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2020 NFL Draft prospect watch: LSU quarterback Joe Burrow

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We take a look at the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner with help from Billy Gomila of SB Nation’s “And the Valley Shook” LSU site.

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The Cincinnati Bengals have a lot of tough decisions to weigh this offseason. They have long been known as a team loyal to many players who are in ownership’s good graces.

One such player who is heading into that enigmatic situation is quarterback Andy Dalton. After setting many single-season and career franchise milestones, it appears as if the veteran’s days are numbered.

Because of this, the team will likely be keeping close tabs on “The Big Three” quarterbacks in this year’s class. At the top of most folks’ list of that grouping is the newly-minted Heisman Trophy winner, Joe Burrow.

On The Orange and Black Insider Bengals podcast, we’ve been conducting a segment wherein we preview incoming prospects providing possible intrigue for the club. This week, we looked into the LSU quarterback with some help of someone within the SB Nation network who has watched all of Burrow’s collegiate games with the Tigers.

Profile

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 216 pounds

Age: 23

Year: Senior (Redshirt)

Hometown: Ames, Iowa

College career passing yards: 7,896 (4,715 in 2019)

College career passing touchdowns: 66 (48 in 2019)

College career interceptions: 11 (6 in 2019)

College career completion percentage: 68.8 (77.9 in 2019)

Career rating: 169.1 (201.5 in 2019)

Background

It’s been a long and interesting road for Burrow in his college career. He had to bide his time at Ohio State with a very crowded quarterback room, only to lose the job to Dwayne Haskins.

Burrow transferred to LSU as a graduate student-athlete and started 13 games for the Tigers in 2018. He threw for a respectable 16 touchdowns against just five interceptions and the hope was that he’d make a leap the following year.

Boy, did he ever.

Burrow won the Heisman Trophy, as he has led the Tigers to the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Playoff bracket. He led the NCAA in touchdown passes, completion percentage and passing yards, while winning the coveted award with record-setting vote margins.

Strengths and weaknesses

For Burrow, the strengths are plentiful. He has shown great growth in 2019, building upon a strong finish to his redshirt junior year and is known to have a high football IQ.

He is masterful at navigating within the pocket and creating plays while avoiding pressure. This is a must-have trait for NFL signal-callers, as frequently-clean pockets are not the norm at the pro level.

He’s also incredibly accurate, as evidenced by his insanely high completion percentage. The accuracy is also seen at all depths of passing, which is an indicator of an elite prospect.

When we spoke with Billy Gomila of “And the Valley Shook”—SB Nation’s LSU blog—he constantly harkened back to Burrow’s ability to create and be accurate while on the move. Gomila also chatted about the touch Burrow has—even on the deep ball. If we’re pointing to Burrow potentially being Cincinnati’s guy next year, these are abilities he’ll need to bring with him behind a patchwork offensive line.

All of this and he’s also seen as a leader in that Tigers locker room. If you want an “Alpha Male” as your franchise quarterback, Burrow seems to bring that swagger.

The one notable weakness in Burrow’s repertoire is in his arm strength. It’s good and well above average, but it isn’t in the Aaron Rodgers/Patrick Mahomes elite level. That might not be a must as a pro, but he may find that some of the plays he has made at the college wind up being much more contested at the next level.

Questions and comparisons

The arm strength and consistent ability to stretch the field is one of the concerns with Burrow as an NFL prospect. He’ll need to channel what Peyton Manning did as a pro and master the art of “throwing guys open”, “hitting spots” and misguiding roaming defensive backs with his eyes.

While he had a good stretch at the end of 2018, the knock of Burrow being a “one-year wonder”, of sorts, could give some teams pause. Was the new system the cause for the statistical explosion, or can Burrow be as scheme-diverse as is perceived with Oregon’s Justin Herbert?

The other questions with Burrow surround his pro floor and ceiling. A recent claim by ESPN draft guru Todd McShay, wherein some scouts he has talked to supposedly see Andy Dalton in Burrow, opened some Bengals’ fans eyes. In truth, a Dalton-ish level is probably where Burrows floor sits, but how high is his ceiling? Has he become close to peaking as a somewhat-older prospect entering the draft?

In terms of a comparison, some have used the EaglesCarson Wentz as an example, but Gomila disagreed with that notion. Wentz was seen as more of an athlete playing quarterback, in some ways, whereas Burrow is the vice-versa.

Gomila liked the thought of a taller Drew Brees or Tony Romo as pro comps. Some see the second coming of Ken Anderson in the young man. Obviously, those examples would be on the “ceiling” side of the pendulum.

Our thanks to Billy Gomila of SB Nation’s “And the Valley Shook” for giving us some great insight on Burrow. Check out their site throughout the NCAA playoffs for information on the Tigers.

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