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Joe Burrow

(Josh Auzenne/WAFB-TV)

How Good Is Joe Burrow? It’s Hard To Know

Joe Burrow
How good is Joe Burrow going to be in the NFL? Well, it’s hard to really know. It’s one of the hardest evaluations in the 2020 NFL Draft. (Josh Auzenne/WAFB-TV)

Joe Burrow is going to be the first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. We already know that part. I want to know how good people actually think Joe Burrow is going to be at the NFL level. Everybody seems to have a perception of Burrow that is far from reality. Burrow isn’t the best statistical or efficient. That’s Tua. Burrow doesn’t have the biggest arm. That’s Jacob Eason. Burrow isn’t the best athlete. That’s probably Cole McDonald? So how good is Joe Burrow then? It’s hard to know.

There is no way to sugar coat it. Joe Burrow was a one year wonder at LSU. He was bad in 2018 and off the charts great in 2019. I don’t think we have every seen a jump this massive statistically at this position ever from a Junior to Senior year.

Joe Burrow

How does one go from 57.8 percent to 76.3 percent? How does one go from 16 touchdowns to 60? It’s the same guy but the production is nowhere similar. Circumstances come into play. Offensive line? Wide receivers? How about coaching?

Daniel Jeremiah said this during the combine:

Jeremiah: “He was training an hour from my house with [QB coach] Jordan Palmer. He was out there with Sam Darnold and Josh Allen and Kyle Allen. I went up there and watched him work out, throw. I had a chance to visit with him for 20 minutes. I said, ‘Joe, you’re gonna get asked this question at the combine: Why the unbelievable leap from last year to this year?’

“He said, first of all, he’s a grad transfer. Most grad transfers transfer in the spring. He said, ‘I got to LSU after the freshmen had already reported for full camp.’ So you talk about trying to learn everything in a heartbeat and try to get to know your teammates, and then plug in and be ready to play. That’s the first part of it. Second part, he hadn’t played much football in the previous three years. There was some rust. Okay, this makes sense. And then schematically, and this is the big one, they were in a lot of seven-man protection in that offense last year. Burrow, his greatest gift, and you can see it this year when you watch him, is he has the vision to be able to take a snapshot of the entire field, to see everything, to process, and to throw accurately. Well, when you’re in seven-man protection and you limit the number of guys that can get out on a route, you’re limiting the answers you can give somebody. He was handicapped by them trying to mass-protect him. There’s no room for him to use his athletic ability to take off and go if you want. There’s no room for him to slide around, more around, find windows. It was just a congested brand of football.

“And then, you look at this year. He gets [passing-game coordinator] Joe Brady in there. He becomes a master of the offense. At the beginning of the season, they were in a bunch of six-man protection, which he’s playing really well. And he said eventually Joe Brady said in week three or four, ‘Let’s just go five-man protection. Let’s get everybody out into the route.’ When they did that, [he] completed about 80 percent from that point on.

“His super-power is his ability to see the entire field, to work through progressions, and then throw the ball accurately. So they kind of unlocked that super-power this last year. And the rest is history.”

Listen, a lot of this is good information, but I have an issue with the bottom portion of it.

“His super-power is his ability to see the entire field, to work through progressions, and then throw the ball accurately.”

That doesn’t add up to me. Joe Brady spread the field out because he couldn’t read progressions. There would have been no reason to do so if he were good at it in 2018. Brady spread the field out so there would be more options to throw to. Then it becomes a match up game. Oh, Clyde Edwards-Helaire has a slow linebacker on him? Checkmate. Oh, Ja’Marr Chase has single coverage. Checkmate. Oh, Justin Jefferson has a tiny corner on him. Let me just throw this ball up. Checkmate. The LSU offensive line was also made of world beaters so they only needed 5 man protections.

Don’t sit here and tell me that reading defenses is his super power. They spread the field out because he couldn’t read defenses the year before. They spread the field out to find matchups. Tua Tagovailoa has had 3 different offensive coordinators in 3 years. Never once struggled. Joe Burrow gets a smart offensive coordinator and now I’m supposed to believe that he’s god? Not sure I buy it.

That doesn’t mean Burrow isn’t legit. There are some things you can’t ignore. Burrow won the Heisman Trophy, National Championship, and threw 60 touchdowns in a season. You cannot deny those things. It’s hard to lack talent and do that. Burrow has accuracy and at the day can make every throw. He’s also a slippery athlete. The LSU signal caller was a former high school point guard. He has this ability to make something out of nothing and escape the pocket turning it into a positive. That’s a great thing.

In terms of pure tools, Burrow isn’t the total package. Gloss over the small hands thing, but everything is a box that needs to be checked. How many boxes end up getting checked? I also don’t think he has big time arm talent. It’s not a noodle arm but it’s not a laser either. How much does all of that matter in a city like Cincinnati? Something?

I don’t think we do this enough. There are a ton of high profile quarterbacks in available in the draft. There is no scenario where more than 2 of them will really matter at the end of the day. We don’t play this game enough. Take the most negative outlook possible and convince me quarterback x doesn’t suck. Hard to do that with Justin Herbert or Jordan Love. Does Joe Burrow suck? Well, I saw one really good year and one really bad year. He will also be 24 during his rookie year so how much of it was dominating younger competition as a 5th-year Senior? How good is Joe Burrow? You see, it’s hard to really know.

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