Fantasy Football Debate Club: Part 3

In our third article of the series, Vin and Joe go head to head and debate on the value of Joe Burrow.

Joe Burrow

Joe’s Argument for Joe Burrow

Joey B, Joe Shiesty, Joe Cool, Joey Franchise- I am proud to share a first name with the coolest guy in the NFL. I want all the shares of Joe Burrow in fantasy football this year, as I have Burrow ranked as my QB6. My colleague Vin, however, seems a little confused. He has Burrow ranked at QB13 ahead of guys like Brady, Rodgers, Stafford, and Lance. He has Burrow ranked only one spot ahead of Kirk Cousins. Is he crazy? I love you Vin, but I hate your take on my boy Joey B. Let’s debate!  

Last season, Burrow finished as the QB8, compiling 4,611 passing yards and 34 touchdowns while completing a whopping 70.4% of his passes. This year, he is poised to make another jump and has a chance to finish top 5 at the position. Burrow finished as PFFs highest-graded passer (91.2) while leading his team to the Super Bowl. With his ACL injury far in the rearview mirror and a revamped offensive line, there is no reason Burrow can’t continue to grow as a real-life passer and fantasy quarterback. His new line, featuring three new starters added in free agency, will give him plenty more time to throw and will open up more opportunities to throw the deep ball successfully.

No team in the NFL had three wide receivers finish inside the top 33 in fantasy points per game- except the Bengals. At Burrow’s disposal are elite weapons. Chase broke all sorts of rookie records, finishing as the WR3. Higgins, an electric talent, finished as WR17 and could easily be inside the top ten this year. Boyd finished as the WR33 and is as reliable of a slot receiver as anyone. These young and explosive weapons, an improved offensive line, elite accuracy, and motivation to get back to the Super Bowl are all reasons that Burrow will smash his ADP this season.

Vin’s Argument Against Joe Burrow

I hate that I feel this way about such a likable and incredible player. But this isn’t about real life football, it’s about fantasy. It should be no surprise to anyone who read the last debate club entry that I am down on the Bengals passing offense as a whole this season. However, my stance on being “against” Joe Burrow this season is mostly about his ADP. Depending on the site you use, he’s going around QB5 off the board, but he’s taken 6th amongst QBs on average. Makes sense though right? Led his team to the Super Bowl, was the QB8 overall in fantasy scoring last year…. He should keep progressing into that upper echelon of fantasy football rockstars at QB, right? Wrong, and I will tell you why. 

Returning that draft capital value is going to be tough for him with the way scoring works for QBs in fantasy. I’m of course talking about rushing yards and rushing TDs. Burrow was 1 of 5 quarterbacks in the top 12 last season to have less than 150 yards rushing AND 2 or less rushing TDs, finishing with 118 yards and 2 TDs. The others were Dak Prescott (146 rushing yards & 1 rushing TD), Kirk Cousins (a pedestrian 115 & 1 TD, Tom Brady (a statuesque 81 & 2 TD), and Matthew Stafford (an immobile 43 & 0 TD). The averages last season of the other 7 in the top 12 were roughly 432 yards on the ground and 5 rushing touchdowns. The difference between these “rushing” QBs and Joe Burrow’s rushing stats last season is 49 points. That’s a lot of ground (pun intended) for him to make up through the air. I’m not saying he can’t, but it puts a lot more emphasis on passing volume and efficiency. We can debate the merits of how scoring for QBs in fantasy football is “broken”, but until the rules change, this is how we have to adapt. 

Joe Burrow was great last season in the fantasy semi final and championship weeks (AKA Weeks 16 & 17 for those of you who are in respectable leagues). Great is underselling it actually; he went nuclear. The second-year signal caller combined for 971 yards and 8 TDs in those all-important weeks. But if you think about it, those two weeks alone accounted for 21% of his season total in yards and 23% of season total in TDs. I know we want that matchup-winning ability from our QB position, but the fact is that wasn’t typical of Burrow’s season. The former LSU standout finished a week as a top 6 QB just 3 times last season.

For comparison sake, Tom Brady finished top 6 at the position 10 times in 17 games, a league high. (I’m using the top 6 benchmark because most leagues start 1 QB. So top 12 isn’t necessarily going to help you win a week in a 12 team league. You want the guys scoring at the top of their position as often as possible). So you might be saying, “Vin, so what? He may not score at the top of his position each week, but he was probably a safe bet for top 12, right?” Ehhh not so much. Joe finished as a top 12 QB in just 9 appearances last season, good for T-10 with Kirk Cousins. To close the consistency argument, Burrow was a QB 7-12 just as often as he was outside the top 12 on any given week.

And of course he led the Bengals in the playoffs on a fantastic run. But this recency bias may be propelling him up draft boards ahead of perennial top-10 guys. Let’s not forget that Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, and Kyler Murray (all guys who finished behind Burrow in 2021) missed a decent chunk of the season and when/if they returned, they just weren’t at 100%. These are also players who use the fantasy cheat code of being good or great running quarterbacks. 

Again, I have to reiterate that I love watching Burrow play on Sundays and he’s already one of the league’s best young signal callers. But he is not someone you should be drafting anywhere near the top 6 at his position in your drafts.

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