Every year we notice a prospect who wasn't listed on any preseason watch lists or on anyone's radar coming into the season only to come out of nowhere to surge up NFL draft boards. Mitchell Trubisky, Quinnen Williams, and Kyler Murray are a few examples of past prospects, but the situation has once again arisen. This time in an unusual situation.
Historically, LSU is not known for their quarterback play, but rather for their tenacious defenses and long lineage of defensive backs who went on to experience plenty of success on the next level. Joe Burrow has been a revelation in Death Valley and the surprise emergence of the red-hot thrower has helped the team get off to a 6-0 start. Following a huge road win against Texas, Burrow once again showed to be up to the task against Florida in a battle of top-10 ranked teams.
Burrow is a football lifer and has been surrounded by it in some way his entire life. His father, Jimmy, played defensive back at Nebraska (1973-1976) and was drafted in the eighth round of the 1976 draft by the Green Bay Packers.
He played in the CFL for five seasons -- Montreal Alouettes (1977-1979), Calgary Stampeders (1980), and Ottawa Rough Riders (1981). After his playing career concluded, he served as a college assistant coach and defensive coordinator for 37 years. His stops included Washington State, Iowa, North Dakota State, Nebraska, and Ohio State. His grandfather played basketball at Mississippi State and he also had another uncle who played defensive back at Ole Miss. The LSU signal-caller also has two brothers, Jamie and Dan, who both played football at Nebraska.
Attending Athens High School (Ohio), Burrow was a two-sport (basketball) athlete who had a highly successful career. Voted as an All-state point guard during his senior season, he also held offers from many mid-major programs. Knowing that his future was in football, he ended his three-year varsity career throwing for 11,400 yards and 157 touchdowns. A lethal running threat on the ground as well, Burrow tacked on an additional 2,000 yards and 27 touchdowns.
As a former four-star recruit, he went on to sign with Ohio State. After redshirting during his first season in Columbus (2015), he went on to appear in six games as a freshman in the backup role behind J.T. Barrett. Finishing the season with 226 yards and three touchdowns.
Much of the same came as a sophomore, as Burrow concluded his second season appearing in four games with only 61 passing yards. Prior to the 2017 season, he was in a heated training camp battle with now Washington Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins for the second spot on the depth chart until Burrow suffered a broken bone in his right hand that resulted in surgery (Jan. 2019).
Seeking an expanded role and already having his undergraduate degree in business in-hand, he opted to transfer to LSU as a graduate transfer with two years of eligibility remaining. The move paid off, as he started all 13 games and went on to record 2,894 yards, 16 touchdowns, and only five interceptions.
Where He Wins (+)
Like a golfer, Burrow knows exactly when to bring which club out of the bag in order to reach desired destinations as accurately to the target as possible. He mixes up his speeds often depending on the structure and type of throw urgency required. Keen with exhibiting awareness of knowing when to put touch on the ball to loft it into certain areas while also having the wherewithal of adding extra ferocity behind passes to fit them through tight spaces.
Always seeming to be poised, even when facing pressure, Burrow’s feet remain calm. There’s rarely ever a sense of panic to his game and he always has an answer to what the defense presents him. He keeps the offense in advantageous situations by hitting check downs or simply running to stay ahead of the chains. The Tigers quarterback has a mental clock that is timely and even when it expires, gaining happy feet is hardly ever present. Throwing to outlets or staring down the barrel to deliver passes have been recurring occurrences.
An average athlete, but has more than enough mobility in order to protect himself. Burrow won’t win many races in a straight line against second and third level defenders, but he’s very slippery with evading pressure in the pocket. Aware with knowing how to attack and completely avoid pressure from all angles, he has a full arsenal of escape moves that allow for added off-schedule opportunities from the pocket and on the run outside of it.
He makes some of his best throws coming off of slight or extended play-action fakes. Burrow is quick to reset his eyes following fakes and discipline enough to take what the defense gives him directly off of it.
Where He Must Improve (-)
The LSU signal-caller demonstrates high levels of core strength and violence of torque with his waist, which is why many of his throws get to spots, but he’s often bailed out by rangy wideouts. He fails to step into his throws frequently because of using his midsection as a crutch in order to put force behind the ball. Falling away from throws isn’t a large problem, but a habit that will need to be corrected to further improve his ball placement into adequate strike zones.
Burrow has a tendency to get a bit relaxed with his footwork and it can result in him being late with getting into his drops. This fault has also disrupted route timing and with how quickly he’s able to release the ball. Passing windows can close on him in a hurry and Burrow’s left with trying to fit the ball in minute areas.