Welcome to The 10, a new series were we’ll be discussing the top-10 prospects at each position in the 2020 NFL Draft. First, we start off with the good stuff: quarterback. While not a particularly deep class at the position, there are a handful of intriguing high-end prospects that have massively high potential at the position. Let’s take a look at how this class stacks up.
No. 1: Joe Burrow, LSU
6’3″, 221 lbs.
2019 stats (15 games): 5,671 passing yards, 65 total touchdowns (5 rushing), 6 INTs, 76.3% completion percentage
Tape Watched: Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson
Player Analysis: Coming off arguably the greatest statistical season by a quarterback in college football history, Burrow is basically a lock for the top pick in this year’s draft. What’s amazes me about Burrow is not just the gaudy stats, but who he played against to achieve those stats. LSU had to face just about every major powerhouse program on their way to the CFP, and Burrow was brilliant each step of the way. While displaying above-average arm talent and elite down-the-field touch, his best skillset is perhaps his ability to handle pressure. His escapability is almost Tony Romo-esque, and his accuracy on the run reminds me of prime Aaron Rodgers. Just look at this play he had against Georgia this season:
Or this play:
Burrow is a legit quarterback prospect, maybe one of the best I’ve come across. Despite just one year of dominant tape, I think Burrow’s track record against strong teams is enough for me to consider him the best player not named Chase Young in this draft.
No. 2: Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
6’0″, 217 lbs.
2019 Stats (9 games): 2,840 passing yards, 35 total touchdowns (2 rushing), 3 INTs, 71.4% completion percentage
Tape Watched: Ole Miss, LSU, Clemson (2018-19), Georgia (2017-18)
Player Analysis: There is a fairly large group of people who believe Tua Tagovailoa is the superior quarterback in this class, and I believe that to be a perfectly sound opinion. After all, those people have three years of tape to back that claim up. Tagovailoa was a hyper-efficient college quarterback with a style that is absolutely perfect for a pro-style offense despite him mostly lining up in the shotgun. His quick release and smooth footwork is a beauty to watch, and his pocket presence, like Burrow’s, is fantastic. I love watching Tua move around the pocket, with one of my favorite plays of his coming in the Ole Miss games seen below.
While he doesn’t necessarily possess elite arm strength, it is certainly good enough for the NFL, and his accuracy on intermediate and deep balls is already top-tier. One thing I wish I could’ve seen more from him was an ability to move past the first read. As with most Alabama quarterbacks, I find the superior talent around them makes it sort of hard to analyze how their game will translate on an NFL team, and I think this is particularly hard when looking at Tua’s ability to read the defense. Often times, he relies on his first read because the option is always there; that won’t always be the case at the next level. Still, he showed this ability on one particularly important National Championship play, so I wouldn’t consider it a major knock on his ability.
There is one knock though: durability. It simply has to be brought up. Tagovailoa is fresh off a dislocated right hip with a posterior wall fracture that required season-ending surgery. While he seems to be ready to go now, I worry that this is a pretty big concern. Without the injury history, I’d easily consider him a franchise QB, but with it, it’s hard not to be at least a little concerned about his career longevity. Regardless, he’s a lock in the top-5.
No. 3 Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
6’1”, 222 lbs.
2019 stats (14 games): 3,851 passing yards, 52 total touchdowns (20 rushing), 8 INTs, 69.7% completion percentage, 1,298 rushing yards
Tape Watched: Texas, Baylor (first game), LSU
Player Analysis: Hurts is probably the most intriguing prospect in this class outside of Burrow and Tagovailoa. Coming into a Lincoln Riley offense that’s produced back-to-back Heisman winners who were selected first overall, Hurts had a lot to live up to, and I think he played up to those standards this year. Honestly, the way Hurts played this year is such a far cry from what he was as a freshman at Alabama that it’d be easy to mistake them for different players entirely. Hurts has really developed as a passer over the last few seasons, and while he still isn’t a fantastic thrower from the pocket, he did show improved accuracy on intermediate routes. While Oklahoma got pretty much dominated in all facets of the game against LSU, I thought Hurts made some real NFL-level throws after watching that footage, including this one to CeeDee Lamb:
Of course, Hurts’ best quality is his playmaking ability, especially as a runner. He’s a dynamic athlete capable of turning any play into a big one, and what I love is that he’s a surprisingly patient runner who uses his eyes to look off defenders to create space in the middle of the field.
He has shown a tendency to try and force off-schedule throws that just aren’t there, which is something that just will not work at the next level.
I think Hurts would be better served sitting behind a more experienced quarterback for a year or two, but the potential is there, and if he finds a coach that can play to his abilities, I think he could develop into a really solid NFL player.
No. 4: Justin Herbert, Oregon
6’6″, 236 lbs.
2019 Stats (14 games): 3,471 passing yards, 36 total touchdowns (4 rushing), 6 INTs, 66.8% completion percentage
Tape Watched: Washington, Wisconsin, Utah
Player Analysis: First of all, I think it was incredibly wise for Herbert to return for his senior year at Oregon. Despite receiving draft grades similar to what he has now, I didn’t think he was ready for the NFL, and in the end it looked like it worked out just fine for him. He improved in just about every major statistical category as a passer this year, and even took home the Rose Bowl Offensive MVP Award (probably the best tape I watched from him) for his trouble. Yet, I just am not a huge fan of Herbert’s tape. He of course has fantastic size, A-grade arm talent and underrated athleticism (he ran a 4.68 40-time at the Combine), but none of his games have really stuck out to me. He’s capable of making impressive sideline tosses like this:
And he’s also shown to consistently make throws like this:
The spotty accuracy and subpar footwork are hard not to notice. I don’t think completely low of him though, I just find that he’s being a bit too highly graded. He’s a project in my eyes. With the right system fit and coaching staff, he could easily develop into a solid starter in the league, but as he is right now, I just don’t see it. I will say that Herbert became rather effective on RPOs late in the season, especially in the Rose Bowl, where he scored three touchdowns on the ground.
The situation sort of reminds me of when Josh Freeman came out for the 2009 NFL Draft; he had the look of a great quarterback, but the tape didn’t necessarily match with that, and he was drafted higher than he probably should have been. Similar to Freeman, Herbert will probably fall around the top-20 range, but I have more of a second-round grade on him.
No. 5: Jacob Eason, Washington
6’6”, 231 lbs.
2019 stats (13 games): 3,132 passing yards, 24 total touchdowns (1 rushing), 8 INTs, 64.2% completion percentage
Tape Watched: Oregon, Boise State, Utah
Player Analysis: Jacob Eason passes the eye test thanks to his 6’4” size and pro-style background. The Matthew Stafford comparisons are pretty dead-on, though Eason didn’t light up the college scene quite like Stafford did when he was at Georgia. In fact, one thing I will say about Eason is that he doesn’t possess the pocket presence that Stafford does. One of Eason’s bigger deficiencies is his inability to handle pressure. When he’s able to roll out or set his feet with time to spare, Eason throws an accurate fastball, especially on intermediate routes. Thanks to his zip on the ball, he can fit passes into tight windows better than anyone in this draft. His accuracy down the field isn’t always consistent, but I’ve seen him make some pretty impressive deep throws, like this one against Boise State:
Eason is at his best in the play-action, where he shows a rhythm and touch that’s not always prevalent when he lines up in shotgun.
That doesn’t mean he’s always on-target though. His Boise State tape was generally good, though this one play stood out as a lowlight.
While I don’t think Eason has a particularly high ceiling, I do think that, as he is now, he’s a pretty productive quarterback with the arm and pro-style resume to come in immediately and play some good football. I see Eason being a productive middle-of-the-road starter in the league at least. I have him graded as more of a low second, early third-round prospect.
No. 6: Jordan Love, Utah State
6’4”, 224 lbs.
2019 stats (13 games): 3,402 passing yards, 20 touchdown passes, 17 INTs, 61.9% completion percentage
Tape Watched: Kent State, Wake Forest, LSU, BYU (2018-19)
Player Analysis: Jordan Love has ceremoniously been given the “boom-or-bust” label this year after a pretty big down year at Utah State. Similar to Josh Allen’s last year at Wyoming, Love returned to a team with few returning starters and struggled because of it. I wouldn’t necessarily consider that reasoning to be the only thing that held Love back though. As great as his arm is, and it is great, many of his 17 interceptions were simply just bad passes.
Love is a polarizing prospect for a reason. If you just watched a highlight reel of his best plays, you’d see a quarterback with some of the smoothest mechanics in this draft; he throws a clean, gorgeous sideline pass that is hard not to be impressed with, but inconsistent accuracy across the board and below-average footwork tell me that he’ll struggle adjusting to a pro-style offense early in his career.
I’m not sure I agree with the Mahomes comps he’s been getting, though there are some throws that hold similar wow factor. Again, I’m not sure Love is a finished package; he could definitely afford to sit on the bench for a year. I’d say Love’s more of a second-round prospect, but there’s definitely a high-likelihood that he goes somewhere in the middle of the first round.
No. 7: Jake Fromm, Georgia
6’2”, 219 lbs.
2019 stats (14 games): 2,860 passing yards, 24 touchdown passes, 5 INTs, 60.8% completion percentage
Tape Watched: Florida, Baylor, Alabama (2018-19), Alabama (2017-18)
Player Analysis: Similar to Eason, I don’t think Jake Fromm has much of a ceiling to his game. But, if what you see is what you get with Fromm, then I think a team is getting a pretty serviceable quarterback option. The thing is, there’s nothing particularly wrong with Fromm’s game, but nothing really stands out either. His arm strength is good enough, his poise in the pocket is good enough and he generally plays mistake-free football.
Fromm is at his best working the middle of the field around the 15-20-yard range.
He has also proven to be a capable passer towards the sideline as well.
He’s however not a great passer when asked to throw off-platform as seen in this pass against Baylor.
Fromm fit well into the “game-manager” role at Georgia in his three seasons as starter, and I don’t expect that to change at the next level. It probably works to his benefit that he’s more of a Day 2 prospect since he’ll be given an opportunity to play with a team that’s not looking for a franchise quarterback to save the day. Fromm isn’t that kind of guy, but if given a capable supporting cast, he should be able to play some decent football at the next level.
No. 8: Nate Stanley, Iowa
6’4”, 235 lbs.
2019 stats (13 games): 2,951 passing yards, 17 total touchdowns (1 rushing), 7 INTs, 59.% completion percentage
Tape Watched: Minnesota, Michigan, USC
Player Analysis: It’s no coincidence that when I watch Nate Stanley play, I think of C.J. Beathard. And like Beathard, I see a quarterback that’s clearly put in an ideal offense that plays to his strengths. Stanley’s size and arm talent is intriguing, and his footwork in the pocket is fantastic.
With 44 career games under his belt, Stanley’s going to be a coach’s dream at the next level, but I think I see him as more of a career backup more than anything. His tape against Minnesota was impressive, but the Michigan tape showed a player that’s probably not ready to compete for a starting job. I think he presents good value as a fifth or sixth-round prospect.
No. 9: James Morgan, FIU
6’4”, 229 lbs.
2019 stats (12 games): 2585 passing yards, 16 total touchdowns (2 rushing), 5 INTs, 58% completion percentage
Tape Watched: Florida Atlantic, Miami (Fl)
Player Analysis: James Morgan is undoubtedly fun to watch thanks to a gunslinger’s mentality and a toughness that’s easy to respect, but there are some large caveats to his game. At his best, he can sling passes like this one against Miami:
Or this one against Florida Atlantic:
But, his rough footwork makes it difficult to see him being anything more than a career backup. Too many times did I see him force a pass off poor footwork that displayed little touch. Not to say that something like that can’t be worked on, but it was certainly noticeable. Morgan will be an interesting player to watch when given his chance in the preseason.
No. 10: Anthony Gordon, Washington State
6’2”, 205 lbs.
2019 stats (13 games): 5,579 passing yards, 48 touchdown passes, 16 INTs, 71.6% completion percentage
Tape Watched: Air Force, Oregon
Player Analysis: Like most quarterbacks in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense, Anthony Gordon absolutely dominated this season statistically. 48 touchdowns in 13 games is just flat out impressive, but a closer look at his play shows a very raw draft prospect. He puts nice touch on the ball, and can clearly sling it, but he gets a bit sloppy with his mechanics, especially on the move, and sometimes he just won’t step into throws, leading to an underthrown ball. That will happen with a player who has just 13 career starts to his name, which will undoubtedly hurt his chances at playing early in his career.
Gordon is an intriguing late-round prospect like Gardner Minshew last year, but I don’t see nearly as much development in Gordon. Perhaps a team will take a flyer on him late.