Joe Burrow makes leap to top of quarterback class

Here’s the first story of our position-by-position 2020 NFL draft series. Today we’ll look at the top quarterbacks. 

Former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who’s projected to be the first player selected in the NFL draft, by the Cincinnati Bengals, took the time to reflect on his meteoric rise to the top of the college football world.

“It’s been a crazy six to eight months, however you want to look at it,” Burrow said. “A lot of hard work went into it, and I had great people around me.”

» MORE: Top 10 quarterbacks in NFL draft

Burrow pointed to LSU’s coaching staff and that they had 16 players at the NFL scouting combine.

“We had talented players all over the field that were mature and worked really hard,” said Burrow, who led the Tigers to the national championship while tossing a mind-boggling 60 touchdowns.

Burrow, whose dad was Frank Solich’s long-time defensive coordinator at Ohio University, is from Athens, Ohio, which is a three-hour drive from Cincinnati.

“I’m not going to not play,” Burrow said. “I’m a ballplayer. Whoever takes me, I’m going to go show up.”

Burrow started his career at Ohio State. He was a reserve for two seasons, but lost the battle for the starting position in 2017 to Dwayne Haskins. Burrow decided to transfer to LSU.

In 2018, he was solid, but was considered a late first-round pick at best. But everything clicked for him in 2019 as the Tigers were nearly unstoppable.

Burrow, who had one of the better seasons in college football history, led the nation in passing yards (5,671), total offense (6,039 yards) and completion percentage (76.3%) and set an NCAA record with 60 touchdown passes over 15 starts.

He’s ready to make the jump to the NFL.

“As a rookie you want to come in and just keep your head down and work really, really hard,” Burrow said. “I’m going to try to find a veteran who has done it for 10-plus years and tried to mimic what he does. … When my time comes to be a leader and be a starting quarterback, I’ll do whatever is asked of me.”

After Burrow, there is some intrigue in the quarterback draft class.

“It's a fascinating group because you’ve got tons of ability with these guys, but there are some question marks,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “You begin with Joe Burrow, the best college season I’ve seen from a quarterback that he had this last year.”

NFL teams will want to know about the monumental jump in his play from 2018 to 2019.

Tua Tagovailoa, formerly of Alabama, pronounced himself 100 percent healthy last week in a interview on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” His agent, the legendary Leigh Steinberg, has produced videos of Tagovailoa working out and moving around well.

“He’s obviously a phenomenal player,” Jeremiah said.

The question around Oregon’s Justin Herbert revolved around his shy personality and his ability to lead a NFL team.

“Herbert has been a little bit up and down,” Jeremiah said.

Utah State’s Jordan Love, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, Washington’s Jacob Eason are also strong prospects.

“Jacob Eason has a lot of talent,” Jeremiah said.

Eason started his career at Georgia, but lost his job to Jake Fromm. He has a strong arm, and strong arms usually dazzle NFL scouting types.

But Eason’s career pales next to Hurts, who won big at Alabama and Oklahoma.

Hurts, who recently conducted a video meeting with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, may benefit from the recent play of mobile quarterbacks in Baltimore's Lamar Jackson, Buffalo's Josh Allen and Arizona's Kyler Murray.

“I do think that those guys have done great,” Hurts said. “I think they’ve been very dynamic at the position, and I’m looking forward to how I can do that as well.”

Hurts’ ability to accept a backup role at Alabama and then flourish at Oklahoma has been impressive to some teams.

“I think it’s something that’s been unprecedented,” Hurts said. “You’re talking about just being able to go there and without any time in their system and this year putting my name in the same air as the last two first overall picks.

“To be there and even be at Alabama and being able to cement myself in history at both schools and be a part of those prestigious programs, it’s been very special to me. It’s all about moving forward.”

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa admits he was planning to leave the team if he had not played in the national championship game against Georgia. (Video by Leo Willingham)

Former Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm projects to go on the second day of the draft, in the second or third round.

“He’ll be a second-day guy more than likely,” an NFC evaluator told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently. “He’s like in that range where Andy Dalton and those type of guys get drafted.”

An AFC executive confirmed, “He’s a second-tier guy.”

Dalton, who played at TCU, was a second-round pick in 2011 by the Bengals. He started for nine seasons and went to three Pro Bowls. He was benched for three games last season.

Fromm didn’t have a great combine and has struggled in bad weather.

“I like Jake,” the NFC scout said. “He’s so smart. A great kid. The arm strength will be a little bit of a concern. The intelligence and the decision-making, all that stuff is good. It will be interesting to see how the process plays with him. But yeah, he’s a solid prospect.”


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