn’t like. Let’s look at two prominent cases of this occurring.
In the 1983 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Colts selected John Elway from Stanford, reports the New York Times. If you don’t remember the young QB wearing the team’s blue and white uniform, that’s because he never did.
Elway told the Colts he’d refuse to play for them and opt to play minor-league baseball for the New York Yankees, who had drafted him. Eventually, Elway found his way to the Denver Broncos, where he won two Super Bowls and appeared in three others.
In 2004, Peyton Manning was the consensus No. 1 pick. While the Chargers held the pick, the Ole Miss alum made it clear he did not want to play for San Diego. The team selected him anyway then traded him to the New York Giants, where he won two Super Bowls.
The Chargers haven’t won any championships, but in the trade, they did receive the draft rights to North Carolina State quarterback Philip Rivers. He’s had a fine career for the Bolts.
Will Joe Burrow be happy if drafted by the Bengals?
Right now, Burrow holds all the cards. With the hapless Bengals receiving the first pick, the young QB is in the perfect position to force a trade. That won’t likely happen, however. Burrow’s father said if the Bengals do draft his son, “He’s going to be happy,” reports ESPN.
That’s not to say the Bengals won’t trade the pick. They have holes at so many positions that trading back in the draft to address several positions may make sense. Cincinnati could always pick another quarterback prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft. But it’s nice to have the option.
Ultimately, the Bengals must make the easy decision: draft one of the best NFL quarterback prospects, and do their best to build around Burrow.
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