So the Bengals gone and done it: They took Joe Burrow with the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. Of course by last night there was no drama left in that decision, so one could only marvel at just how much he seems to be the perfect pick for the Bengals at this time. Before elaborating on that, here are some thoughts on his former Ohio State teammates who were also picked in the first round....
- While I was initially in favor of taking Chase Young and figuring out the quarterback situation as they went, that was before Burrow’s amazing postseason run. That left me convinced he had to be the guy because he was not just great but nearly perfect on the biggest stage. No pick – especially at quarterback – is a sure thing, but this guy is worth the gamble. READ MORE: Joe Burrow’s fascinating college legacy
- Speaking of Chase Young, one has to wonder if he is farther from his ceiling than we realize. No one questions his work ethic or commitment, but some of the scouting reports I’ve read noted he relied more on talent than moves to get to the quarterback. That’s unusual for Ohio State defensive line projects, about whom the first thing people remark is all the tools they learned from coach Larry Johnson. However, when you’re as talented as Young, this certainly makes sense. Sort of like LeBron James’ (and many other players like him) best scoring attribute being his ability to drive and jump over people when he first came into the NBA, sometimes you have to be forced to do other things to succeed before you actually show them or at least perfect them. Of course, Young is still going to be able to go by or overpower some of the tackles he faces in the NFL.
- Damon Arnette being drafted 19th overall is not only a rare example of a player staying in school and making a lot of money for himself but also likely a validation of the power of a school’s brand. Unlike fellow first rounder Jeff Okudah, Arnette was not a can’t-miss prospect coming out of high school. Arnette also wasn’t a shutdown corner as a junior at Ohio State like Okudah, but an NFL team grabbed him in the first round not only because it liked what it saw from his senior film but no doubt because it had some faith in the quality of Buckeye cornerbacks over the past two or three decades. Everyone likes to talk about lure of getting guys to the league in recruiting, but this may be a real life example of a guy getting the benefit of the doubt because of his school. Not everyone has the tools Okudah has. Arnette may turn out to be a good NFL player, but plenty of other prospects have similar talent and skills. They just didn’t go to a school that has had every starting corner since 2013 drafted, including seven in the first round.
- OK, back to Burrow: On paper, he appears to be exactly what the Bengals need because of his intangibles. Yes, he has the necessary physical talent to play the position. Like Andy Dalton, he lacks a huge arm, but he can make all the throws (and probably a better deep ball). Burrow is also a better athlete than Dalton and better at making plays on the run and when things break down. Beyond that, Burrow exhibits the leadership qualities Dalton lacks. Not only does he remain popular with his former Ohio State teammates, he also went to LSU, became a captain and then led a team that had underachieved for about a decade to the national championship with a certain swagger that comes not from believing you are good but having shown it.
- And that takes us to the coach. Now we are set out find out if Zac Taylor goes down in history as the guy who puts the Bengals in position to win with Joe Burrow or just the guy who put them in position to get Joe Burrow.
- The regular beat writers made a lot of excuses for Taylor in his disastrous first season, but of course if the fire of 2019 leads to fertile fields for the foreseeable future, it might all work out in the end. I have been a big Taylor skeptic since the day he was hired, but I am willing to buy that a lot of things out of his control worked against him last year from getting a late start on evaluating the roster to AJ Green getting hurt. I also don’t think Taylor came close to maximizing what he had or making the best of the situation, but that’s in the past now. Just like players, it is possible for coaches to develop and get better.
- I hate when we create news by prematurely putting someone on the hot seat, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out. There are likely to be bumps in the road because that’s how it goes, the roster has some holes and some of the good players are older, so new holes will be opening up sooner or later even as others a filled. A strength is never far from being a weakness in the NFL. Also the coach may not know what he’s doing. When teams lose, you have to look at all possible reasons why, and when the coach has a very thin resume, that’s hard to overlook.
- Of course Taylor’s job was safe in January because Mike Brown is not the type to fire a coach after one year whether he deserves it or not. Unless they win only two or fewer games again, let’s assume Taylor will be back in 2021 as well. Then things could get interesting because they’ll be almost halfway through Burrow’s rookie contract, meaning they need to make sure he has a reason to want to stay in Cincinnati, and the window to win before his salary balloons and wipes out what could be spent one two or more good starters will be close to closing.
“Marcus Musings” is a semi-regular feature here at the blog. While most of our other coverage is concentrated on news and analysis, this is a place to share opinions on various stories permeating the sports world and (hopefully) have some fun. Have your own thoughts? Send them along to email@example.com or find us on Twitter or Facebook.
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