The Drafter Effects: Joe Burrow to the Bengals
LSU's offense took the world by storm last year on the back of a couple of Joes. Joe Burrow made beautiful magic with passing game coordinator Joe Brady in 2019, now Bengals fans hope Burrow is one half of a new dynamic duo of Joe's in Cincinnati. Joe Mixon could find himself in a situation where he has a ceiling for fantasy finally. Will a contract dispute between him and the team overshadow the Joe Burrow hype leading up to the season? That's a story for a different day.
All the pieces are falling into place for Cincinnati. Their head coach Zach Taylor now has a mature, accurate quarterback to roll out his pass heavy scheme as intended, and their offensive line can't be much worse. Cincinnati's 2019 first round selection Jonah Williams missed all last season with an injury after playing every game for Alabama in his college career. The offensive line is far from fixed but like the QB situation, the play calling, Joe Mixon's environment, there is an abundance of optimism as we fly towards the 2020 season.
The Bengals have an array of weapons on their offense all of a sudden and they are the team who stands to offer the most fantasy substance relative to our perception at this time last year. Comparing them to the Cardinals of 2019's off-season could be a stretch, however the parallels are hard to ignore. Arguably, the comparisons favor The Bengal's of the 2020 off-season. Cincinnati's young pass heavy coach already has a season under his belt as he inherits a franchise quarterback, Mixon is a superior back to that of 2019 David Johnson and the weapons in the passing game are more robust.
Joe Burrow has one knock on the prospect profile door and that's the lack of production prior to his final season. LSU's national championship squad from 2019 was littered with NFL talent including his passing game coordinator landing an NFL offensive coordinator job, LSU's running back Clyde Edwars-Helaire becoming the first running back off the board, and Burrow's slot WR Justin Jefferson was also selected in the first round by the Vikings despite being the second best receiver in that offense. Once the Jets clock begun at pick 11, we could officially say for three years straight no WR was drafted in the top 10... In 2021, barring something catastrophic, Burrow's top WR from 2019, Ja'Marr Chase, will correct that trend.
Joe Burrow could be described as an older prospect or even a one hit wonder but what else could he have done in 2019? Additionally, we can list the weapons, credit the schemes and play calling but Joe Burrow was THE catalyst inside the Tiger's record breaking offense. Regardless of a very difficult schedule, Burrow put forth literally the best performance by a QB in the history of CFB.
The household accolades of breaking the TD record (65) Winning the Heisman trophy and the National Championship game were only surpassed by how impressively Burrow went about it. He was unconscionably accurate, efficient, excelling in all areas of the field and doing it all on a consistent basis. Joe Burrow completed over 75% of his passes and put up almost 6000 total yards passing and rushing. The record breaking 65 total touchdowns will top the podium of attention paid, however throwing just 6 interceptions is equally notable. It was 20 fewer than Jordan Love had in 2019! The consistency was remarkable too, completing over 70% of his passes in every single game of his final season and playing at an elite level week in and week out. The consistency was the most impressionable aspect of Burrow's majestic campaign. Only once did he fail to hit 300 yards passing in 2019, a game against the Florida Gators... Burrow had 293 yards passing.
If we look at how overbearing Joe's final season numbers are it's hard to not pause for thought or spot the meteoric rise Burrow experienced via efficiency in 2019. Over 50% of pass attempts through his college career came last season, over 60% of his completed passes and passing yards and his 60 passing touchdowns account for 77% of his career totals! He had just 12 passing scores the year before at LSU also throwing for over 300 yards just once, completing 70% of his passes twice.
As fear mongering as those numbers come across as, it is important to remember that not unlike Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield; Joe Burrow was a transfer QB before reaching the pinnacle as the number 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Burrow transferred from Ohio State to LSU prior to the 2018 season.
Why should we have faith in Burrow? Well, he was hyper accurate everywhere! In the red zone he was unstoppable, JB completed 55 of 76 passes inside the opponents 20 yard line and over 50% of his completed passes went for a touchdown. 41% of time he threw the ball in the red zone the result was a TD. As with his overall figures, most impressionable to me is the touchdown to interception ratio. 31 red zone touchdowns, 0 interceptions.
Comparing his red zone numbers to the previous year, Burrow doubled his completion % and he saw a modest 600% increase in red zone touchdowns while throwing less interceptions than he had in that area of the field during the 2018 season.
The other desirable aspect to Joe is the deep ball. Schemes and play calling unlocked Burrow during his final season and that translated into deep passing dreams. So 31 of his 60 passing touchdowns came in the red zone, 26 of them were deep passing scores! (Passes that traveled more than 20 yards in the air) Tops in the nation and it wasn't close. Burrow's deep ball passer rating was exquisite too.
Aside from receiving the highest grade given to a quarterback in any season in the history of PFF's existence, they also have a wonderful metric called accuracy plus. Long story short it denotes how perfectly a ball is delivered to the WR. Burrow's accuracy plus was about 40% in 2019 looking at passes 10+ yards down field and that is more than double the average of 18.8%.
Joe Brady and his schemes could be cited after almost any statistic for Burrow, however we can't argue with his propensity to blow up in big games. He played at a higher level against better opponents. Burrow played 4 of the AP's top 5 teams in CFB last year and beat em' all. Joe's QBR was close to 100 and as always he completed over 70% of his passes in this split. Burrow averaged almost 425 yards passing per game against top 5 opponents, over 10 yards per attempt, and close to 4 touchdowns per game! Most impressionable? You guessed it, the touchdown to interception ratio! In those games where he played 4 of the 5 best teams in CFB, Burrow threw 19 touchdowns, 0 interceptions.
Burrow starts day 1, he'll learn the play book and the Bengals will incorporate some his favorite plays as well, plays we never saw from Dalton last year because he doesn't have patience or the ability to go through reads the same way Joe Burrow does. The excitement and hype-machine should grow exponentially contingent on seeing Burrow hit the field during this unique off-season, and that goes double for speculating on who his top target may be.
One of those candidates is Tee Higgins! Wasting no time on day 2 the Bengals made him the first pick of the 2nd round. The idea of tethering Burrow with a WR he can bloom alongside with was attractive, and the Bengals simultaneously drafted the long term A.J. Green replacement. Possibly short term? Are we certain AJG is playing on a one year franchise tag as a favor to an organization that's done no favors for him? It's a spicy franchise tag but I would love for Green to cap off his career elsewhere. If anybody has earned that right it's A.J. Green.
Joe Mixon feels like the biggest winner to be honest. His downfall has been goal line volume and the bloody target share! Joe Burrow made Clyde Edwards-Helaire the most used pass catching RB in recent memory at the CFB level, and the two Joes could really benefit from one another. Mixon is free money for a QB in the passing game and the usage could explode in that facet of the game if Gio Bernard was to be released.
Another underrated element to Joe Burrow's game is his athleticism. The ability to add with his legs. From the fantasy lens it should be on par with a Dak Prescott type. A mobile QB is often a deterrent to pass catching upside for the RB in the offense, but if Burrow gets outside of structure he is always looking to throw the ball and I don't expect to see very many designed runs either. If they do incorporate lots of RPO's that would be advantageous for Mixon's efficiency in the run game, but I expect Burrow to make excellent decisions and pull the ball down when it's his only option to pick up positive yards.
As hard as Burrow's famed season is to quantify there's little doubt the boats are rising in the Bengals fantasy harbor. A.J. Green and his status remain to be seen, and players like Auden Tate are at the mercy of the off-season so far as tight end additions and end zone target thieves. For the time being, we can bump up Joe Mixon's value safely.
John Ross could not ask for a better QB situation to pair with his skill set eh? But far be it for me to put in print that you should be buying top 10 John. The best buy in Cinci has been the same guy for 2 seasons consecutively so... GO BUY TYLER BOYD!
Joe Burrow will be an intriguing and polarizing fantasy option in himself. His superflex status is sketchy. Do we think he has Pat Mahomes upside? A QB 1 overall range of outcomes? I'm not sold that will happen anytime soon. His accuracy down the field and the athleticism keeps him in the top 12 conversation for fantasy as early as his rookie season, however that's not worth passing on elite running backs. I wouldn't look twice if somebody took Clyde Edward-Helaire, Johnathan Taylor, J.K. Dobbins or even D'Andre Swift ahead of Burrow in rookie drafts or Superflex start-ups. Miraculously, the one player who's destination we knew heading into the draft, fell in value once the Chiefs made their pick to close out day 1.
Where I like Joe Burrow is in redraft where I always target upside in the later rounds and am often perplexed by fantasy gamers drafting a QB like Phillip Rivers. Instead, take a shot and if it doesn't work you carry on down the stream. Play for the crown not the bronze medal, and taking a safe QB you know exactly what to expect from is the wrong way to attack late round QB. Plus, I can't think of a more boring fantasy existence either!
Buy: Tyler Boyd/ Joe Mixon (He'll cost ya!)
Redraft Buy: Joe Burrow! John Ross (We can drop or IR him!)
Dynasty Buy: Tee Higgins/ Tyler Boyd
Superflex Fade: Joe Burrow?