The SEC led off the 2020 NFL draft with its most productive quarterback in recent memory. It finished the night with a record 15 first-round picks.
Cincinnati selected LSU signal caller Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick, bringing the Heisman winner home to his native Ohio. Burrow was the shoo-in top choice throughout the draft process, coming off an unprecedented season and perfectly suiting the Bengals’ need for a new franchise face.
Nine of the first 15 players drafted played in the SEC.
In Cincinnati, Burrow will work with coach Zac Taylor, a Sean McVay protege, and operate an offense that includes receivers A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd and John Ross, along with running backs Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard.
Burrow’s 2019 season was one of the most prolific in college football history. He completed 76% of his passes for 5,671 yards, 60 touchdowns and only six interceptions. The Tigers went 15-0 and won the national championship.
The 23-year-old spent two seasons quarterbacking LSU after transferring from Ohio State, where he lost a competition with 2019 first-rounder Dwayne Haskins. Burrow exploded last season under the tutelage of passing game coordinator Joe Brady, who’s now the Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator.
Burrow is the first SEC player to go No. 1 since Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett in 2017. He’s the third quarterback in a row to be taken first, joining Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield in the past two drafts.
Burrow is the seventh SEC prospect to go first in the past 20 years, preceded by defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina, 2014), quarterback Cam Newton (Auburn, 2011), quarterback Matthew Stafford (Georgia, 2009), quarterback JaMarcus Russell (LSU, 2007) and quarterback Eli Manning (2004, Ole Miss).
The rest of the night for SEC and ACC prospects:
- The Giants selected Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas fourth overall. Thomas, who played right and left tackle at UGA, is an investment to protect second-year quarterback Daniel Jones. New York has longed for an offensive line upgrade, and it took the pass protector it deemed the class's best.
Thomas was one of the consensus top four tackles. He’s considered a higher floor, safer pick who should be a reliable starter from day 1.
- Celebrated Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa went fifth overall to Miami, the franchise he’d been connected to for the past year. Tagovailoa is tasked with becoming the answer at quarterback the Dolphins have desired since Dan Marino.
Tagovailoa has medical concerns, but he reportedly passed his physical with the Dolphins. Miami is banking the future of its franchise on Alabama’s title-winning quarterback.
- Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown went to Carolina with the seventh pick. Brown is a monstrous presence who’ll anchor the Panthers’ interior line.
- The Cardinals took Clemson do-it-all defender Isaiah Simmons. The athletic linebacker defines versatility. He gives the Cardinals, who had the league’s worst defense, a legitimate building block.
- Florida cornerback CJ Henderson landed with nearby Jacksonville. He’ll replace Jalen Ramsey, who was traded away last season, and immediately upgrades the Jaguars’ secondary.
Henderson is an excellent athlete who’s lauded for his coverage skills. The Falcons were reportedly high on Henderson, exploring a trade up for him.
- The Browns took Alabama right tackle Jedrick Wills. Wills, considered by some to be the best pass blocker in the class, pairs with free agent acquisition Jack Conklin to give the Browns a formidable tackle duo.
- Mekhi Becton, the behemoth tackle from Louisville, landed with the Jets at the 11th pick. The Jets had been searching for protection for young franchise quarterback Sam Darnold. Becton is a physical specimen, listed at 6-foot-7, 364 pounds.
- Alabama speedster Henry Ruggs III landed with the Raiders. The first selection in Vegas history gave Jon Gruden his version of Tyreek Hill. Ruggs, who ran a 4.27, is also an electric returner.
- San Francisco chose South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw with the 14th pick, continuing its emphasis on the trenches. The 49ers acquired the pick from Indianapolis for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. Kinlaw is a cheaper, younger replacement.
- Denver took Alabama receiver Jerry Jeudy at 15, bringing the SEC’s total to nine players in the first 15 picks. Jeudy gives former Missouri quarterback Drew Lock another target. His selection meant the Crimson Tide produced the first two receivers taken in the draft.
- The Falcons snagged Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell with their pick (16). Terrell is a longer, press corner who can help against the pass-heavy NFC South.
- Jacksonville went back to the SEC with its second first-round pick, 20th overall, taking LSU edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson. An explosive athlete, Chaisson has the potential to blossom into an elite pass rusher.
- The Vikings, who dealt away receiver Stefon Diggs, took LSU’s Justin Jefferson at 22. Burrow’s favorite target had 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns for the Tigers last season.
- Baltimore had potentially the steal of the night at pick 28. It took LSU linebacker Patrick Queen, who slots right into a defense that’s competing for a Super Bowl.
- Georgia had a second tackle go in the first round when Isaiah Wilson went to Tennessee at 29. Wilson was the Bulldogs’ right tackle and replaces Conklin, who left in free agency.
- Miami surprised with its third selection of the night, taking cornerback Noah Igbinoghene from Auburn. He joins Xavien Howard and Byron Jones in the Dolphins’ talent-laden secondary.
- Kansas City ended the first round by taking LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The small, shifty back is an ideal fit for Andy Reid’s offense. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes has a new weapon.