Joe Burrow threw for 5,761 yards and 60 touchdowns in his unforgettable 2019 for the LSU Tigers. Here are some NFL comparisons for him ahead of the draft.
We just saw the greatest single-season out of a college football quarterback in 150 years of the sport.
What Joe Burrow did with the 2019 LSU Tigers is stuff we’ll tell our grandkids about many, many years from now. He went 15-0 as a starter, won the Heisman Trophy, led his team to a national championship, throwing for 5,761 yards and 60 touchdowns in the process.
Since Burrow has exhausted all of his collegiate eligibility, he is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. Burrow has the chance to be the franchise’s greatest signal-caller, a team that has employed two NFL MVPs in Ken Anderson and Boomer Esiason, as well as another No. 1 overall pick and fellow Heisman Trophy winner in Carson Palmer.
We know that Burrow was playing essentially four-dimensional chess in Steve Ensminger and Joe Brady’s LSU offense. Was he surrounded by a ton of elite players at the skill positions, such as Biletnikoff winner Ja’Marr Chase and the shifty tailback we all love named Clyde Edwards-Helaire? Yes, Burrow had elite talent around him, but he was the catalyst that brought out the best in them.
With his chapter as the adopted Ohioan son of the Bayou Bengals, Burrow is about to embark on a new football journey, returning to his native state to do the improbable: Make the Bengals a force to be reckoned with in the AFC.
Let’s take a few minutes and give a few high-end comparisons for what the Bengals are getting in Burrow.
There is so much to like. He has great size at 6-foot-4 and 216 pounds. He has a powerful enough of an arm to cut through harsh winds of AFC North cities. Burrow is more accurate than Baker Mayfield was coming out of Oklahoma in 2018. He’s an incredibly tough player, physically and mentally. He has all the intangibles you’ll want out of franchise quarterback.
There are a few NFL quarterbacks he reminds us of right away. The former high school basketball star plays the quarterback position like a backcourt player, always looking to find the open man and unafraid to attack the paint with his legs if he needs to make a play alone for his team.
In this quarterbacking point-guard vein, he plays like Deshaun Watson, Tony Romo or Derek Carr.
He is a more natural thrower of the football when compared to Carr and Watson, but Burrow isn’t afraid to make plays in the backfield with his legs and throw from weird angles. Burrow’s footwork is impeccable and a huge reason why he’ll have great success in this league. If he uses play-action as Romo did in his prime, look out.
Burrow also has a bit of a gamer quality that made Watson’s college coach Dabo Swinney compare him to Michael Jordan. You never feel you’re out of a game with Burrow. His ability to both play on-script as well as improvise makes him one of the best quarterback prospects in the last 10 years. He’s a more poised Andrew Luck and a less reckless Sam Darnold.
Though the Romo comparison is probably the most spot-on for Burrow, he also has something else that the former Dallas Cowboys star, Watson and Carr don’t have: pin-point accuracy.
And this is where another vein of quarterbacking prototypes come into play.
From a precision standpoint, his deep ball has the touch and grace of Jared Goff. In terms of short-to-medium throws, we’re looking at Matt Ryan. Burrow is a better all-around prospect than Goff was coming out of Cal in 2016. He is a more athletic version of Ryan but plays the position with the same level of toughness that has made Ryan an Atlanta institution.
So we’ve got a relatively mobile point guard at quarterback with the accuracy of a traditional pocket guy. In short, Burrow has all the talent and necessary character traits to be a 10-year starter who can win a bunch of games.
Additionally, Burrow appears to have the ability to throw a team on his back. There are maybe only four or five signal-callers who have this trait in the league at any given time. Entering 2020, those quarterbacks include Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes, as well as stars like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.
This is the separating factor for Burrow as a prospect. He can be a franchise’s tractor instead of a trailer.
Ultimately, Burrow may need a year or two to find his footing playing for Zac Taylor in Cincinnati. He will be going to the worst team in the league, a team that went 2-14 in Taylor’s first year on the job. Cincinnati has more talent than being a two-win team, but it would be a complete shock if he had the 2020 Bengals vying for a playoff spot as a first-year starter.
Still, we might be looking at the other challenger to Mahomes in the AFC for the next decade. Of course, Burrow will have to overcome the inherent organizational dysfunction that has plagued the Bengals since Paul Brown died.
However, if Burrow can make LSU of all places the greatest passing attack of all time, we might be in line for the Ohio River Offense, volume three.