Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Burrow sat out Combine drills. If there was one (small) knock against him, it's that he measured with well below-average hand size (9 inches).
Burrow began his college career at Ohio State. He played behind dual-threat QB J.T. Barrett for 2 seasons before transferring to LSU.
Earning the starting nod in 2018, Burrow posted unspectacular totals. He completed under 58% of his passes, averaged only 7.6 YPA and hit 300 yards just once all year.
Then the fall of 2019 arrived, and with it, a complete 180 in Burrow’s game.
Surrounding talent certainly helped — and it starts with the coaching staff. Passing game coordinator Joe Brady joined the Tigers after serving as an assistant under Sean Payton. He’s credited with implementing the quick-hit, spread offense that helped Burrow find open targets.
On the field, WRs Justin Jefferson (a potential Round 1 pick) and Ja’Marr Chase (a future high pick) consistently delivered. Transfer TE Thaddeus Moss — another 2020 draft pick — also arrived.
Mix in versatile RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and Burrow was clearly poised for success.
Greatest-of-all-time level success.
Facing a schedule that included 7 top-10 opponents, Burrow fired off the most passing TDs in CFB history (60). His 5,671 yards were the 3rd most all-time. He really showed up when it counted, going for 349-4 vs. Georgia (SEC Championship), 493-7 vs. Oklahoma (CFB Playoff) and 463-5 vs. Clemson (National Championship).
Burrow went without an INT in his last 5 games. On the year, LSU led the nation in points per game (48.4).
Advanced numbers from Pro Football Focus further highlight Burrow's stunning season. His adjusted completion rate of 81.9% led all D-1 qualifiers. He also led that group in deep passing yards (1,711) and deep passing grade (99.3).
As we'll see in the next section, Burrow makes plays all over the field.
Games watched: Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Utah State
I'll start with this: Burrow was an absolute joy to watch. He plays the game like a 10-year vet and doesn't let pressure -- either big moments, or big defenders -- cause trouble. He's accurate and smart with the football. Amazingly, he tossed only 6 INTs on 527 attempts in 2019. (From the games I watched, at least 2 of the picks weren't his fault).
Now, I could have scattered 20-30 jaw-dropping plays in this space, but let's focus on a few that really highlight his strengths.
While Burrow doesn't have a Mahomes-like cannon -- few do -- he has enough zip to make all of the throws. Here we see a combo of touch and timing as he floats a downfield ball in between two DBs.
Here's some zip on a ball over the middle on 3rd and long. Burrow converts despite heavy traffic in the pocket.
This time there's a clean pocket for Burrow, but now we see him attack deep and outside the numbers. On a ball traveling ~40 air yards, he hits his WR perfectly in stride -- and at his outside shoulder.
Burrow likely could have run for a first down on the play below. Instead, he keeps his eyes downfield and throws a strike while on the run. His crafty movement in the pocket routinely shows up on tape. It's no surprise he earned a strong grade from PFF vs. pressure (80.5).
Here's another Houdini act that displays Burrow's mobility and off-script ability. The Tony Romo comparisons you might have seen are justified.
Burrow won't be confused for Russell Wilson, but he has enough juice to at least add some rushing output in fantasy. He notched 7 rushing scores in 2018; 5 in 2019.
You can poke holes in any prospect’s game. As noted, Burrow’s hands are small for a QB. He doesn’t have elite arm strength and received a ton of help from LSU’s scheme and supporting cast.
There’s just nothing overly concerning here. Burrow’s smarts, accuracy and decision-making should fit nicely in any scheme. And there aren't any red flags from an injury or character standpoint.
Likely the top pick to Cincinnati, Burrow will work with some solid pieces. Joe Mixon is one of the league’s best young RBs. A.J. Green’s future in Cincy is unsettled, but Tyler Boyd provides a dependable target. Speedster John Ross is the wild card.
The Bengals could add help -- perhaps along the O-line -- with the 33rd overall pick.
One interesting side note: OC Brian Callahan brings a wealth of experience having coached Peyton Manning, Matt Stafford and Derek Carr. We’ll see how close HC Zac Taylor’s offense looks to the 2019 Tigers.
Either way, Burrow has the tools to stick as a long-term QB1.