NFL draft: Can Bengals convince Joe Burrow to attend Senior Bowl?

Eric Edholm

In Monday night’s NCAA championship, many eyes will be on the two star quarterbacks — LSU’s Joe Burrow and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence.

The Cincinnati Bengals, of course, will be watching as closely as anyone. They’re the owners of the No. 1 overall selection in the 2020 NFL draft, and the feeling now is that Burrow is the heavy favorite to be their pick in that spot.

The Bengals also have one other advantage in their draft scouting means: They’ll be coaching the Senior Bowl next week, giving them a unique edge in scouting more than 50 players on their South Team roster.

The question now is, will Burrow be there with them?

When the Senior Bowl released its initial list of three quarterbacks for the two teams’ rosters (along with the Detroit Lions), it looked like this:

It’s an intriguing trio. Justin Herbert is going to be a first-round pick. Hurts is a fascinating prospect with as much to gain — or lose — as any prospect next week in Mobile, Ala. Steven Montez is a late-round option with great measurables, a big arm and three years’ worth of tape to dissect.

But there’s no Burrow ... not yet, anyway.

Asking the breakout star to turn around seven days after the title game and play at the Senior Bowl seems like a stretch to us. However, it feels like there’s still a chance it could happen.

Bengals, Senior Bowl still trying to get Joe Burrow

Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy isn’t giving up dreams of having Burrow in Mobile next week. He told Bleacher Report’s “Stick To Football” podcast that “he’s still hoping” Burrow will consider attending.

“People might think I am crazy,” Nagy said, “but I still think there’s a good chance Joe ends up here. We’ll see after Monday.”

Nagy spent time with Burrow at the Manning Passing Academy and SEC Media Days and has talked with Burrow’s father, longtime former Ohio defensive coordinator Jimmy Burrow, about his son. Burrow, Nagy said, was excited about the idea of playing in the Senior Bowl. Of course, everything changed when Burrow won the Heisman Trophy and led LSU to the title game.

But that’s not dissuading Nagy from continuing to try to get the breakout star to attend regardless, despite the short turnaround. And the Bengals are assisting in that effort, it appears.

A Cincinnati Bengals fan wears a modified "Joe Burrow" jersey before the game against the Cleveland Browns on December 29. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
A Cincinnati Bengals fan wears a modified "Joe Burrow" jersey before the game against the Cleveland Browns on December 29. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Bengals head coach Zac Taylor has reached out to the Burrow family to help recruit him, and there’s a natural tie-in there. Taylor was the starting QB at Nebraska, where Burrow’s two older brothers played in college. (Burrow also reportedly wanted to attend Nebraska, but the interest apparently wasn’t that strong on the Huskers’ end. Ouch.)

The Bengals also have a former LSU assistant on staff who coached Burrow in 2018. Brad Kragthorpe was an offensive assistant for the Tigers last season (after playing quarterback there in 2016 and 2017) and spent last season on Taylor’s staff as an offensive assistant.

Jimmy Burrow also has ties to the program indirectly, as he worked under former Nebraska head coach Frank Solich for 15 years at Ohio. Could this slew of personal ties help make the difference?

“They just want to get Joe here and spend the week with him to get to know him,” Nagy said, adding that the Bengals also want Burrow to get a feel for them and their organization.

Perhaps there’s a compromise if Burrow is too burned out from the elongated season. In the past, some players — and even quarterbacks — have attended a few days of the Senior Bowl but not played. Burrow easily could cite an injury as the reason for not competing and not have it held against him.

Surely, the Bengals would rather have Burrow engineering their offense and throwing passes in practice. But it sounds like they’ll take whatever they can get. It’s a long process, but this is a crucial stage.

The dream of Burrow and the Senior Bowl might not be dead yet. The next few days will be fascinating.

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