The 2020 season is just across the horizon (fingers crossed), and that means fantasy football will also be starting up soon. There are a number of things fantasy players wonder at the beginning of each season, but one of the biggest is deciding which sleepers they should look out for.
One position many may overlook is quarterback. This may only be important for two quarterback leagues, but you may need at least a plug-and-play guy for a bye week. That popular waiver wire pick could be Joe Burrow according to one analyst.
Cynthia Frelund of NFL.com recently ranked the top three rookie quarterbacks based on projections for 2020, and unsurprisingly, Burrow topped the list. One of the biggest reasons is how well he handled pressure at LSU last season.
The Bengals’ offensive line flags as an area of concern when it comes to projecting production from the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Jonah Williams’ return from the shoulder injury that cost him his entire rookie season certainly helps at the left tackle position, but my model projects a lot of pressure coming for Burrow. Fortunately, last season at LSU, Burrow was spectacularly effective under pressure, throwing 17 touchdown passes against just one interception while completing 66.4 percent of passes at 11.4 yards per attempt (numbers that all ranked first in FBS, per Pro Football Focus). For context, Andy Dalton had an 82.3 passer rating when he wasn’t under pressure in 2019 (the lowest figure in NFL among qualified QBs, according to Next Gen Stats).
That is a very telling stat. Part of that is how well he escapes the pocket and throws on the run. Those are two things that Andy Dalton didn’t always do well. He would often look to run after leaving the pocket, but Burrows patience and ability to look downfield will allow wide receivers to work to the open field for big plays. (That is good for fantasy in case you were curious).
Frelund also notes one big thing working against Burrow next year will be his chemistry with his receivers. With COVID-19 now eliminating players abilities of getting together for private workouts before training camp, Burrow and the Bengals’ offense will seriously be behind the eight ball. She does note one thing that Cincinnati could do to help get the rookie going this season.
Tight-window passes, which rely on a QB’s trust with his receiver, were a source of strength for Burrow last year, as he threw 16 TD strikes on such passes with a 47.6 completion percentage at 8.8 yards per attempt (figures that also all topped the FBS, per PFF). It’s probable that play-action will be a staple of the Bengals’ offense in 2020, both due to their personnel (RB Joe Mixon’s efficiency makes him a constant ground threat) and because of Burrow’s resume. The 2019 Heisman Trophy winner had a 150.3 passer rating off play-action last season (highest in FBS, min. 100 play-action dropbacks, per PFF) and a 74.1 completion percentage.
Those who (understandably) dipped out on watching the second half of the Bengals season may scoff at the idea of running play action, because the running game was so bad. However, the second half of the season saw Joe Mixon hit a switch, and he was consistently making people miss in the backfield. We also saw the offensive line play on an average level, which made a world of difference. You also don’t even need to setup the run for play action to be effective anyway.
The big question is how does Burrow rank among the rest of the quarterbacks in the NFL, and if you should think about drafting Burrow in your league. The answer is pretty simply, no.
Unsurprisingly, Burrow has the highest snap-count projection for any rookie quarterback, helping him claim the top spot on this list. Right now, Burrow is the No. 17 overall QB in my model. He should be on your fantasy radar for spot starts (think: Week 4 against the Jaguars or Week 13 at the Dolphins).
Outside of two-quarterback leagues, you probably shouldn’t bank on Burrow carrying your fantasy team throughout the season. The quarterback position is just so deep in fantasy. This isn’t to say he will have a bad season, but will he be producing enough to make him fantasy worthy on a consistent basis?
Probably not. He will have his ups and downs all year long. If you do draft him, just make sure he is a backup you store as a possible surprise player and don’t invest too much draft capital into.