Joe Burrow was an afterthought to the college football world in 2017. The quarterback was playing backup on a talented Ohio State Buckeyes team, and had no real path forward to success. He decided to enter the transfer portal and ended up down in Baton Rouge to play for the LSU Tigers.
The match with LSU seemed perfect. The Tigers were a sleeping giant, a once-proud program who had fallen deep into the shadow of their two divisional rivals from Alabama. A program that needed to find an unexpected spark from somewhere to return to the time of years past.
Burrow needed a place where he could shine, and the Tigers needed a way to steal a potential Heisman contender away from under the nose of their many recruiting rivals.
The quarterback ended up leading what is considered by some to be the greatest ever college football team to an SEC title, national championship and one of the most dominant College Football Playoff appearances we have seen yet. Burrow picked up a Heisman trophy for himself on the way, too.
In just two years Burrow has gone from a nobody to potential top pick in the NFL Draft. Is he worth the hype, though?
Burrow was, by far, the best quarterback in college football in 2019, possible the best college football quarterback of all time. His 60 touchdown passes is the highest total ever recorded, and was 16 more than the 44 by Drew Lock in 2017 that set an SEC record. A 76-percent completion rate feels impossible, and getting there while also averaging 11 yards per attempt should not be in the realm of possibility.
Much of his efficiency comes from his incredible deep ball prowess. Burrow is the best deep ball passing prospect I have ever studied. He rarely misses open receivers, he does a great job leading his receivers, and he is a great decision maker when going downfield. Burrow is not a gunslinger like that of Josh Allen of Brett Favre, but he is also not afraid to go deep like Alex Smith and Ryan Tannehill. He finds the perfect balance between the two.
He can hit deep balls outside the numbers too. He shows great arm strength by maintaining accuracy, while making throws that even some NFL starters can not make.
Burrow is a great intermediate passer as well. He’s safe with the ball and can put the velocity on passes needed to avoid giving defenders a chance to make a play. His ball placement is great as well.
The quarterback is able to make so many of these plays because of how quickly he is able to get through his reads and find an open receiver. Burrow can scan all his downfield options and make the right choice near instantly. This allows him to find receivers right as they get open or release the ball out to his check down before pass pressure can get to him.
Burrow is a confident passer. He has nerves of steel and is not scared to put himself in a bit of danger if it means making a few plays. He often can find receivers and complete quick passes for decent gains just as defenders are about to get to him.
This allows a team to get away with leaving less blockers in the backfield as they can trust their quarterback to be able to beat a free rusher.
Burrow has great pocket presence as well. He seemingly has eyes in the back of his head and is able to sense pressure just as it approaches him. His decision making under pressure is great as well. He rarely panics. Burrow is athletic enough to dodge around pass rushers and find open scrambling lanes for good pickups on plays that would be dead otherwise.
While he is no Lamar Jackson, Burrow’s ability to make plays with his feet will be a huge boone to whichever team drafts him. It gives defenses yet another thing to think about while playing against a premier arm talent.
Burrow is the best quarterback prospect of this class, and it is not relatively close. The Cincinnati Bengals are almost guaranteed to draft him first overall and with good reason. He is a high-floor, high ceiling player that could anchor their franchise for a generation if things work out.
He is refined enough right now with great football IQ and mechanics that he should be a great player from Year 1. He also has the arm strength, athleticism and play-making ability to only get better from here, giving him potential to find himself among all-time greats when everything is said and done.
There are no guarantees in the NFL Draft, but is hard to see a world where Joe Burrow does not become a star.