Top Quarterbacks in NFL Draft: Joe Burrow

Bill Huber

LSU’s Joe Burrow checks in at No. 1 in our ranking of the top quarterbacks in the NFL Draft.

Joe Burrow spent three years at Ohio State and attempted 39 passes.

During a Heisman Trophy-winning season in which Burrow led LSU to a national championship, he threw 60 touchdown passes. That put him in position for a Ohio homecoming as the potential No. 1 overall pick of the Cincinnati Bengals.

“I knew the work that I had put in. This whole thing is great but the thing that I really envisioned is the on-field success,” Burrow said at the Scouting Combine. “The Heisman Trophy, all those awards are great, but I wanted to be a starting quarterback. I wanted to be the best player I could be, and I worked really, really hard for it. I had a lot of people who have helped and worked really hard for me.”


Burrow is coming off perhaps the greatest season in college football history. He completed 76.3 percent of his passes for 5,671 yards with 60 touchdowns and six interceptions. He led the nation in completion percentage, yards, passer rating, touchdown passes, total touchdowns (65) and yards per play. Burrow set national records for touchdown passes and passer rating.

Burrow spent three years at Ohio State but was stuck behind Dwayne Haskins on the depth chart, so he transferred following the 2017 season. Having earned his degree, he was immediately eligible in 2018. He completed 57.8 percent of his passes for 2,894 yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. Thus, in 2019, he doubled his yards, quadrupled his touchdowns and his completion percentage was up by almost 20 percent.

He saw all this coming.

“The thing about the confidence, I think it starts in preparation and I’m really confident in my preparation,” Burrow said. “I feel I prepare better than anybody else. That’s why I’m so confident. Because I feel I know what’s going to be happening on Saturdays before it happens. Hopefully I can carry it over to Sundays with the help of the coaches and the veterans. That’s where it starts.”

What we like

Everything. One scout, who’s been working for his team for more than a decade, said Burrow is the best quarterback prospect he’s ever scouted. There’s nothing he doesn’t do well. He can make every throw. There are nine passing quadrants – 0 to 9 yards downfield, 10 to 19 yards and 20-plus yards downfield, left, right and center. In terms of on-target passes, Burrow was No. 1 in three of those quadrants. No other quarterback was No. 1 in more than one. Overall, his on-target percentage was a draft-best 83 percent. In the biggest games of the season – regular season against Alabama, SEC Championship against Georgia, and playoffs against Oklahoma and Clemson, Burrow threw 19 touchdowns vs. zero interceptions and averaged 425 passing yards.

Moreover, while he’s not Lamar Jackson, Burrow (6-2 1/2, 221) is a threat with his legs. He averaged 7.1 yards per attempt. That’s even better than Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts.

Burrow has the No. 1 trait that all the great quarterbacks possess, and that’s pocket presence. There’s just an innate feel for the game that, with only a slight exaggeration, you either have or you don’t. A lot of quarterback prospects have had the arm talent and intelligence to thrive. Pocket presence is why some make it and some fall flat. Under pressure, according to SIS, his passer rating was a staggering 143.2. He destroyed the blitz, man coverage and zone coverage with equal aplomb.

“I think my pocket presence is the thing that will translate most,” Burrow said. “But obviously going into the league you can improve in every area. I’m not focused on one little thing here and there. I’m focused on just improving my game overall. The speed of the game, the concepts, the reads, the defenses are all more complex now.”

What we don’t like

Not much, other than 9-inch hands that fall below some teams’ thresholds. Green Bay, for instance, used a seventh-round pick on Matt Flynn in 2008. He had 9 1/4-inch hands – the only quarterback drafted in the Ted Thompson-Brian Gutekunst era with hands less than 9 1/2 inches.

If you want a small asterisk, he played with two of the best receivers in the nation – likely first-round pick Justin Jefferson and future first-round pick Ja’Marr Chase – and his starting running back and three of his starting offensive linemen could be selected in the first three rounds of this year’s draft. It’s perhaps true that his new team will have less talent than his old team.