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Five months ago, it would've seemingly taken a miracle for Joe Burrow to be picked No. 1 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. Now, with five months left until the draft, it'd be a surprise if he wasn't.
A lot has changed for the LSU quarterback, who's now the overwhelming favorite at 1-3 to be the first player taken in April. Burrow is also the runaway favorite to win the Heisman Trophy amid a 3,687-yard, 38-touchdown campaign with a record-breaking 78.6% completion percentage.
Just a few weeks ago, the favorite to go No. 1 was still Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, whose sensational feel and awareness had teams drooling at his potential in the modern NFL. His injury Saturday complicates matters - he's off the board as a candidate for the top pick, opening up a clear path for Burrow as the premier quarterback in this class.
Burrow's draft fate could be linked to the success of the quarterback-needy Cincinnati Bengals, who have a one-game "lead" for the No. 1 selection thanks to an 0-10 start. They play the Dolphins (2-8) in Week 16 in a matchup that could decide which team has the inside track for the top pick.
If it's not one of those two clubs picking first, Burrow's chances of going No. 1 take a legitimate hit. The Redskins (1-9) and Giants (2-8) both drafted quarterbacks in the first 15 picks of last year's draft, while the Broncos (3-7) and Buccaneers (3-7) have likely won too many games for contention.
Should Washington or New York sneak into the top spot, Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young is an attractive option for those defensively-challenged squads. The fringe Heisman contender is on pace for the best grade in PFF history, NFL or college, and he's considered by many as the best pure talent in the draft.
The pick could also be Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas, who's flirted with the top spot in mock drafts dating back to the preseason. He's 5-1 to go No. 1, which might be too short considering the likelihood of the Bengals - or another quarterback-needy team that trades up - targeting Burrow with the top selection.
Since 1997, the top pick has only been a quarterback (15 times), edge rusher (four), or offensive tackle (three). The last tackle selected No. 1 overall was Eric Fisher in 2013.
For what seemed like an eternity, the likely choice for the No. 1 pick had been Tagovailoa, whom teams had targeted - and tanked for - ever since he rocketed the game-winning pass in the 2017 national title game.
Then came his devastating hip injury Saturday, which knocked him out for the year and put his career in jeopardy. He's expected to make a full recovery, though teams will likely need to see some evidence of Tagovailoa at full strength before investing a top-20 pick in him.
If a second-round slide is in the cards, Tagovailoa may be better served to return for another year at Alabama. He's 3-1 to play for the Crimson Tide in Week 1 and 1-5 not to, which could also be impacted by his recovery timeline even if he does opt to return.
Should Tagovailoa enter the draft, his slide could be impacted by a strong quarterback class. Burrow is the obvious top prospect, though Justin Herbert has been a worthy contender for nearly two years, and Jordan Love has a tantalizing NFL skill set, as long as he can curtail his poor decisions.
The over/under for quarterbacks drafted ahead of Tagovailoa is 2.5, with the under juiced at -135.
|Cincinnati Bengals||5-8 (-160)|
|New York Giants||17-4 (+425)|
If you're hesitant to lay 1-3 odds on Burrow at No. 1, you could roll the dice at a cheaper price on the Bengals, who are sure to take Burrow if they snag the top spot. Still, Washington is right on their heels and looks just as bad, if not worse, this season. The Giants and the Dolphins aren't worth the short odds, having already won two games with just six weeks to go.
The tricky thing with these odds is that they're for which team picks first, not necessarily which club earns the top selection. If the Redskins secure the pick but don't want to draft Burrow, they could easily trade back, rendering a short-odds bet on Washington irrelevant. That means banking on the player, not the team, might be a better investment for draft bettors.
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.