In this most unique of drafts, filled with technological concerns and even uncertainty when real football might return, there was one constant Thursday night: Joe Burrow.
For months, the national champion quarterback from LSU was linked with the Bengals. Cincinnati began the draft by sending the name of the Heisman Trophy winner to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in the basement of his home.
This digital/remote/virtual draft — take your choice — was up and running.
No fireworks on the Las Vegas Strip. No bear hug between Goodell and Burrow; the commissioner said he would miss those, even if his body won't. The most basic of selection meetings, organized in this manner due to the coronavirus pandemic, has team personnel making picks from their homes. And players learning their future employers in their homes.
The NFL canceled all draft activities in Las Vegas when the national shutdown of large gatherings began. The league had gone full-bore into free agency last month and, now, seven rounds of the draft through Saturday.
“I do believe this draft is going to be the most memorable we have ever had,” said Goodell, noting that it is accompanied by a “Draft-A-Thon” to benefit six organizations on the front lines battling the pandemic.
“I just believe that our job is to continue on and operate within whatever guidelines are necessary to keep our personnel safe, whether it’s players or coaches or their executives or league personnel. We need to make sure that we’re doing things safely and put public safety No. 1, but we also need to carry on. We need to move toward the future. We need to make sure that we’re prepared when we come out of this to be in a position to start our season on time and play our season. That’s our role.”
Normalcy, at least among the picks, was the order of the early evening, though.
First came Burrow: In his spectacular senior season, he threw for 60 — yes, 60 — touchdowns with only six interceptions. The Tigers beat six top 10 teams on their way to the national title.
“To jump up to No. 1 overall is crazy to me,” Burrow said. “But it's a dream come true. I wasn't very good my junior year. I worked really hard to get better, my guys worked really hard to get better, and we jelled as a team.”
The second overall selection, Ohio State All-America edge rusher Chase Young, also was predictable. Washington fielded several offers for that spot, but many scouts and personnel executives felt Young was the best player in this crop.
At 6-foot-5, 264 pounds, Young led the nation with 16 1/2 sacks and forced fumbles with six last season. The All-American won the prestigious Bednarik and Nagurski awards in 2019, leading the Buckeyes to the Big Ten title.
He joins a Redskins team that went 3-13 and allowed 435 points.