The Cincinnati Bengals are 1-3 and Joe Burrow continues to play through injury in an effort to save the season.
But if it all goes south and they end up picking in the top 10 of the 2024 draft (something they do in the current draft order and odds like their chances to do), might they benefit greatly in the long-term from a bad season?
Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr examined this idea about the Bengals recently, pointing out that bad seasons for a team like the 49ers led to getting in a position to draft Nick Bosa (and Micah Parsons, but they went a different route, whoops):
While imperfect, my case study would be the 49ers, who traded for Jimmy Garoppolo on Oct. 30, 2017, and didn’t play him for a handful of weeks (and perhaps did not plan to play him at all during a clearly lost season with C.J. Beathard at the helm). Garoppolo went undefeated once he hit the lineup and cost the 49ers any number of talented players at the very top of the ’18 draft (Saquon Barkley, Roquan Smith, Denzel Ward, Bradley Chubb), but they still ended up with a top-10 pick and a better than average Band-Aid at the tackle position in Mike McGlinchey. The following year, with the team obviously primed to contend, Garoppolo tore his ACL. San Francisco bottomed out with a really good roster, drafted Nick Bosa and made the Super Bowl the following year.
Orr does go on to note that a bad season and high draft pick could mean, for example, not having to pay a massive extension to Tee Higgins, instead drafting a top-10 wideout. Or an offensive tackle, creating Chase vs. Sewell Part 2.
This is thinking a little too far in advance, of course, but it becomes a serious consideration if the Bengals fall to 1-4 and even 1-5 before the Week 7 bye and a trade deadline looming.
While a little early, it’s something to keep in the back of the mind if things really go all the way off the rails.