The first round has come and gone, and seemingly, every team in the AFC North that has made a selection so far has come away with the player they were hoping to get. The Cincinnati Bengals, of course, held all the cards for Joe Burrow, but the Cleveland Browns also got the top-rated tackle on their board, and the Baltimore Ravens, as they often do, fall right into a defender who perfectly fits their scheme.
Of course, the story of the draft for the AFC North has to be the first-overall pick, the new franchise quarterback and face of the Bengals. Nine years after drafting Andy Dalton in the second round, they now have the consensus number one pick, and from appearances, it looks as though they’ll be doing everything in their power to make sure he plays right away.
Burrow is coming off one of the great performances in college football history, doing so after significantly elevating his game in his final collegiate season. I think it’s fair to say he wouldn’t have been drafted particularly close to where he was ultimately taken if he came out a year earlier.
“We had a lot of confidence in who we were going to select”, said second-year Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, who is hoping to have both of his first-round picks on the field in September for the first time, “and there was nothing that could happen that could change our mind”.
And yet the team also admitted that they never gave Burrow a firm answer prior to Wednesday that they would be picking him, even if it was strongly hinted. They never let anybody know that he was definitely going to be the pick, even though they knew he would be for quite a while.
Which doesn’t really serve much purpose beyond preserving what little suspense there is for the programming. Certainly nobody was surprised in the least bit when Roger Goodell said Burrow’s name from his basement with the first pick.
You have to be really stupid, like, say, the Cleveland Browns, to trade out of a spot that would land you a blue-chip quarterback prospect if you’re a team who needs one. There is no position more important than the quarterback; basically, if you don’t have one, you hardly have anything.
And so now the AFC North’s quarterback situation is settled for the next couple of years. There is the rookie in Burrow in Cincinnati. The Browns and Ravens have their third-year guys in Baker Mayfield and the reigning MVP, Lamar Jackson, respectively.
Oh yeah, and then there’s the old man, Ben Roethlisberger, who has four times as much experience as all the other starting quarterbacks in the division combined. Still, it’s clear that it’s only a matter of a few years at the absolute most before we’re talking about somebody new under center for the Pittsburgh Steelers.