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Why Joe Burrow Will Be A Top-12 QB (2020 Fantasy Football)

by Kyle Yates | @KyleYNFL | Featured Writer
May 15, 2020

Throughout the offseason, Kyle Yates will be highlighting several marquee fantasy players as he walks through his projection process. These projections are subject to change based on injuries, signings above/below them on the depth chart, new information regarding scheme or player usage, etc. They’ll serve as a way to give a “peek behind the curtain” into Kyle’s projections thought process and whether or not a player will be a fantasy value in 2020.

In this article, we look at how Joe Burrow is well-positioned to finish as a top-12 QB in 2020.

Joe Burrow

It’s rare for a rookie QB to come in and have fantasy relevancy right out of the gates. For example, here are some of the top-drafted QBs and their fantasy finishes from their rookie seasons.

The learning curve for QBs coming into the NFL is fairly steep and it’s combined with the fact that some of these players don’t see the field for all 16 games of their rookie campaigns. With that being said, there are occasional players that come into the NFL and contribute right away from a fantasy football perspective. The two that stand out in this range from 2016-2019 are Dak Prescott (QB6) and Kyler Murray (QB7). They’re certainly outliers, but it has happened in recent history.

As we look at Joe Burrow entering the NFL, it’s more likely that he falls into Dak and Kyler’s camp for a bevy of reasons. Burrow is one of the most talented prospects coming out of college that we’ve potentially seen since Andrew Luck. He dominated the SEC last season on their way to a national championship and put up astronomical numbers.

In the 15 total games that LSU played, Burrow threw for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns, while adding 368 yards on the ground and another 5 touchdowns. With the pro-style offense that Joe Brady brought from New Orleans, Burrow flourished and put up numbers that may never be touched again by a college QB.

After being selected by the Cincinnati Bengals with the No. 1 overall pick, Burrow now walks into one of the best situations a rookie QB could ask for from a receiving corps perspective. The majority of rookie QBs are walking into a depleted WR room and are asked to create on their own, which leads to a lot of the poor fantasy finishes right out of the gates. For example, Trubisky was brought in and was throwing to guys like Kendall Wright, Josh Bellamy, and Dontrelle Inman in year one. However, Burrow will be throwing to the following players week one (assuming full health):

This is one of the best receiving corps for a rookie QB to walk into, let alone it could be the best receiving corps in the entire NFL. I’ve always been a proponent of the mindset that there are very few QBs in the NFL that can supersede their situation and succeed with mediocre receiving options. The weapons matter for an offense and Burrow has plenty at his disposal.

How does all of that practically play out from a projections standpoint though?

Projections

The Bengals were a train-wreck last season on offense, which was one of the reasons why they held the No. 1 overall pick. Looking at Zac Taylor’s first year in Cincinnati and trying to project that forward for 2020 is not a perfect match, so we need to try to balance things out a bit more.

In 2019, the Bengals ran 1,001 total plays with a 38-62 rushing-to-passing split. Very few head coaches in the NFL (if any) are comfortable with that sort of split, so we need to try to project a more balanced approach for the Bengals this season. Their defense made significant strides in free agency and the draft, which has a direct correlation to more rushing attempts, but it hasn’t improved drastically enough to be a top-10 unit.

The Bengals are still going to need to pass the ball quite a bit this season and their offensive draft strategy may tell us a bit about their plans. The Bengals already had a loaded receiving corps with Green, Ross, and Boyd going into the draft, but they had a potential weak spot with Uzomah and Drew Sample as their primary tight ends. Uzomah hasn’t shown enough throughout the course of his career to be considered a threat at the position and Sample is more of a blocking tight-end than anything else. Rather than addressing the TE position in free agency or the draft, the Bengals chose to add to their strength and drafted Higgins out of Clemson with the first pick of the second round.

There’s a strong possibility that the Bengals may be looking to deploy a ton of 10-personnel this season, which means 1RB on the field, with 0 TEs, and 4 WRs. If that’s the case, Green, Higgins, Ross, and Boyd are all going to see a hefty amount of targets for a pass-happy team. I currently have the Bengals projected for 985 total plays with a 41-59 rushing-to-passing split. This gives the offense a projected 580 pass attempts.

With the mindset of 10-personnel, and projecting that forward, it’s not unrealistic to expect the target shares for the offense break down like this:

  • Green: 19% (110 targets on the season)
  • Boyd: 21% (122 targets on the season)
  • Ross 14% (81 targets on the season)
  • Higgins 12% (70 targets on the season)
  • Tate 3% (17 targets on the season)
  • Uzomah 8% (46 targets on the season)
  • Sample 4% (23 targets on the season)
  • Mixon 9% (52 targets on the season)
  • Bernard 10% (58 targets on the season)

This offense should be humming, assuming that there’s training camp and the chance for these players to work together to develop chemistry, and these weapons have a chance to create a lot for an already very talented QB. If everyone stays healthy, these target breakdowns amount to Burrow finishing the season, in my system, with 4,156 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and 190 yards on the ground.

This would be a stellar rookie campaign for the accomplished former LSU QB. If he finishes the season with these numbers, and he has upside to finish with an even higher passing TD total, he should finish just inside the top-12.

Fantasy Outlook

Burrow comes with a lot of hype, as he should as the No. 1 overall pick, but there’s still a strong possibility that he has a low ADP going into draft season. If you want to deploy a late-round QB draft strategy, there are a lot of places you can go, but Burrow may be an extremely safe pick despite the track record for rookie QBs.

If nothing else, Burrow is a name to keep an eye on to stream in plus matchups. His first matchup week one isn’t great from a fantasy perspective against the Chargers, but there are certainly going to be weeks that I’ll be rolling Burrow into my starting lineup confidently. The talent and situation is just too good to ignore.

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Kyle Yates is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Kyle, check out his archive and follow him @KyleYNFL.

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