It was inevitable, but now it's official: Joe Burrow is the new quarterback of the Cincinnati Bengals. That's not all he is, however, after going No. 1 overall to kick off the 2020 NFL Draft. By virtue of landing in Cincy, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner has given the Bengals their first true franchise QB since Carson Palmer.
Burrow is replacing a longtime starter in Andy Dalton, who had plenty of highs during a nine-year run under center, including three Pro Bowl nods and four playoff appearances. But Dalton was never a No. 1 prospect, either coming out of college or throughout his time atop the Bengals' QB depth chart. Drafted 35th overall back in 2011, he never once led Cincinnati to a postseason victory and only one time finished with a passer rating of more than 95, mirroring the middle-of-the-road results of the 2010s Bengals.
Burrow, on the other hand? Even in a highly lauded QB class featuring high-upside talent like Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert, he was always the consensus favorite -- a guy who made up for a roller-coaster of a college career with an incredible 2019, featuring off-the-charts accuracy, production and poise. He's just different. There may be questions about how he'll adjust to the NFL now that he's out of LSU's loaded offense, but there are no questions about his upside as both a QB and a leader. All indications are he's got as much moxie as he does football IQ, and that alone makes him a breath of fresh air over the steady, if unspectacular, Dalton.
Carson Palmer lasted eight years with the Bengals after going No. 1 overall in 2003, headlining the Marvin Lewis-led contenders for multiple playoff runs. Only time will tell whether Burrow establishes the same kind of legacy, but already, NFL alumni believe he's capable of righting the ship in Cincy as soon as Year One. CBS Sports contributor Brady Quinn, for one, thinks just Burrow's presence could turn the Bengals from a 2-14 team into a playoff contender.
At the very least, Bengals coach Zac Taylor should be thrilled. He may have joined Cincy with a solid reputation for working under the Los Angeles Rams' Sean McVay who, in turn, found success with a No. 1 pick in Jared Goff at QB. But Burrow is -- and should be -- a far superior prospect in just about every category -- upside, toughness and pocket presence included. He is, without a doubt, the surest and most exciting thing the Bengals have had at the game's most important position in a decade, and that itself is something.