Off-Field Concerns Led to Bengals Landing Elite Wide Receiver

Jermaine Burton

Getty University of Alabama wide receiver Jermaine Burton.

The Cincinnati Bengals may have solved their ongoing wide receiver drama in the 2024 NFL draft.

The Bengals drafted Alabama wide receiver Jermaine Burton in the third round (No. 80 overall), bringing what could be a first-round talent in at third-round prices.

The Bengals’ offseason has been defined somewhat by uncertainty surrounding their wide receivers after Tee Higgins received the franchise tag, which would pay him an estimated $21.8 million in 2024, and promptly requested a trade.

Things got even more confusing when Higgins seemed to rescind the trade request … only to ask for a trade again in the week leading up to the NFL draft.

Burton could help solve all of that in the future and provide a viable WR3 option for the Bengals and quarterback Joe Burrow if he can overcome some significant off-field concerns.

Burton Had Significant Off-Field Incident in 2022

One off-field incident in 2022 had a significant impact on Burton’s draft stock.

After a loss at Tennessee, Burton was caught on video striking a female Tennessee fan as students stormed the field following the game.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban didn’t mince words during ESPN’s coverage of the 2024 NFL draft.

“I really, really like (Burton), but the No. 1 thing that he needs to do — and I think emotional maturity is the best way to say it — is do the right things all the time,” Saban said. “He does the right things on the field. He knows the importance of what he has to do in the field. He wants to be a player. That’s all he thinks about.

“But you’ve got to do the right things in your life all the time so that you can do the best things that you can do on the field and be the best you can do. … When you get emotional, you make bad decisions and lose your brain.”

Burton Showed Flashes of Greatness in College

Burton played his first two seasons at Georgia, where he won a national championship in 2021 and showed flashes of his potential with 26 receptions for 497 yards and 5 touchdowns — a whopping 19.1 yards per reception.

In two seasons after he transferred to Alabama, Burton had 79 receptions for 1,475 yards and 15 touchdowns. Burton led the Crimson Tide with 39 receptions for 798 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2023 — 20.5 yards per reception.

At the NFL combine in February, Burton checked in at 6-foot and 196 pounds and put up elite testing numbers — he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds, had a 38.5-inch vertical jump and broad-jumped 11-feet, 1-inch.

“While the catch totals and yardage weren’t necessarily prolific, Burton’s tape is very appealing,” wrote NFL analyst Lance Zierlein. “He has pretty good size and plays bigger than he measures. He can fight through press, get physical at the break point and carve out space on 50/50 balls. Burton wasn’t asked to run an extended route tree, but he has the traits and ball skills to work all three levels against NFL cornerbacks.

“He caught a touchdown pass every 5.7 grabs during his college career, but he would have scored even more if not for some mistimed throws when he had opened the window wide.”

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