2020 NFL Draft Preview - The QB Class
Dan Servodidio takes a look at the top quarterbacks coming out in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Although coronavirus is impacting live sports across the world this spring, we still have the NFL Draft scheduled for April 23rd! That means it’s time to talk about the top prospects at each of the fantasy-relevant positions before they enter the league. Every year we see NFL rookies emerge as impact players in both real life and in fantasy football or DFS - and it’s always important to know who these guys are before everyone else jumps on the bandwagon. We start with the top quarterback prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft. Enjoy!
1) Joe Burrow -- LSU
Height/Weight: 6’3” / 221 lbs.
Age/Year: 23 yrs old / Redshirt Senior
Hometown/Age: The Plains, Ohio
2019 Stats: 5,671 pass yds; 60 pass TD; 6 INT; 76.3% completion rate in 15 games
It was essentially a perfect season for Joe Burrow in terms of boosting his draft stock. The redshirt senior easily took home Heisman Trophy honors with one of the best statistical college football seasons ever before leading LSU to a national title. He rightly deserves to be the first overall pick in this year’s draft and, coincidentally, the team in that spot (Cincinnati Bengals) is in need of a quarterback. In 2019, Burrow set FBS records for passing touchdowns (60) and total touchdowns (65) in a single season and his 76.3% completion rate is the second-best mark in history behind Texas’ Colt McCoy . If you’re looking for a franchise quarterback, he definitely has the confidence and competitiveness to lead an NFL offense - and his elite throwing accuracy, pocket presence and natural touch provide a good marriage of talent and mindset.
The only knocks on Burrow at this point are 1) he likely benefited from an extremely talented LSU receiving corps and offensive line last season and 2) his production jumped immensely from 2018 to 2019 because of a new offensive scheme, suggesting he doesn’t has as much of a track record as most top QB prospects from previous years. Still, it’s hard to find holes in Burrow’s actual football talent and that may be enough to allow him to adapt to an NFL offense more easily.
2) Tua Tagovailoa -- Alabama
Height/Weight: 6’0” / 217 lbs.
Age/Year: 22 yrs old / Junior
Hometown: Ewa Beach, Hawaii
2019 Stats: 2,840 pass yds; 33 pass TD; 3 INT; 71.4% completion rate in 9 games
If not for a career-threatening hip injury suffered in November, Tua Tagovailoa would likely be in the conversation to be the top QB off the board right next to Joe Burrow. This time last year, many experts predicted he would be the first overall pick - before Burrow’s breakout and Tua’s injury - after he helped Alabama win a championship as a freshman and then followed up with an All-American-caliber season as a sophomore. However, he’s become a draft risk because of his uncertain health right now - a factor that becomes even more important with the ongoing coronavirus because NFL team doctors can’t evaluate him in person. He recently held his own Pro Day and all NFL teams received the video from the workout, but there’s still that unknown of how he’ll hold up against full contact. Plus, Tagovailoa’s fearless style of play can be a blessing and a curse as it causes him to take a lot of unnecessary hits while exemplifying his win-at-all costs attitude.
Outside of the injury concerns, though, Tagovailoa possesses outstanding field vision and passing instincts from both the pocket and on the run - characteristics that helped him become one of the best college football QBs just a year ago. Despite all the concerns, some team will take a chance on Tua in the top 5-10 picks - even if that means he starts the season as a back-up to recover fully from his hip injury. By next season, though, he’ll likely be an NFL starter for whichever team drafts him.
3) Justin Herbert -- Oregon
Height/Weight: 6’6” / 236 lbs.
Age/Year: 22 yrs old / Senior
Hometown: Eugene, Oregon
2019 Stats: 3,471 pass yds; 32 pass TD; 6 INT; 66.8% completion rate in 14 games
This time last year, Justin Herbert probably would’ve been the second QB off the board behind Kyler Murray - but he chose to return to Oregon for his senior year and his draft stock may be worse off now. Still, Herbert is an explosive thrower both from the pocket and as a scrambler - and his athleticism to make plays with his feet gives him another dimension, especially in today’s NFL where mobile QB’s are even more valuable. He owns a powerful arm that translates well to the next level, but his accuracy as a passer is sometimes inconsistent - as proven by the fact he never eclipsed the 70% completion rate in his four years as Oregon’s QB.
That’s probably the biggest knock on Herbert’s game - that he’ll make wrong reads as a thrower at times which lead to incompletions or, worse, interceptions. Plus, he has the tendency to hold onto the ball too long at times when pressure comes. It is impressive, though, that he was a four-year starter in college and that experience has given him a ton of football IQ in terms of reading defenses and making strong throws when needed. Herbert is one of those prospects who would’ve benefited a ton from the pre-draft process as he would’ve likely “wowed” some teams and front office execs with his football intelligence. Instead, the coronavirus forces those meetings to come virtually which could still help his draft stock - but may lead teams to look more at his game tape which is shaky at times.
4) Jordan Love -- Utah State
Height/Weight: 6’3” / 224 lbs.
Age/Year: 21 yrs old / Redshirt Junior
Hometown: Bakersfield, California
2019 Stats: 3,402 pass yds; 20 pass TD; 17 INT; 62% completion rate in 13 games
Since he played at a smaller school in a lesser-known conference, Jordan Love is the prototypical high-risk, high-reward QB in this draft class. However, we’ve seen some quarterbacks from non-power 5 schools have success in the league in recent years (Josh Allen of Wyoming, Carson Wentz of North Dakota State, Jimmy Garappolo of Eastern Illinois) - and Love could follow in their footsteps as the next great find. At Utah State, Love excelled in an uptempo, shotgun-heavy offense where his passing abilities took center stage. He’s pretty raw as a passer, but he does boast an impressive arm talent that’s been compared to Patrick Mahomes in terms of playing loose and appearing effortless as a thrower.
A lot of mock drafts suggest Love could be the fourth QB to go in the first round and it’s possible he could follow Mahomes’ career path as a backup in his first season behind a proven signal-caller to get more comfortable running an NFL-style offense and hone his passing skills. It is a slight concern that Love doesn’t have experience facing top-tier defenses like other QB’s in this class, and that he hasn’t played much in a pro-style scheme. Another red flag on Love is his potential off-the-field issues that came to light in December when he was cited for marijuana possession before declaring for the draft. If he doesn’t get drafted in the first round, expect Love to be taken early in the second as the top QB available on Day 2.
5) Jacob Eason -- Washington
Height/Weight: 6’5” / 231 lbs.
Age/Year: 22 yrs old / Redshirt Junior
Hometown: Lake Stevens, Washington
2019 Stats: 3,132 pass yds; 23 pass TD; 8 INT; 64.2% completion rate in 13 games
Jacob Eason is a very interesting prospect because of his unique college career path. As a freshman at Georgia, he started 12 of 13 games and then a knee injury in his sophomore season caused him to lose his starting job to fellow prospect Jake Fromm. He then transferred to Washington after sitting out a year and now has two seasons as a full-time starter in both the SEC and Pac-12 conferences - three years apart. All of that has caused some NFL teams the trouble of evaluating Eason because of his lack of development as a QB in the same system for two straight seasons.
As for his talent, Eason has a strong throwing arm with plenty of velocity on passes to all levels of the field. His bigger, taller frame definitely translates well as it’s helped his ability to fire strikes to receivers as a downfield passer. At Washington, he lined up both under center and out of the shotgun in a spread offense. The biggest knock on his play is that he becomes too reliable on his arm and usually won’t roll out of the pocket to make plays with his feet when pressure comes. Eason will likely be a third round pick who could eventually be an NFL starter down the line after a year or two as a backup. He could be a Day 2 target for teams with aging QB’s interested in a cheaper option to mold into a starter.
6) Jake Fromm -- Georgia
Height/Weight: 6’1” / 219 lbs.
Age/Year: 21 yrs old / Junior
Hometown/Age: Warner Robins, Georgia
2019 Stats: 2,860 pass yds; 24 pass TD; 5 INT; 60.8% completion rate in 14 games
Jake Fromm is an intriguing QB prospect who has yet to show his true talent ceiling. He definitely benefited from Georgia’s pro-style offense that utilized the run game a lot and only needed Fromm to be a game-manager with a top-tier defense slowing the overall tempo down. However, his experience in an offense similar to many NFL teams is encouraging - especially since he faced tough opposing defenses in his three years starting in the SEC. Fromm held down his starting job at Georgia despite two other talented QB’s also passing through the system (Jacob Eason and Justin Fields both transferred away to Washington and Ohio State, respectively).
As for Fromm’s mechanics as a QB, he appeared to be very poised and calm in the pocket against some ferocious pass-rushers and defensive lines in the SEC. His decision-making and ball placement on throws were also impressive when he needed to make plays on his own on third-downs - despite playing in a run-heavy offense for three years at Georgia. Fromm’s arm strength, though, is about average and he was never a huge threat for deep passes or high-velocity throws in the mid-range. It’s also a little worrying that Fromm’s completion percentage dipped from 67% to 60% from his sophomore to junior seasons. Expect him to be drafted on Day 2 as a late 2nd or 3rd round pick to be a backup in his first NFL season.
7) Jalen Hurts -- Oklahoma
Height/Weight: 6’1” / 222 lbs.
Age/Year: 21 yrs old / Senior
Hometown: Houston, Texas
2019 Stats: 3,851 pass yds; 32 pass TD; 8 INT; 69.7% completion rate in 14 games
Who remembers when Jalen Hurts took home SEC Offensive Player of the Year honors as a freshman quarterbacking Alabama? Hurts seemed poised to be an eventual #1 overall pick but a year later, inconsistent play in the National Championship forced Nick Saban to bench Hurts in favor of a guy you may have heard of in Tua Tagovailoa. That caused Hurts to transfer to Oklahoma where he followed in Kyler Murray ’s footsteps as the de facto point guard in coach Lincoln Riley’s air raid offense. In turn, he stuffed the stat sheet in 2019 with 52 total touchdowns (32 passing, 20 rushing) and 1,298 rushing yards to pair with his impressive and efficient passing numbers. The type of offensive system definitely tailored to Hurts’ dual-threat skillset and some NFL teams may be salivating over whether he can replicate Murray’s success as last year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year.
However, Hurts isn’t as good of a pure passer as Murray or other QB’s in this draft class. His flaws were a bit hidden last season in the Sooners’ quick-strike offense with plenty of playmakers around him to make him look better - plus his rushing ability kept defenses honest enough to allow his throwing to be successful. He frankly won’t be able to run wild in the NFL as he did at Oklahoma, though. A team will surely take a chance on him in the 3rd or 4th rounds as a project because he needs to improve his throwing mechanics and decision-making to quarterback at the next level. Still, it’s honorable that Hurts maintains he wants to be an NFL QB despite some experts suggesting he should transition to wide receiver or running back. Could Hurts be the next version of Lamar Jackson ?
8) James Morgan -- Florida International
Height/Weight: 6’4” / 229 lbs.
Age/Year: 23 yrs old / Redshirt Senior
Hometown: Green Bay, Wisconsin
2019 Stats: 2,560 pass yds; 14 pass TD; 5 INT; 58% completion rate in 12 games
James Morgan is one of the few quarterbacks in the top-tier of this draft class who did not go to a major-conference school - but that doesn’t mean NFL teams won’t take a chance on him in the 5th or 6th rounds as a project and backup for at least the 2020 season. Despite being relatively unknown to the casual college fan, Morgan started two years at Bowling Green before transferring and starting two seasons at Florida International. He owns a strong arm and can fire passes with high velocity in a quick, compact motion. There’s no denying his throwing strength and that quality makes him a solid pocket passer who can easily hit receivers downfield - something he did in both Bowling Green’s air-raid system and FIU’s pro-style offense.
Outside of his inexperience against tough defenses in college, there aren’t many weaknesses to Morgan’s game. While his arm is strong, his deep passes can tend to be inconsistent when it comes to accuracy - and he made a few too many high-risk decisions as a passer, especially when pressured. Those are things that can be fixed when learning under a veteran NFL QB. One thing that is a bit alarming is his decline in stats from his junior to senior seasons at FIU - going from a 65% completion rate and 26:7 TD:INT ratio in 2018 to a 58% completion rate and 14:5 TD:INT ratio last year.