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Safe pick: Is LSU Joe Burrow a one-hit wonder or a no-doubt No. 1 overall pick?

Due to the extreme boom or bust potential of the position, it’s hard to call any quarterback, regardless of the round he’s drafted in, a “safe pick.”

Just ask the Raiders. Or the Chargers. Or the Browns.

Every team has drafted a bust or two in the first round, but doing so has a much bigger impact when it’s a quarterback who fails to live up to his draft standing.

So with that in mind, why isn’t there more concern about presumed No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow?

Burrow vs. Young

Consider what Cincinnati is going through.

On the one hand, you can draft a pass rusher who many consider is a generational talent. This player followed up a dominant sophomore year with an even better junior year against some of the top competition in the country and on a team loaded with NFL talent at the same position.

On the other hand, you also need a quarterback, as your Pro Bowl veteran QB’s better days are probably behind him. The top choice? A player who’s only had one year of outstanding production – but that one year might have been the best year ever for a college quarterback.

That’s the dilemma facing the Cincinnati Bengals right now as they decide between LSU’s Burrow and Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young.

And yet, everyone – Cincinnati included – seems to be locked into taking Burrow with the first overall pick.

Best. Season. Ever. ‘Nuff said

Should Cincinnati be concerned with the potential bust factor with Burrow?

Not at all, says NFL draft analyst Marcus Mosher of USA Today.

“There aren’t a ton of examples of quarterbacks with just one year of production who went on to have fantastic NFL careers. The best examples may be Cam Newton and Kyler Murray, but there have been several busts, such as Mitchell Trubisky, Mark Sanchez and Christian Ponder.

“But what separates Burrow from the players listed above was that his one year of production was arguably the best college football season by a quarterback that we have ever seen,” Mosher said in an interview with Fanspeak. “Not only did he put up gaudy stats at LSU, but he won the Heisman Trophy Award and led LSU to a National Championship, beating Oklahoma and Clemson. In the two playoff games alone, he passed or rushed for 14 touchdowns and tallied over 1,000 yards of offense.”

2019 Game Logs Table
Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Pass Rush Rush Rush Rush
Rk Date School Opponent Cmp Att Pct Yds TD Int Rate Att Yds Avg TD
1 2019-08-31 Louisiana State Georgia Southern W 23 27 85.2 278 5 0 232.8 1 2 2.0 0
2 2019-09-07 Louisiana State @ Texas W 31 39 79.5 471 4 1 209.7 9 8 0.9 0
3 2019-09-14 Louisiana State Northwestern State W 21 24 87.5 373 2 1 237.2 7 30 4.3 1
4 2019-09-21 Louisiana State @ Vanderbilt W 25 34 73.5 398 6 0 230.1 2 -20 -10.0 0
5 2019-10-05 Louisiana State Utah State W 27 38 71.1 344 5 1 185.3 10 42 4.2 1
6 2019-10-12 Louisiana State Florida W 21 24 87.5 293 3 0 231.3 6 43 7.2 0
7 2019-10-19 Louisiana State @ Mississippi State W 25 32 78.1 327 4 0 205.2 4 -11 -2.8 0
8 2019-10-26 Louisiana State Auburn W 32 42 76.2 321 1 1 143.5 13 31 2.4 1
9 2019-11-09 Louisiana State @ Alabama W 31 39 79.5 393 3 0 189.5 14 64 4.6 0
10 2019-11-16 Louisiana State @ Mississippi W 32 42 76.2 489 5 2 203.8 9 26 2.9 0
11 2019-11-23 Louisiana State Arkansas W 23 28 82.1 327 3 0 215.6 4 24 6.0 0
12 2019-11-30 Louisiana State Texas A&M W 23 32 71.9 352 3 0 195.2 6 9 1.5 0
13 2019-12-07 Louisiana State N Georgia W 28 38 73.7 349 4 0 185.6 11 41 3.7 0
14 2019-12-28 Louisiana State N Oklahoma* W 29 39 74.4 493 7 0 239.8 5 21 4.2 1
15 2020-01-13 Louisiana State N Clemson* W 31 49 63.3 463 5 0 176.3 14 58 4.1 1
15 Games 402 527 76.3 5671 60 6 202.0 115 368 3.2 5

 

Fair comparisons

That’s what makes Burrow unique. You can find other one-year wonders who have been drafted in the first round, and every year several QBs put up gaudy statistics.

But the number of players who have even put up even semi-comparable statistics in a single season is a very small list. Right before Burrow’s historic season, Sports Illustrated featured the 10 greatest individual seasons in college football history. Of course, there are a few busts in that list, but for the most part, it’s a who’s-who of Pro Bowlers and/or Hall of Famers. (It should be noted, though, that the two busts in that list – Johnny Manzier of Texas A&M and Tim Tebow of Floriday – both played quarterback.)

Therein lies the argument against the Burrow bust-factor: Almost all of the players who had a historically good season went on to NFL greatness.

And Burrow had a better season than any of them.

That’s why Burrow should still be considered a safe pick, despite only one truly great season.

“Burrow has some flaws in his game as a prospect, as he doesn’t have an elite arm and doesn’t possess fantastic athleticism,” Mosher said. “But after the storybook season he just had at LSU, it’s tough to be too pessimistic about his chances in the NFL.

Jake Rigdon (jake@sydwriting.com) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak and the On The Clock, which is the only NFL draft simulator that allows you to customize and use your own big board while giving you control over trades.



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