Updated: Apr 20
Quarterbacks are and have been the stars of the NFL for quite some time. They're the only position that touches the ball on every play, and by proxy the only position on the field that can individually impact the results of the game to such a dramatic degree. Having a good quarterback can change the fortunes of an otherwise mediocre team entirely, just like having a below average QB can plummet a solid roster. Because of this, team's will go to the ends of the earth to find what they're looking for, but the fact is outside of maybe two or three guys, everyone is limited in some way. Where the truly good franchises separate themselves is by recognizing, and being able to minimize their QB's weaknesses and maximize his strengths. Below are the top seven quarterbacks in the 2020 draft class, ranked and meticulously picked apart to help bring those strengths and weaknesses to light - and provide some perspective on why or why not certain teams may want to pick them.
1.) Tua Tagovailoa - Alabama
Tua Tagovailoa is still the best QB in this draft class. While Burrow’s historic season and Tagovailoa’s hip injury have certainly cast doubt, make no mistake about how good Tua is. He went from being the sure-fire #1 pick in the draft to the consensus QB2 basically overnight, and that has more to do with outside factors than Tua’s actual play. Joe Burrow’s home state Bengals possess the first pick, and had that pick belonged to another franchise, we could still very well be talking about Tua going first overall. In addition to Burrow bursting onto the scene, Tua also suffered the hip injury, again a factor out of his control. The hip injury is still a concern, as it’s a similar injury that Bo Jackson had in the 80’s – ending his career. However, the medicine is far more advanced now than it was then, and Tua didn’t further damage his hip at all after he had the injury – enabling him to heal easier. As long as he’s cleared, his NFL future is bright. He’s excellent in the rhythm passing game and excels at throwing the ball underneath. He’s a quick processor and an accurate thrower, who also has a pretty athletic frame to move around in the pocket. His arm strength isn’t a plus, but it isn’t a minus either. Look no further than his walk-off TD pass in the national championship game against Georgia. Tua is a lefty, and will be the only one in the league when he’s drafted, but that should work in his favor, enabling his offensive coordinator to do some different things to mess with defenses. Ultimately, Tua has it between the ears and has great character which, coupled with his physical ability, should make him one of the very best quarterbacks in the NFL one day.
2.) Joe Burrow - LSU
Joe Burrow is coming off of the best single college season we’ve ever seen, and it’s not really even arguable. His first year as a starter back in 2018 saw him post much more pedestrian numbers. He completed just 58%, threw for 2,800 yards, and 16 TDs. Fast forward to this past fall; He had over 5,600 yards passing, completed 76% of his throws, and incredibly threw SIXTY touchdowns in 2019 to only 6 interceptions. That’s unreal. This past fall was his second as a starter, and in 2018 his numbers were far more pedestrian. The only question with Burrow is, why the jump? And how can his drafting team help him replicate those results at the next level? Looking at the type of player Burrow is, he has ideal size at 6’3, and is a sneaky athlete in the pocket. Over and over again he demonstrated an ability to survey, evade pressure, keep his eyes downfield, and deliver a strike. He is excellent at the short game, but was also able to hit Chase and Jefferson in stride down the field plenty. His best attribute is his ability to read defenses and get through his progression. He’s a pretty accurate passer, especially on shorter passes. Burrow’s arm isn’t huge, but he has plenty to succeed in the NFL. In terms of play style, he needs to function within the offense. He has an ability to extend plays with his athleticism, but he isn’t a “play-maker” style of quarterback. The term game manager gets thrown around loosely and has developed a negative connotation, but Burrow is an awful lot like that – and that’s a positive thing. He will command an NFL offense, not put the ball in harm’s way, and give his team a chance to win. A lot of his value will come off the field as well. He’s confident bordering on cocky, but his teammates love him, and chemistry in the locker room is one of the only common denominators found in every Super Bowl championship team. You need to put a talented team around Burrow to win. He won’t do it himself. But you CAN win with him. Hell, that’s all he did in college.
3.) Justin Herbert - Oregon
Herbert is an intriguing prospect. Herbert was draft-eligible last year and would’ve likely been a high pick, but decided to go back to school for another season. The decision appears to have been a smart one, as his up-and-down season demonstrated he clearly wouldn’t have been ready for NFL defenses. As a prospect, he has all of the intangible traits. He’s a hulking 6’6, has above average NFL arm talent, and athleticism to move the pocket and be a threat with his legs. The ceiling is the roof with him, so what’s the problem? He is a lot like Sam Darnold in terms of his evaluation. The traits are all there and he has the ability to be truly special, but there’s something left to be desired. Herbert struggled with consistency at times and didn’t always pass the eye test on Saturdays, yet when you look up, Oregon was very successful – winning a Rose Bowl even. Justin has the ability to make every throw in an NFL offense, which makes his evaluation all the more frustrating. Sometimes he goes drives and even full games looking pretty ugly, and just when you're ready to write him off he'll make a spectacular play. He throws a pretty deep ball, but again the consistency is the issue. His drafting team will need to get to the root of why that is. Did it fall on Herbert himself? Is it a reflection on Oregon’s offense? At the end of the day, Herbert’s success will boil down to his toughness between the ears – because he has the physical ability.
4.) Jordan Love - Utah State
Jordan Love is without a doubt the most polarizing QB in the draft class. Scouts either love him or hate him, and there isn’t much in-between. He’s an intriguing prospect that, like Herbert, has had his ups and downs in college. In 2018 Love put himself on the map, completing 64% while throwing a whopping 32 touchdowns to just 6 interceptions. He had a PERFECT passer rating as well. But in 2019 he came crashing back to earth. His rating dipped to 129, and while he threw for similar yardage, he had nearly 50 more pass attempts. His decision-making was putrid as he limped to 20 TD passes and 17 INT’s. While the 2019 season has certainly hurt his perception, one thing that won’t change are his intangibles at the position. He’s 6’4 with pretty good athleticism. He’s not Lamar Jackson outside the pocket by any means, but he will force defenses to stay honest in their rush lanes. His best attribute by far though, is his arm. He has a hose, and it enables him to fit the ball into windows that other quarterbacks simply don’t have the intangible ability to do. What’s more, unlike a lot of the other QB’s that need to play within the structure of the offense, Love is actually at his best outside it. Like a Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers, he’s a play-maker that likes to create. Unfortunately, not everything he creates is good. He’s as boom or bust at the position as you can get and his drafting team will need to have a firm idea of the offensive style and players they want to build around him. Under the right head coach, he could thrive. Take Mahomes under Andy Reid, for example. But if he’s drafted to a dysfunctional franchise, say the Raiders or Browns, it would be hard to envision him becoming a top-10 QB. He isn’t a finished product and will need the right coaching to polish him into a functional NFL starter.
5.) Jake Fromm - Georgia
Jake Fromm has achieved great heights in his career at one of college football’s most consistent NFL prospect pools. However, it feels like there’s been a slow, steady decline since he achieved stardom as a freshman. That season, he won the job – taking the Bulldogs to the national title game, where they fell short in OT against Tua’s Crimson Tide. The Bulldogs never made it back, and while he was able to keep his starting job, forcing other star QB’s Justin Fields and Jacob Eason to transfer, the team as a whole never reached the potential many thought it had. Fromm was a highly touted recruit out of high school, and stands 6’2. His problems as a prospect arise from his lack of athleticism and arm strength. Fromm threw at the combine immediately after his former teammate Eason, who has one of the biggest arms in the draft, and the difference in arm strength was painfully noticeable. Fromm is a pure pocket passer who will do little to evade the rush in the NFL. Think of him as a Phil Rivers or Tom Brady type in that sense. His positives are his ability to manage the offense and he’s a good short-to-intermediate range passer. He understands passing concepts well and where he needs to go with the ball. He at times focuses too much on his primary read, regardless of what he sees the defense do, and that’s something he’ll need to change – but he doesn’t do it often. For the most part, he’s an excellent thrower in rhythm. He surveys the field effectively and can process defenses quickly enough to distribute the ball before the pass rush can be effective. Overall, Fromm is a pretty consistent pocket passer that can absolutely succeed in the NFL if his drafting team builds around him effectively. He isn’t the type that will be able to carry the team on his own, and needs to be the manager and distributor on the field – not the primary offensive threat.
6.) Jacob Eason - Washington
Another transfer QB, Jacob Eason has garnered some potential first-round consideration out of Washington. Eason, as has been the trend with a lot of college QBs this year, hasn’t had a straight path to the draft. His college career started at Georgia, where he was unable to win the starting job from Jake Fromm. Eason, along with future 2021 draft pick Justin Fields, were then forced to transfer. Eason landed with the Huskies, where he filled the shoes of Nate Browning. The season for the team didn’t play out as I’m sure Eason thought. The Huskies lost several key starters from their 2018 team and went just 7-5. Eason however was pretty good, completing 64% of his passes and throwing for over 3,000 yards. He threw 23 TD passes against 8 interceptions and had a superb passer rating of 143.9. In addition to the production this past fall, Eason has some of the best measurables of the QB prospects. He towers over most NFL players with his 6’6 frame, and has an ability to throw the ball on a rope. Why isn’t he the first pick in the draft then? Eason struggled as a freshman and Georgia, eventually losing his job to a less physically gifted Jake Fromm. For his incredible arm talent, the mental side of his game isn’t as crisp. He struggles mightily against the blitz and pressure – something he’ll see a lot of in the NFL. He could turn out to be a slow processor of defenses and coverages, which if true, will make it hard to survive in the league. A good current example of this has been the career of Mitchell Trubisky, who is hanging on for dear life in Chicago. It depends who you ask, and NFL franchises that value the traditional pocket passer will fall in love with Eason. However, with the direction the NFL is moving at the quarterback position in terms of athleticism and a willingness to draft outside of a specific physical profile as of late – Eason’s stock is getting pushed down. He will be best-suited for a straight drop, vertical passing attack that utilizes the run game and play action. In that system, he should have more time and have to think less about the intricacies of his reads.
7.) Jalen Hurts - Oklahoma
Jalen Hurts is an interesting case study. Even just five short years ago, Hurts likely wouldn’t have gone much higher than the 6th round. But because of the success teams have had drafting QBs with less traditional play styles, Hurts will benefit greatly. Jalen has had a wildly successful college career, beginning as the QB of a national championship dynasty at Alabama, and then transferring to another college football blue blood in Oklahoma – which he led back to the College Football Playoff. At Alabama, he was used more as a running back that could throw, rather than a passer. The Tide slowly allowed him to do more offensively in the pass game but still didn’t fully trust him, an area that rival Clemson exploited in their National Championship matchups. After Tua threw the walk-off TD pass against Georgia, it was clear Jalen wasn’t getting the job back. Even still, he demonstrated quite possibly his greatest attribute by becoming a leader as the backup – making plays in a comeback effort in the SEC title game. Hurts demonstrated a different style of play at Oklahoma, one more conducive of the style he’ll need in the NFL. He’s undersized at the position, but not alarmingly so at 6’1. While he doesn’t have ideal arm strength, he’ll have enough to make throws at the next level. For comparison, his arm is no worse than Dak Prescott’s. Hurts is built for an offense that’s built on the run game and short passes between the numbers, where he can distribute and use his legs. He’s a seasoned quarterback that’s played in a lot of big games, and that will undoubtedly help him through the ups and downs early on in his career. Like most QBs not only in the draft, but in the league as a whole, Hurts is limited as a player, but also has a unique set of strengths and is one of the more intriguing quarterback prospects in the draft. He won’t cost his drafting team a precious top selection, and if he lands in the right spot, could flourish.