This is Tale of the tape, a side by side look at the tape of two college prospects. This article features a pair of quarterbacks likely to go toward the top of the 2020 NFL Draft. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow takes on Alabama signal-caller Tua Tagovailoa. Without further adieu, here is Tale of the Tape: Burrow vs Tua.
First, let’s meet these players.
Joe Burrow was a two-year starter at LSU, after transferring from Ohio State. He came out of nowhere entering 2019. After a magical season that ended with the 2019 National Championship may go first overall in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Tua Tgovailoa was a two-year starter at Alabama during his sophomore and junior seasons. However, during the 2017 National Championship Game, as a true freshman, he came in as the backup, took over the game, threw 3 touchdown passes, and won the title.
Accuracy is among the most important traits for a quarterback to demonstrate. As they prepare to enter the NFL, Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa certainly check the accuracy box that teams are looking for.
Burrow especially throws with great accuracy all over the field. Not only does he produce perfect placement on shorter routes like screens and slants but he was consistently hitting his target in the right spot from over 30 yards away. When throwing against tight coverage, Burrow always puts the football away from the defender. At times this forces his receivers to make some difficult catches, but this protects the football from turnovers.
Tua is no different. His accuracy is apparent all-over the field, whether it is on shorter throws or on deep pass attempts. A pass from Tua is usually hitting his targets right in the hands. The only issue with his throws are that his receivers, especially on underneath routes, are prone to drops. Perhaps that is in issue with the receivers themselves. However, perhaps Tua is putting too much velocity on those shorter routes. While they are deadly accurate, his target does not always have time to prepare their hands before the pass arrives. A better touch on the shorter routes will help Tua complete even more passes.
Both quarterbacks have the requisite arm strength to succeed in the NFL. Arm strength is a trait that is very black and white. Either you have enough to make the NFL or you don’t. As long as a player meets the requisite threshold, anything stronger does not matter that much.
Among the quarterbacks in this class, at least those likely to be drafted on the first two days, Burrow in on the lower end of the arm strength. However, Burrow is still strong enough to complete deep shots with excellent accuracy and timing, even if the power velocity is not as great as others.
Certainly, when comparing to Tua, Burrow lacks the top-end elite-level arm power. On tape, Tagovailoa can bee seen completing passes of over 50 air yards with perfect accuracy. However, one major concern for him is the hip injury that he suffered last season that ended his college career. After the surgery, will Tua be able to produce the same type of power on his throws? That is the real concern. Perhaps when this process is all said and done, arm strength will be one of the least important aspects for both players. Perhaps it is even a moot point considering Tua’s health.
The one trait that truly separates these two from their peers is football IQ. Both players can easily read the entire field and find the open man quickly. Every other quarterback in the class either cannot properly anticipate defenses or it takes too long to read the field. When the latter occurs, there is usually a player wide open, but by the time these signal-callers find them, coverage has closed in and the play is no longer as profitable.
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Both Burrow and Tua should have no problem reading defenses at the NFL level. Yes, the players will be stronger and faster than any opponent’s that they faced in college. However, both players’ mental processing appears to be quick enough to succeed in the pros.
Burrow and Tua are timing throwers. Meaning they can anticipate their receivers moves and break points on routes. They will begin to throw the football before their target is fully open. This type of anticipation is important for the success and timing of plays.
The antithesis of the anticipatory thrower is the see-it thrower. They only make their decision once they see the target is open. Sometimes this works but in other instances, throws will not function as well as possible. By the time these see-it throwers reach their open targets, defenders will have had time to close in a take away any after-the-catch production.
The football IQ, sense of timing and quick (and proper) decision making all separate Burrow and Tua from the other quarterbacks in this class. These traits should allow for a seamless transition into the NFL.
The aspect that may interest most from a fantasy football perspective is movement skills.
Both Burrow and Tua are excellent at moving in the pocket and avoiding pressure. Look no further than the game where they went head-to-head. In 2019, Alabama and LSU had equally impressive defensive units with several future professionals. Both quarterbacks were equally as adept at escaping the pocket against NFL-caliber pass rushers. At times, it would be to find an open lane to throw a pass. In other instances, Burrow and Tua used their legs to gain yards after rolling out.
The later occurring is what could lead to considerable fantasy success in the NFL, particularly in their rookie seasons. Coupled with their high football IQ, we could see both quarterbacks with elevated rushing attempts. With NFL secondaries being even more intelligent and athletic than their college counterparts, Burrow and Tua may be more prone to tucking and running with the football in order to prevent turnovers.
The real question here is with Tua. Will his body be in good enough shape to where he will be able to run with the football and take hits. This is a concern and could limit Tua’s fantasy upside and rushing ceiling. Burrow, however, should be in excellent health to start the 2020 season and should thus able to use his legs to provide fantasy points in the form of rushing yards and touchdowns. Mobility is the reason, more than any other, that I have Burrow ahead of Tua. If Tua demonstrates this aspect post-hip surgery, then I will elevate his fantasy stock to Burrow’s level.
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For fantasy football purposes, I would happy with either quarterback on my team. Selecting a winner in this Tale of the Tape is difficult. Both Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa have great accuracy, the requisite arm strength, and above all, both have excellent football IQ and mental processing. However, considering Tua’s injury concerns, his mobility (especially early in his career) could be rather limited. While that will not stop him from becoming a great NFL passer, it could limit his fantasy upside with rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. For that reason, I choose Joe Burrow as my winner.
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