Summary: Over the past decade, few prospects have enjoyed such a meteoric rise in a single season like Burrow did in 2019. His story is well known, including having started out at Ohio State and serving as a backup quarterback. For his junior season, Burrow transferred to LSU and won the starting quarterback job. The first-year started completed 58 percent of his passes in 2018 for 2,894 yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. He ran for 399 yards and seven scores.
After that pedestrian start, NFL teams were projecting Burrow as a mid-rounder entering his senior year, with one team executive telling WalterFootball.com they had a fourth-round grade on him early in the 2019 season. Multiple sources at other teams thought Burrow would top out as a second-day pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, but then Burrow proceeded to dominate the SEC in a prolific fashion, setting the conference record for touchdown passes in a single season.
Burrow was a point machine and unstoppable during 2019, completing 76 percent of his passes for 5,671 yards with 60 touchdowns and six interceptions. On the ground, he had 368 yards rushing and five touchdowns. With his tremendous season and the hip injury to Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Burrow is the heavy favorite to be the No. 1-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Burrow has the skill set to be a pocket passing quarterback at the next level. The most important trait for any pro quarterback is accuracy, which Burrow definitely has as one of his biggest strengths. He is a very accurate passer who can beat good coverage with his placement of the football. Burrow is able to squeeze the ball into tight windows and does a superb job of hitting his receivers on the run to lead them for more yards. While Burrow does not fire a lot of fastballs because of arm strength limitations, he is adept at putting air underneath the ball to loft in his throws downfield. Burrow has advanced field vision to work through his progressions and read defenses. He mastered the LSU offense and knew where his receivers were going to be. With his field vision and intelligence, Burrow makes super decisions and has great ball security to avoid turnovers.
Burrow shows superb anticipation, feel, passing instincts, and timing to go with his ball placement to lead his receivers for yards after the catch. On top of his accuracy, throws a very catchable ball and makes things easy for his receivers with his loft and touch to drop passes in to his receivers. Burrow has phenomenal composure and comfort in the pocket with the ability to handle the rush without getting rattled. Burrow is a rhythm thrower who would be a great fit in a West Coast passing offense.
An added element to Burrow's game that makes him more dangerous and effective is his mobility. He does a phenomenal job of using his feet when plays break down or nothing is open downfield. Burrow has the quickness and athleticism to dodge pass-rushers and can rip off yards in chunks due to defenses sleeping on his running ability. He is also very wise about when to run and does not look to run when his first read is covered. His feet come into play when he has to avoid a sack or nothing is open downfield. Burrow is able to extend plays and does an excellent job of keeping his eyes downfield when he runs.
While Burrow has good size, he does have some weaknesses for the NFL. In speaking to a few directors of college scouting for NFL teams and some area scouts, they felt that Burrow has some limitations in arm strength for the next level. They based that off of watching Burrow in person during the 2019 season, both in games and in practice. They thought he is an efficient game manager with prototypical size whose arm talent is not elite. Because of the skill-set limitations, they see him as a prospect who has a physical skill set more similar to that of Andy Dalton or Derek Carr.
One of the ways that Burrow makes up for not having elite arm strength is his great intangibles. He is a fighter and leader who figures out a way to make plays in the clutch. Burrow is known to be hard worker, a great student of the game, and a leader at the team facility during the week along with being a great field general. Here's how one team's director of college scouting summarized Burrow:
"Burrow is a gym rat, overcomer type with a severe chip on his shoulder [from] having always been told he's not quite good enough. He is possessed in his preparation, like a coach. [He is not] an elite talent as a passer though."
Even with his arm limitations, Burrow looks like a quarterback prospect with pro bowl potential for the NFL and a franchise quarterback.
Player Comparison: Andy Dalton. Burrow is a unique prospect and difficult to make an easy comparison to. What NFL team evaluators think is infinitely more important than my opinion on a player. Thus, I reached out to them to get their suggestions on a comparison for Burrow. One top executive said Russell Wilson for Burrow's style of play, but they acknowledged that Wilson's arm is much stronger than Burrow. As stated above, multiple sources said Burrow's skill set is in line with Andy Dalton's, so that could be the closest thing to Burrow in terms of arm, athleticism and size.
One director of college scouting said Ryan Tannehill was a solid comparison. They said that Burrow was a better decision-maker and fiery leader while Tannehill was a better runner and has a stronger arm.
Another comparison for Burrow that was suggested by one director of college scouting was Mitch Trubisky. Both have good but not elite skill sets. In college, they showed accuracy as passers with the ability to be rhythm throwers who also had the mobility to make plays with their feet. Teams liked the intangibles on Trubisky as well, and both Burrow and Trubisky were 1-year wonders as players.