I wrote just yesterday of a report from ESPN saying that the Cincinnati Bengals have no interest in entertaining calls about potentially trading out of the first-overall spot in the 2020 NFL Draft, wherein they would be expected to draft LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, coming off arguably the greatest collegiate season in history. They just so happen to be in dire need of a quarterback.
Yesterday, the team’s director of player personnel, Duke Tobin, made an attempt to shoot down that report, labeling it “news to me”, via the Bengals’ own website. He spoke to reporters down at the Senior Bowl in Mobile.
“I don’t know that any decision has been made for what we’re going to do in April. We’re early in the process”, wrote Geoff Hobson. “We certainly haven’t had any meetings to determine that at this point. Those will be meetings we’ll have as we go through the process”.
Does anybody seriously believe that they would actually trade away the pick and lose out on Burrow, though? Unless they feel that Alabama’s quarterback is better, it’s virtually unfathomable to imagine any franchise in need of a quarterback—other than the inept Cleveland Browns—trading out of that spot.
Perhaps the most likely theoretical possibility would be the Miami Dolphins, who thanks to some late-season success holds the fifth-overall pick. But they also hold the first-round picks of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Houston Texans. Both of those are in the bottom half of the first round—18th and 26th, respectively—so even that may not be enough to move up from fifth to first.
We’ve seen teams with the first-overall pick play coy about what they plan to do with it time and time again, and almost never do we see anything surprising take place. Outside of driving interest, it’s unclear what the motivation is for being cryptic.
A first-overall pick hasn’t been traded since 2001 when the Atlanta Falcons traded up into the top spot to draft Michael Vick. The St. Louis Rams also traded up to the top of the draft to select Orlando Pace. The Bengals themselves once traded up to draft the bust, Ki-Jana Carter, in 1995. It’s happened a few times before, as well, but the point is, it’s basically been decades since it has been done.
In the last instance, the Falcons traded up from number five, and they only gave up their 2001 third-round pick and a 2002 second-round pick. You can be sure it wouldn’t be nearly as cheap for the Dolphins to trade up for Burrow. San Diego that year still got LaDainian Tomlinson at five.
Long story short: the Bengals are going to draft Burrow. Anything you hear in the contrary between now and the draft is meaningless smoke. Or at least, it would be very surprising if there were any fire.