The greatest single season in modern college football history belongs to LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, the expected No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The 23-year-old set FBS records with 6,040 yards from scrimmage and 60 passing touchdowns. Not bad for a guy who originally enrolled at Ohio State, left after a hand injury (and was thus unable to start ahead of Dwayne Haskins) and had an unimpressive 2018 season in his first year at LSU. Thanks to a change in offensive philosophy and a stellar supporting cast, Burrow shined. He's expected to be the first pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, and a prominent passer for Fantasy managers to consider for a long time.
Numbers to Know
Height: 6-3 1/2
Weight: 221 pounds
Hand: 9 inches
2019: 15 games, 76.3% passes completed, 5,671 yards, 60 TDs, 6 INT; 115 rushes, 368 rush yards, 5 rush TDs
In seven games against top-10 ranked teams, Burrow completed 75.2% of his passes for an average of 397.6 yards and nearly four scores. He threw two interceptions in those games. Burrow also ran for three of his five 2019 touchdowns in those games.
Career: 38 games, 68.8% passes completed, 8,852 yards, 78 TDs, 11 INT; 258 rushes, 820 rush yards, 13 rush TDs
Before 2019, Burrow started just 13 games (all at LSU) and had multiple passing touchdowns in just five, though three came to end the 2018 season.
Known Injury History
- Broken bone in throwing hand, August 2017
- Torn rib cartilage, January 2020
Burrow has nearly all the characteristics desired to be a great NFL quarterback. His throwing motion and footwork are NFL-ready, helping him effortlessly and accurately place balls for his receivers all over the field. He does an excellent job avoiding the pass rush when he can while keeping his eyes downfield, but he's even better at realizing that it's coming and adjusting to it before the snap. He throws with good velocity and can add the perfect amount of touch when needed.
Burrow is very good at reading defenses and understanding coverages. Better yet, he doesn't always take the easy, short-area pass and will dare and devastate defenses with tight-window throws. He also plays with poise and is rarely bothered by pass rush pressure, often making dime tosses with defenders around him and/or about to hit him. He's an accurate passer when on the run and an effective rusher when a play breaks down. In fact, Burrow ran out of the zone-read from time to time, adding another way for him to rack up stats.
As good as Burrow played, there were many special plays by his speedy receivers, namely 2019 Biletnikoff Award winner Ja'Marr Chase and 111-catch phenom Justin Jefferson. Burrow also threw from plenty of clean pockets thanks to his award-winning offensive line. Can Burrow thrive without a strong offensive line and play-making receivers?
Burrow also had just three completions that traveled 40-plus yards in the air according to Sports Info Solutions (25th in the country), and none over 50 yards. Per Sports Info Solutions, Burrow attempted only six passes that traveled 40-plus yards in the air, ranking 48th in the nation. Does that mean he doesn't have a cannon, and if he doesn't, will it help opponents defend him?
There were occasions where Burrow locked on a receiver and held on to the ball too long, and his greedy nature to pass on checkdowns didn't lead to much trouble in college but could in the pros. Might he frustrate his coaches with these tendencies? Could Burrow get frustrated if a coach insists on Burrow taking the simple way out?
Ryan Wilson's Take
No. 1 QB
There isn't much to say at this point. Burrow was special this season, from start to finish, and he was the best player in college football. He rightfully won the Heisman Trophy, and he'll rightfully be the first player selected in April unless the Bengals somehow find a way to mess it up.
The biggest question facing Burrow is where was this production prior to 2019? It's a fair question, but some players take longer to grow into their games than others. And there's no shame in losing a quarterback battle to Dwayne Haskins, which is what happened to Burrow in the spring of 2018, and it was why he left Ohio State for LSU. His first season at LSU was ... fine; he completed 57.8 percent of his throws with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. There was no talk about him leaving for the NFL after his junior season because he likely would have gone undrafted. So Burrow returned, and along with the addition of passing-game coordinator Joe Brady, blossomed into a franchise quarterback.
Burrow does not have the same type of arm strength as Aaron Rodgers, but once it's clear he's in a good situation with proper pass protection and good weapons around him, he could match the numbers Rodgers had from 2009-12, averaging 4,300 passing yards and 35 touchdowns with another 300 yards and four rushing scores per year. If Burrow doesn't quite get the help he needs, he could still flourish like Carson Wentz has when he's played the past two seasons (a 4,200-yard, 28-touchdown pace).
Favorite Fantasy Fits
There's chatter Burrow doesn't want to play in Cincinnati, but that is still the most likely destination, and Zac Taylor's West Coast offense should cater nicely to Burrow's skill set. Paired with a receiving corps including A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd and John Ross, he could find himself flirting with over 4,000 yards and 26 touchdowns as a rookie. We just hope their offensive line finishes their rebuild sooner than later.
If there is one magical spot for Burrow within the top 10 in the long run, it's Carolina. Not only do the Panthers have a bunch of speedy YAC receivers for Burrow to make numbers with, but his ex-playcaller, Joe Brady, is in charge of the offense. Burrow probably wouldn't start over Teddy Bridgewater from Day One, but it probably gives him the most upside.
Fantasy Bottom Line
Burrow has the immense potential to be a top-10 Fantasy quarterback annually. Expect him to be a first-round pick in rookie-only drafts and a mid-to-late choice in dynasty league startups. He also figures to be in the mix in the final two or three rounds in seasonal formats as a blue-chip sleeper.