Bengals choose Burrow with first pick in ‘virtual’ NFL draft

Joe Burrow, who had a season for the ages in 2019 and was the overwhelming favorite to go No. 1, was snapped up by the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL’s first ever “virtual draft” on Thursday.

Burrow was the massive odds-on favorite to go first overall after coming off a historic campaign at Louisiana State University where he won the national championship, the Heisman Trophy as the top US college player, and led the Tigers to a 15-0 record.

Joe Burrow of LSU [photo credit: Tammy Anthony Baker | WIkimedia Commons]
Joe Burrow of LSU [photo credit: Tammy Anthony Baker | WIkimedia Commons]

“To jump to No. 1 is crazy to me but it is a dream come true,” Burrow said from his parents’ Ohio home. “I wasn’t very good my junior year but I worked really hard to get better.”

The Bengals took Burrow with the first pick of the draft which was held remotely as the NFL’s 32 GMs were forced to make their selections from scattered locations across the US. A planned Las Vegas gala had to be scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor described Burrow, who threw 60 touchdown passes last season, as the “complete package”.

“There’s a lot of things tangibly and intangibly that he brings to the table. You see it with your own eyes: ability, leadership. He’s the total package,” Taylor said.

Bengals went 2-14 last season and haven’t won a playoff game in three decades so there was no chance they were going to pass on a potential franchise quarterback like Burrow.

The Washington Redskins made Ohio State University defensive end Chase Young the second pick in the draft, the annual selection of the cream of collegiate players that helps teams in America’s most popular sport replenish their talent pools.

American colleges are the biggest supplier of players to the NFL.

Young joins a Redskins defensive line that already includes four first-round picks.

Young’s teammate Jeff Okudah went third to the Detroit Lions, who filled a huge need by choosing the cornerback from Ohio State.

The Lions were hoping to get Okudah after trading cornerback Darius Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles last month.

The fourth pick saw Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas go to the New York Giants. The Miami Dolphins rounded out the top five by using the first of their three first-round picks to select Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

This year’s draft was in uncharted territory with lockdown restrictions in place across the country due to the new coronavirus outbreak.

Instead of being able to conduct face-to-face interviews between players and teams, NFL scouts conducted interviews with prospects via video call platforms such as FaceTime and Zoom.

The televised draft began with a moment of silence for those who lost their lives and others who made sacrifices due to the pandemic. (AFP)