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NFL Draft: Alabama's Saban praises Joe Burrow; Patriots' Belichick likes QB 'depth'

Alabama coach Nick Saban praised former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) for his ability to read defenses and accuracy. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
Alabama coach Nick Saban praised former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) for his ability to read defenses and accuracy. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

April 14 (UPI) -- Alabama coach Nick Saban thinks former LSU star Joe Burrow will have a "fantastic career in the NFL" while New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick says the quarterback class in the 2020 NFL Draft has "decent depth."

The longtime friends and fellow coaches spoke about the 2020 draft class Monday. Saban spoke about Burrow while analyzing the former Tigers star for an episode of Detail on ESPN+.

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The Crimson Tide coach broke down footage of Burrow's performance against Clemson in the College Football Playoff National Championship game. Burrow completed 31 of 49 passes for 463 yards and five scores in the victory. The Heisman Trophy winner is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

"I think Joe Burrow's got great vision, does a good job with pre-snap reads and knowing where he's going to go with the ball," Saban said. "He also can extend plays [and] scramble to throw, which I think is really, really important and puts a lot of pressure on the defense.

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"So Joe Burrow's going to have a fantastic career in the NFL."

Burrow led LSU to a 46-41 victory against Alabama Nov. 9 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Burrow passed for 393 yards and three scores in that triumph. Saban praised Burrow for his accuracy and decision making, especially before the snap. The Alabama coach said he liked Burrow's ability to read defenses and find favorable matchups, like he did against Clemson in the title game.

Saban previously worked as an NFL head coach after serving as a defensive coordinator under Belichick. Belichick is entering his 21st season with the Patriots, but first season without Tom Brady on the team's roster. The Patriots are likely in the market for a quarterback after losing the six-time Super Bowl champion in free agency to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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Jarrett Stidham -- a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft -- sits atop the Patriots' depth chart at quarterback. Veteran Brian Hoyer is also on the roster. There are also several experienced free agent quarterbacks on the market, in addition to a deep draft class. Burrow, former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, Utah State's Jordan Love, Washington's Jacob Eason and Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts are among the top quarterbacks available entering the 2020 NFL Draft.

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Belichick told reporters Monday that the 2020 quarterback class is "an interesting group" that is "probably one that has some decent depth to it." The Patriots coach said the team has previously adapted to situations when Brady wasn't their quarterback, referencing the 2008 season when Brady had a season-ending injury and the 2016 season when Brady was suspended for four games.

"Each guy has his own set of skills, has his own circumstances and played well over a sustained period of time," Belichick said of the quarterback draft class. "Some players had an exceptional year in the past year or two...That's about the way it always is.

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"There are always a variety of things you have to try to put together and look at. Certainly there's a lot of interesting players -- guys that have really good arms, can really throw the ball, some very athletic players and some players that have won a lot of games and have shown their competitiveness and instinctiveness."

Burrow struggled to get on the field during his first few seasons at Ohio State before transferring to LSU. He completed 57.8 percent of his throws for 2,894 yards, 16 scores and five interceptions in 13 games at LSU in 2018. He completed 76.3 percent of his throws for 5,671 yards, 60 scores and six interceptions in 15 games last season, logging one of the best quarterback campaigns in college football history.

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NFL teams have been challenged this off-season when it comes to accessing prospects ahead of the draft. They have been using video conferencing software like Zoom and FaceTime while not being allowed to conduct in-person visits with the prospects due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's a little bit different than the way we have done it, but all the teams are working with the same constraints," Belichick said. "I think we have probably talked to more players than we have in the past. When you aren't traveling and sitting at a desk you can get more contact with people."

Belichick said the team has also watched more film on prospects than they have in previous years. The 2020 NFL Draft will be conducted virtually from April 23 to 25 and will air on ABC, ESPN and NFL Network.

The Patriots have the No. 23 overall pick in the draft.

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