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Bengals choose Burrow with first pick in "virtual" NFL draft

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Los Angeles (AFP)

Joe Burrow, who had a season for the ages in 2019 and was the overwhelming favourite to go No. 1, was snapped up by the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL's first ever "virtual draft" on Thursday.

Burrow was the massive odds-on favourite to go first overall after coming off a historic campaign at Louisiana State University where he won the national championship and the Heisman Trophy as the top US college player.

"To jump to No. 1 is crazy to me but it is a dream come true," said Burrow. "I wasn't very good my junior year but I worked really hard to get better."

The Bengals took Burrow with the first pick of the draft which was held remotely as the NFL's 32 GMs were forced to make their selections from scattered locations across the US. A planned Las Vegas gala had to be scrapped due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Bengals went 2-14 last season and there was no chance they were going to pass on a potential franchise quarterback like Burrow.

The Washington Redskins made Ohio State University defensive end Chase Young the second pick in the draft, the annual selection of the cream of collegiate players that helps teams in America's most popular sport replenish their talent pools.

American colleges are the biggest supplier of players to the NFL and the entry draft is the most common player recruitment tool for the league.

Young's teammate Jeff Okudah went third to the Detroit Lions, who filled a huge need by choosing the cornerback from Ohio State.

This year's draft was in uncharted territory with lockdown restrictions in place due to the new coronavirus outbreak.

Instead of being able to conduct face-to-face interviews between players and teams, NFL scouts conducted interviews with prospects via video call platforms such as Facetime and Zoom.

The televised draft began with a moment of silence for those who lost their lives and others who made sacrifices due to the pandemic.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said despite the challenges, he hopes the draft gives sports fans some hope and a platform to heal.

"We all need something to look forward to and come together. These players are going to bring hope to their communities and teams," Goodell said.

The virtual coverage also included a video message from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who said the draft can serve to take people's minds of the pandemic.

"I hope that sooner or later, hopefully sooner, we can get back to some form of normality so we can all enjoy the sport we love," Fauci said.

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