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Scouting breakdown: The 11 best quarterbacks in the 2020 NFL Draft

Touchdown Wire logo Touchdown Wire 4/1/2020 Mark Schofield

a group of baseball players standing on top of a field © Provided by Touchdown Wire This was supposed to be the Season of Tua.

The Alabama passer, coming off a strong 2018 campaign, was poised to be the premier quarterback in this draft class. Sure, players such as Oregon’s Justin Herbert and perhaps an upstart like Utah State’s Jordan Love might make some noise, but Tua Tagovailoa was expected by many to be the quarterback teams were clamoring for at the top of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Someone forgot to tell Ed Orgeron and Joe Burrow.

The LSU Tigers, in part riding the magical right arm of Burrow, ran to the top of the college football world this season. Burrow, the former Ohio Mr. Football who transferred out of a crowded quarterback room at Ohio State to the SEC and Orgeron’s Tigers, broke record after record as a passer this season, leading the Tigers to a championship win over Clemson. A quarterback who before the season was viewed as a fringe Day 3 prospect now is expected to be the first player selected overall.

As for Tagovailoa, lower body injuries, including a season-ending hip injury, have clouded his draft status. That has opened the door for perhaps a player like Herbert or Love — or even both — to come off the board before the Alabama QB.

So how do the top eleven passers in this year’s crop of quarterbacks shake out?

1. Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

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(Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6’3″ Weight: 221

40-Yard Dash: N/A

Bench Press: N/A

Vertical Jump: N/A

Broad Jump: N/A

3-Cone Drill: N/A

20-Yard Shuttle: N/A

60-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Bio: A highly regarded recruit coming out of high school, where he was named Ohio Mr. Football his final season at Athens High School, Joe Burrow started his college career at Ohio State. However, with a crowded quarterback room that included Dwayne Haskins, J.T. Barrett and Tate Martell, Burrow eventually found his way to the transfer market and the LSU Tigers.

It is difficult to recall a rise like Burrow has experienced over the past season. Given the extensive, year-round coverage that the NFL draft receives online and in print, the summer scouting season often uncovers a few wild cards at every position, quarterback included. This past summer, players such as Cole McDonald of Hawaii and K.J. Costello from Stanford were mentioned as possible draft board risers. Yet Burrow was almost an afterthought. Even someone who wrote about him, like me, still viewed him as a Day 3 guy.

But then, this season happened. Burrow put together a memorable senior season, capping it with a Heisman Trophy and a national championship. Only, this was not your father’s LSU passing game. The Tigers were an aerial assault this season, with Burrow setting FBS and school records in a number of categories. His 60 passing touchdowns are a new FBS record, and his efficiency rating of 202.0 is also a collegiate record. His 5,671 passing yards are a new single-season record at LSU, and his 76 career touchdowns (remember, 60 of those came last season) are a new mark at the school, besting Tommy Hodson’s previous mark of 69.

Stat to Know: Burrow’s numbers this season are all prolific, and any of the previous numbers mentioned could fit this category. However, when you consider that in the NFL the vast majority of throws are made within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, Burrow this season completed 206 passes on 238 attempts for 15 touchdowns and not a single interception on throws in the 0-9 yards downfield range. His passer rating in that area was 122.9.

Strengths: However, Burrow is not the top quarterback in this class for the numbers he put on the field, but rather how he put those numbers together. He displayed throughout his senior campaign the traits and work that are desired in the league. He displayed accuracy to all levels of the field, and Pro Football Focus charted him with the highest percentage of on-target passes of any quarterback in their four seasons of measuring that statistic.

Beyond that, Burrow’s ability to maneuver around crowded and collapsing pockets has him ready to handle life as an NFL quarterback. In Joe Brady’s offense, the vast majority of the passing plays were five-man protection schemes, leaving Burrow responsible for that sixth, unaccounted for, defender. But he was adept at either using his legs to extend plays (all while keeping his eyes downfield) or finding his hot receiver to make the defense pay for blitzing him.

Burrow also has the ability to make anticipation throws, better than his peers and among the best we have seen from a prospect in recent history. His ability to get the ball out on time and in rhythm, before his target makes his break, is going to give his receivers a chance after the catch from Day One … and make his receivers very happy.

Finally, Burrow does a lot of the little things extremely well as a quarterback, from using his eyes to influence defenders to employing shoulder shrugs and/or pump fakes to get defenders out of position. This extends from his feet to his toes. Watch his footwork in the pocket, Burrow is always in position to throw from a solid platform, even if he is moved off his spot, or carrying out a mesh with the running back on an RPO design.

Weaknesses: Perhaps the biggest weakness with Burrow is that the rise almost seems too perfect. It makes one wonder if it was the quarterback, or Joe Brady’s offense, that led to his rocketing up draft boards. Burrow is not a huge threat as a runner. He will get you what he can with his legs, but defenses are not going to dedicate a ton of resources to stopping him as a ball-carrier. He lacks upper-level arm talent, and on some of his deeper throws he needs to put more air on the football. However, he is still very accurate down the field, and his ability to anticipate helps him in this regard.

Conclusion: Burrow is a scheme-diverse, well-rounded quarterback prospect who should be the top player off the board come draft night. His lack of fear in the pocket and his willingness to give his receivers a chance is going to win the respect of teammates early in his career. His ability to anticipate throws and extend plays is going to lengthen his career. Finally, you cannot oversell the competitive toughness factor. Sometimes you just know when a quarterback inspires those around him, and you saw that this season with Burrow and the Tigers. He has that it factor, and it matters at the quarterback position.

Comparison: Tony Romo with a small side of Tom Brady. Look, comparisons are dangerous, especially when you slide in Tom Brady’s name next to a quarterback. But watching Burrow’s footwork in the pocket, from creating space to keeping his feet ready to throw, gives me Brady vibes. Overall, Burrow is very similar to the former Dallas Cowboy.

Burrow | Tagovailoa | Herbert | Love | Eason | Hurts | Fromm | Gordon | McDonald | Stanley | Huntley

2. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

a baseball player holding a bat: The overall success and incredible strength of the SEC helped tip the overall top ranking to Nick Saban and the Tide. Fifteen losses in the entire decade is astonishing. The Citrus Bowl will be Alabama's 14th postseason game of the 2010s. A remarkable run. This is the second 10-win season in the decade--very other season saw more victories! Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports © File photo The overall success and incredible strength of the SEC helped tip the overall top ranking to Nick Saban and the Tide. Fifteen losses in the entire decade is astonishing. The Citrus Bowl will be Alabama's 14th postseason game of the 2010s. A remarkable run. This is the second 10-win season in the decade--very other season saw more victories! Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

(John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6’1″ Weight: 218

40-Yard Dash: N/A

Bench Press: N/A

Vertical Jump: N/A

Broad Jump: N/A

3-Cone Drill: N/A

20-Yard Shuttle: N/A

60-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Bio: Tua Tagovailoa’s story is probably well-known by this point. A five-star recruit and the No. 1 overall high school player coming out of Hawaii, Tagovailoa had offers from UCLA, USC, Ole Miss, Texas Tech, Nebraska and Utah but decided to enroll at Alabama, even with the talented Jalen Hurts in the fold. As a freshman, he was given his star chance at halftime of the national championship of all moments, coming off the bench to lead Alabama to a title in a comeback win for the ages over Georgia.

That propelled him to the starting job over Hurts the following season, and he delivered, throwing for 3,946 yards and 42 touchdowns, against just six interceptions, with a passer rating of 137.5. He followed that up with another strong season this past year, statistically, where he completed 71.2% of his throws for 2,835 yards and 33 touchdowns, with just three interceptions.

The problem, however, is the injury history. His career ended with a severe hip injury but that is not the only concern. He suffered a high ankle sprain earlier last season that required surgery, and he came back for the LSU game to battle with Joe Burrow. On the field, he seems to be a very solid quarterback prospect. The medical piece, however, is a huge question mark — and one that just might be difficult to answer in today’s global climate. How comfortable will a team be drafting him if their own doctors cannot perform a physical examination of him?

Stat to Know: Blitz Tagovailoa at your own peril. According to charting data from Pro Football Focus, Tagovailoa posted a 64.9% completion rate when blitzed last season, with a remarkable 10.9 yards per attempt on those attempts.

Strengths: The first thing that jumps out watching Tagovailoa is his crisp release and passing mechanics. The ball pops out of his hand very well and his quick release and clean mechanics make him an ideal fit for a modern West Coast offense. He shows great accuracy to virtually every level of the field and also throws with very good anticipation, although not quite at the level of Burrow.

Tagovailoa is very athletic, with the ability to extend plays outside the pocket and make some impressive throws in scramble drill situations. He throws very well on the move and always keeps his eyes downfield in those situations. He was only sacked 10 times last season, and while part of that low number was due to the games he missed, Tagovailoa is quite capable of escaping pressure and extending plays.

While he does not have the most impressive arm in this class, his arm strength is sufficient for almost everything he will be asked to do in the NFL. He might lack some of the downfield juice, yet this would point to more of a usage or scheme limitation than anything else.

Tagovailoa also shows good processing speed on RPO designs, with the ability to read a defender at various levels of the field and make a snap decision based off his reaction to the start of a play. In modern NFL offenses, this is a huge plus.

Weaknesses: As with many athletic quarterbacks, Tagovailoa’s athleticism carries a bit of a double-edged sword. Many times, his Plan B when his primary read is covered is to extend the play with his legs and rely on his athleticism. This might work on Saturdays, even against SEC competition, but it could get him into trouble in the NFL.

Additionally, there are too many occasions of Tagovailoa playing hero ball. He might fight too long in the pocket and try to extend plays too much, and that gets him into trouble both with interceptions (his end-zone interception this season against Tennessee, for example) and with his history of lower-body injuries. He will need to learn to throw the ball away and/or play for the next down when he gets to the NFL, both to limit mistakes and protect himself.

Tagovailoa also benefited from playing with top receivers Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, as well as first-round talent blocking for him. While this should not be used against him in terms of his evaluation, what should be considered as part of his evaluation is how that allowed him to assume far too often. Beacuse of the talent around him, there were times when he would just assume: A.) What the defense was doing; and B.) That his targets would bail him out. That is not a recipe for consistent success. For more on this you can see this video breakdown of his interceptions this season:

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gf3kn4RPqAI&w=1000&h=563]

Conclusion: Tagovailoa fits perfectly with a modern West Coast offense, rooted in the quick passing game but filled with spread designs and RPO elements. Let him quickly scan the defense pre- and post-snap and get the ball out to his targets in space with room to operate. This will take advantage of his quick release and accuracy in the short areas of the field. Vertical shot plays, often off play-action designs, are the best way to keep defenses honest over the top and give him chances to hit on some deep balls downfield. Asking him to challenge tighter windows in the downfield passing game, something he seemed to shy away from in college, might be asking too much early in his career.

Of course, the biggest question with him is not something I am qualified to answer. Nor are you, unless you happen to be a world-renowned orthopedic surgeon. What is the extent of his hip injury and what limitations, if any, will that place on his career arc?

Comparison: Tagovailoa has a lot of Jimmy Garoppolo to his game, including the quick release and the need for a play-action, RPO heavy offense. The part of his game that he might need to tamp down is his Baker Mayfield side, the passer who seems almost too willing to seek out chaos in and outside of the pocket.

Burrow | Tagovailoa | Herbert | Love | Eason | Hurts | Fromm | Gordon | McDonald | Stanley | Huntley

3. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

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(Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6’6″ Weight: 236

40-Yard Dash: 4.68 seconds

Bench Press: N/A

Vertical Jump: 35.5 inches

Broad Jump: 10 feet, 3 inches

3-Cone Drill: 7.06 seconds

20-Yard Shuttle: 4.46 seconds

60-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Bio: It was no surprise when Justin Herbert committed to the University of Oregon in October 2015. Herbert was a three-star recruit coming out of Sheldon High School in Oregon and a varsity athlete in football, basketball and baseball. He turned down offers from Montana State, Nevada and Portland State to enroll at the school he grew up rooting for as a kid.

Herbert became the starting quarterback early in his college career, posting eight starts as a true freshman. His sophomore campaign put him on the map, when he completed 67.5% of his passes for 1,983 yards and 15 touchdowns, with just five interceptions. However, whether due to a coaching change or other reasons, Herbert never truly matched what he did as a sophomore, although he did produce solid numbers last year, completing 66.8% of his throws for 3,471 yards and 32 touchdowns, against just six interceptions. But on yards per attempt, for example, Herbert never quite matched the 9.6 mark he posted as a sophomore. Furthermore, Oregon had a chance to put itself in the national championship picture last year, but the Ducks suffered losses against Auburn (early) and Arizona State (late), and the QB did not fare well in those contests.

Stat to Know: Something to keep in mind with Herbert is this: Despite his size and massive hands (they measured 10 inches at the combine), Herbert has 26 career fumbles in 43 starts.

Strengths: The first thing that catches your eye with Herbert is his arm strength. He has very easy velocity and can make eye-popping throws to all levels of the field. An area where Herbert truly stands out is his ability to read and attack the leverage of the nearest defenders almost anywhere on the field. Take, for example, this read and throw against Cal during the 2018 campaign:

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The Ducks have twins to the left and run a switch vertical concept, with the inside receiver running a vertical route along the boundary while the outside receiver works inside and then up the seam. Herbert sees the man coverage and sees that the defenders do not switch their responsibilities in coverage, meaning the inside defender has to work toward the outside to cover the boundary vertical route. Seeing this, Herbert throws this ball to the outside, almost making a back-shoulder throw 40 yards downfield.

Impressive.

Herbert is also athletic enough to be a true weapon in the running game. He might not be Kyler Murray, but he is able to keep defenses honest, particularly on the edge on zone-read designs.

The offense he was operating at Oregon, however, did not do him or his evaluation any favors. The bulk of his throws were made to the outside or near the line of scrimmage, and the Ducks used a lot of tunnel or bubble screens. He was not asked to read the middle of the field much, and when he did, it was more of an adventure than NFL teams might like. That is why his experience at the Senior Bowl, in Zac Taylor’s offense, was huge for him. During that week of practice, he showed more of an ability to attack the middle of the field and manipulate defenders with his eyes.

Weaknesses: Did he peak his sophomore year? It sounds like a harsh question, but NFL scouts are going to wonder why he did not continue to grow after what he showed in 2017. Now, development is not exactly linear — especially at the quarterback position — and coaching changes might have played a part.

Herbert also struggled on those occasions when he was able to attack the middle of the field. It seemed at times as if he was unable to figure out how to layer or feather throws in that area of the field, when he needed to drop the ball behind linebackers and in front of safeties. That is an acquired taste for quarterbacks, and Josh Allen is a recent example of a quarterback who might have lacked that ability in college but who is learning it on the fly in the NFL.

Finally, Herbert faces some criticism about how he fared in Oregon’s big games. Many point to the loss at Arizona State as an example of Herbert coming up short. But even in that game you see glimpses of what he can be in the NFL — but what he could also be if things go poorly. He threw interceptions in that game where it seemed like he was doing his best Shane Falco imitation, falling prey to quicksand.

But he also put this drive together (turn volume up for video breakdown):

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Conclusion: Despite the weaknesses and Herbert’s offensive system, there is a talented quarterback inside who is waiting to be unlocked by consistent coaching and development. His arm strength and ability to attack leverage with well-placed throws to all areas of the field will be his calling card early in the league, as will his athleticism. If placed into a spread-based offense that looks to attack downfield off play-action, but also incorporates some West Coast elements for him, he would be in a spot to succeed. Some offensive systems, however, such as New England’s, would require more of a developmental curve.

Comparison: The team that drafts Herbert hopes to get someone in line with Ryan Tannehill, which is likely the top end of his spectrum. That team probably fears that he is more in line with his potential NFL floor, which looks more like Blaine Gabbert.

Burrow | Tagovailoa | Herbert | Love | Eason | Hurts | Fromm | Gordon | McDonald | Stanley | Huntley

4. Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

a baseball player holding a bat on a field: The match of Love, who threw 17 interceptions and just 20 touchdowns in 2019, to the head coach who demands more of his quarterback than any other in terms of ruthless efficiency, seems like a weird one. And this pick doesn't have to be Love. It could be Jalen Hurts. Or the Patriots could pursue Cam Newton or any one of a number of options that give Bill Belichick a more athletic quarterback for the post-Tom Brady era. (Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports) © File photo The match of Love, who threw 17 interceptions and just 20 touchdowns in 2019, to the head coach who demands more of his quarterback than any other in terms of ruthless efficiency, seems like a weird one. And this pick doesn't have to be Love. It could be Jalen Hurts. Or the Patriots could pursue Cam Newton or any one of a number of options that give Bill Belichick a more athletic quarterback for the post-Tom Brady era. (Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports)

(Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6’4″ Weight: 224

40-Yard Dash: 4.74 seconds

Bench Press: N/A

Vertical Jump: 35.5 inches

Broad Jump: 9 feet, 10 inches

3-Cone Drill: 7.21 seconds

20-Yard Shuttle: 4.52 seconds

60-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Bio: A three-star recruit coming out of Liberty High School in Bakersfield, California, Jordan Love did not have many options when it came time to choose a college destination. He selected Utah State over Northern Arizona, Northern Colorado, Eastern Washington and Sacramento State. But he was pressed into action relatively early for the Aggies, starting six games as a redshirt freshman in 2017. He completed 54.9% of his passes for 1,631 yards and eight touchdowns, with six interceptions.

His 2018 campaign was a true breakout season, and it led to many this past summer looking at him as a quarterback who could crash the first round in this draft. As a sophomore, Love completed 64% of his throws for 3,567 yards and 32 touchdowns, with just six interceptions, and he posted 8.5 yards per attempt. But coaching changes and losses on the offensive side of the ball led him to regress last season. He threw 17 interceptions, and while he said all the right things about those plays at the combine and at the Senior Bowl — calling them “teaching moments” — the decision-making he put on film this past year does generate more questions than answers.

Stat to Know: Speaking of those teaching moments, under charting from Pro Football Focus, Love ranked 101st last season in turnover-worthy play rate.

Strengths: Love, even in some of the games Utah State lost last season, puts some of the best throws on film of any quarterback in this class. A prime example is Utah State’s loss at LSU last season, which saw the Aggie QB complete just 15 of 30 passes for 130 yards and three interceptions. But early in that game, Love threw an absolute dime to a receiver in the red zone, which was dropped:

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Love actually displayed decent processing speed last season, most notably on quicker route concepts that you would expect to see in a West Coast playbook. On route designs such as Tosser (double slant), Ohio (go/flat) or Omaha (double outs) he showed quick reads and got the ball out on time and in rhythm to his targets. The Utah State playbook also incorporated some Air Raid staples such as Mesh into the design, and he showed good awareness and the ability to work through progression reads on those plays.

Love also has an NFL-ready arm, with the ability to generate velocity to all levels of the field. His arm strength makes him a fit in any offense, and there will be no limitations on him challenging any window in the NFL. He also shows better touch than most collegiate passers who have dominant arm strength, which puts him in a position to attack the middle of the field and between levels of the field when he reaches the NFL.

Weaknesses: The drop in production from 2018 to 2019 is a concern. Yes, there was a coaching change and he lost some of his offensive weapons, but it is something to watch. It also seemed like Love attempted to take on too much last year, trying to throw the Aggies back into games rather than just taking what the defense was giving him. The LSU game was one such example, when he was forcing throws in hopes of generating a comeback with one big play rather than just taking what was available.

Mechanically, there are some inconsistencies that will need to be cleaned up. Generally, mechanics are not an issue when evaluating passers unless they lead to misses on throws, and that is what we see with Love. There are times when the arm is what he relies on, and he fails to properly involve the lower body in the throwing motion, and passes dip and trail off as a result. There are other moments when his mechanics are sloppy, and he will miss on throws that he should hit easily. That is often compounded when he hesitates in the pocket. As a result, he tries to artificially speed things up by accelerating his throwing motion, and that results in sloppy mechanics and misfires.

Conclusion: A bet on Love is a bet on two things: One, that his 2018 season is more in line with his potential as a QB, and two, that your organization has an ability to develop a young quarterback. He will need some work, and is probably not someone that you could point to and state with confidence he can be your Week 1 starter as a rookie. He does project well to an offense rooted in West Coast concepts that still gives him opportunities to hit on deep balls downfield, as his processing speed on those concepts appears ready for the league. But the team that drafts him is going to need some patience. Ideally, he enjoys a Drew Lock type of draft where he falls a bit and as a result is not faced with immediate expectations. Conversely, a team that just acquired a veteran passer but might be looking a year or two down the road would be a good landing spot. Especially if its head coach has a track record of QB development.

Looking at you, Indianapolis.

Comparison: Josh Allen might be too on the nose, but it makes sense for a variety of reasons. I think there is similar play-style between the two, but I also think the team that selects Love is going to have a similar mind to the Buffalo Bills when they selected Allen, also out of the Mountain West Conference. His arm and athleticism are going to help him at the start, and we can fill in the rest around him early in his career.

Burrow | Tagovailoa | Herbert | Love | Eason | Hurts | Fromm | Gordon | McDonald | Stanley | Huntley

5. Jacob Eason, QB, Washington

a baseball player holding a bat © Provided by Touchdown Wire

(Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6’6″ Weight: 231

40-Yard Dash: 4.75 seconds

Bench Press: N/A

Vertical Jump: 27.5 inches

Broad Jump: 9 feet, 2 inches

3-Cone Drill: 7.50 seconds

20-Yard Shuttle: 4.75 seconds

60-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Bio: Jacob Eason was a highly regarded recruit coming out of high school, with a résumé that had many big schools knocking on his door. He was the 2015 Gatorade National Player of the Year and the Washington state Player of the Year, and as a senior he completed 235 of 338 passes for 3,585 yards and 43 touchdowns. He left Lake Stevens High having completed 662 of his 1,025 passes for 9,813 yards and 102 touchdowns, with just 18 career interceptions.

Eason started for the Georgia Bulldogs as a true freshman in 2016, and completed 55.1% of his passes for 2,430 yards and 16 touchdowns, against eight interceptions. Not huge numbers, but not bad for a true freshman in the SEC. The next season, however, was cut short due to injury. He gave way to Jake Fromm, and his understudy would not relinquish the starting job. Eason transferred close to his hometown, joining the University of Washington and waiting for his eligibility to open up behind Jake Browning.

Eason finally got his chance to play again this past season, and he made the most of the opportunity, completing 64.2% of his throws for 3,132 yards and 23 touchdowns, with just eight interceptions. He posted a 143.9 passer rating, the best of his career.

Stat to Know: More on this in a moment, but Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of just 37.6 when pressured this past season, second-worst in the Pac-12.

Strengths: Similar to Justin Herbert, the easy velocity and impressive arm talent is going to get NFL evaluators excited. Eason certainly can spin it, and he has some of the best wow throws of any passer in this class. What also works in his favor is the offense he ran at Washington. The Huskies did a lot with Eason working under center and running play-action using that deep drop into the pocket and turning his back to the defense. Those plays illustrate his ability to quickly read and react to the secondary, because they compress the decision-making time for the quarterback.

Another area where Eason deserves some credit is his willingness to attack the middle of the field and up the seams. He has supreme confidence in his arm — for good reason — and will challenge some throwing windows that other quarterbacks in this group will avoid. He also shows some anticipation ability working between the hashmarks, and in his game against Cal last season, he converted a third-and-17 by throwing a post route in the middle of the field with anticipation.

Eason is not the most athletic quarterback of the bunch — as his combine results reveal — but he is athletic enough to spin away from pressure and extend plays when necessary. He is not a threat as a runner, but he will pick up what the defense gives him at times.

Weaknesses: Similar to Josh Allen a few seasons ago, his arm is a bit of a double-edged sword. There are times on film when he could benefit from getting the ball out a bit quicker, but he relies on his arm to bail him out at times. So, in a sense, his reliance on the arm strength and velocity creates some poor situations for him, because he gives throws a bit longer to read because he believes the velocity is going to save him. That works at times in the Pac-12, but it might not always work for him in the NFL.

He also made some head-scratching decisions in the pocket and seemed to struggle under pressure. As noted above, Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of just 37.6 when pressured, second-worst in the Pac-12, and this is one of those occasions when the grade definitely matches the tape. That is a pretty big red flag. Magnifying this issue is that when pressured, he often looks to bail to his left, away from his throwing hand, thereby just making his situation worse. A prime example of his struggles against pressure, as well as his questionable situational awareness, comes at the end of that game against Cal. On a second-and-8 play with just over two minutes remaining, the Huskies were trailing by a single point. Eason looked to throw a smoke route to the right, but it was read perfectly by the defense, so he pulled the ball down. So far, so good. But he bailed the pocket to the left, and instead of throwing the ball away, he slid to the turf for a loss of three yards. Thankfully, his field goal kicker converted a 49-yard field goal after a third down incompletion, but that was not the best of decisions.

Conclusion: Even with these weaknesses, Eason’s arm strength and upper-tier velocity is going to attract NFL teams. Scheme fit and landing spot is going to be critical for him, as he is best suited for a downfield, vertically based offense than a West Coast system that will require fast reads and quick decisions. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers almost seemed like a shoo-in for Eason before they acquired Tom Brady in free agency, but if he falls to their selection at No. 45 overall, he would be in an ideal situation to sit and learn.

Comparison: In a best-case scenario, Eason could mirror a career track like Joe Flacco’s, where he relies on his big arm and some athleticism to function in a heavy play-action system that schemes vertical shot plays for him. The low range of his NFL outcomes might mirror the path of Blake Bortles, where his athleticism helps keep him afloat, but he never truly puts it together.

Burrow | Tagovailoa | Herbert | Love | Eason | Hurts | Fromm | Gordon | McDonald | Stanley | Huntley

6. Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma

a man running on a baseball field: File photo © File Photo File photo

(Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6’1″ Weight: 222

40-Yard Dash: 4.59 seconds

Bench Press: N/A

Vertical Jump: 35 inches

Broad Jump: 10 feet, 5 inches

3-Cone Drill: N/A

20-Yard Shuttle: N/A

60-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Bio: Similar to the quarterback who replaced him at Alabama, Jalen Hurts’ biography is well known by now. A four-star recruit out of Channelview High School in the Houston area, Hurts picked Alabama over Texas A&M during his recruiting process. He became the first true freshman to start for Alabama at quarterback in 30 years, but was benched at halftime of the national championship his sophomore season in favor of Tua Tagovailoa.

Hurts then lost the starting job to Tagovailoa prior to the 2018 season, and after graduating he transferred to Oklahoma for his final collegiate season. He was extremely efficient last season for the Sooners, and his passing efficiency of 191.2 was second only to Joe Burrow’s mark of 202.0 and stands as the seventh-most efficient passer mark of all-time.

Stat to Know: 3.08 seconds. That was Hurts’ time from snap to release last season, which was ranked 103rd among collegiate passers, according to Pro Football Focus. By comparison, the slowest passer in the NFL in 2019, according to Next Gen Stats, was Kirk Cousins with a time of 3.01.

Strengths: Hurts is an athletic quarterback who can create both outside the pocket and off structure. His ability to extend plays and make big throws downfield in scramble drill situations is impressive and likely led to that long time to throw. He throws the deep ball very well, with a good combination of touch and accuracy in the vertical passing game. Hurts also avoids mistakes with the football, and over his entire collegiate career, he threw just 20 interceptions against 80 interceptions.

Hurts’ athleticism also is going to be a weapon at the next level. While some compare him to Lamar Jackson, that comparison misses the mark. Where Jackson is a potential home-run hitter as a running back, with the ability to change direction on a dime and make people miss in the open field, Hurts plays the position more like a running back, who is just as likely to run you over in space than he is to juke you in the open field.

Finally, and we cannot emphasize this enough, is the character question. The pre-draft rise of Hurts should not be a surprise, given how he handled the situation at Alabama and then transferred to Oklahoma to immediately become a leader of that team. Football minds are going to love him from a leadership and character standpoint, and you just know that he crushed those interviews in the hotel suites at Indianapolis.

Weaknesses: His ball placement can be erratic at times, even on some of the shorter route concepts in the playbook. His mechanics are a question, as he showed an elongated windup to his release on film. To his credit, that was cleaned up first for the Senior Bowl and then later for the combine, where his throwing session was impressive. Hurts is also very much a see it, throw it passer right now, and he will need to really learn how to anticipate throwing windows and how to throw receivers open in the NFL. Hurts also has a tendency to rely on his athleticism, vacating clean pockets and dropping his eyes when pressured quicker than other passers in this class.

Conclusion: Because of his strengths, including his character, Hurts has an NFL future. What that ultimately looks like depends on how well he enhances his strengths and works to improve his limitations as a quarterback. He has the potential to be a schematically diverse quarterback at the next level, and that will open doors for him as well. Hurts will need some time to develop, perhaps more than even a few passers ranked below him. But in the right setting, you could see everything coming together for him and Hurts having a very solid career.

Comparison: Like some of the other passers in this group, it makes sense to apply both a floor and ceiling comparison for Hurts. He could have a very Tyrod Taylor-like career, but if things come together for him, and he lands in the right spot to develop, Hurts could grow into a player similar to Dak Prescott, who makes plays with his legs and in the downfield passing game in and out of structure.

Burrow | Tagovailoa | Herbert | Love | Eason | Hurts | Fromm | Gordon | McDonald | Stanley | Huntley

7. Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia

a baseball player holding a bat © Provided by Touchdown Wire

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Height: 6’2″ Weight: 219

40-Yard Dash: 5.01 seconds

Bench Press: N/A

Vertical Jump: 30 inches

Broad Jump: 9 feet, 3 inches

3-Cone Drill: 7.27 seconds

20-Yard Shuttle: 4.51 seconds

60-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Bio: When Jacob Eason was injured early in the 2017 season opener, that opened the door for Jake Fromm to step in as a true freshman. Fromm, a native of Warner Robins, Georgia, led the Bulldogs to an appearance in the national championship — only to fall to Alabama, where he had originally committed, and Tua Tagovailoa when he memorably rallied the Crimson Tide after coming off the bench at halftime.

Fromm made strides each season as a passer for Georgia and last year threw for a career-high 2,855 yards while throwing a career-low five interceptions. He also functioned in a very pro-style offense and has lots of experience operating under center and making calls and adjustments at the line of scrimmage.

Stat to Know: Fromm, according to Pro Football Focus, recorded a turnover-worthy play on just seven of his 445 dropbacks last season. He will not make many mistakes.

Strengths: Consider for a moment the typical NFL decision-maker. Someone with a house (and a mortgage), bills to pay and a general desire to not get fired. That is why Fromm is going to come off the board sooner than people expect and perhaps before his ranking would indicate. Fromm is not going to be careless with the football. Think of some of the terms used to describe safe quarterbacks: Game manager, system quarterback or perhaps point guard. That is Fromm. He can make the right reads and the right throws on time and in rhythm. His accuracy in the short and intermediate areas of the field is perhaps ideal for a West Coast system.

Weaknesses: Fromm is perhaps one of the more scheme-limited quarterbacks in this class. His arm strength is a limitation as the throws start to get more vertical in the passing game, and his athleticism is not exactly something you will have to game-plan against as a defensive coordinator. If everything is clicking and he is kept clean, he is a dangerous passer. However, if things break down and he needs to improvise or throw with trash at this feet, or work off his first or second read, that is when things start to go haywire. He’ll need to be in a system where he can just follow the steps — or recipe, if you will — and check the boxes along the way. Ideally, a West Coast offense such as Indianapolis, Chicago or Philadelphia would be a suitable environment for him.

Conclusion: Because of these limitations, Fromm will be a polarizing prospect for many teams. In some settings, such as those described above, he might be worthy of an early Day 2 selection. Other teams, like say the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Bruce Arians, might not even have him on their board. In the right environment, he could flourish, but those options are limited for him. Otherwise, he might just be another career-long backup type of player — valuable in a sense, but not someone you’ll covet early in the draft.

Comparison: Dane Brugler with The Athletic compared him to “Cody Kessler plus,” and that is accurate. Fromm is someone who will need to win with anticipation and his mind at the next level. In the most ideal of situations, he could grow into a Kirk Cousins type of passer — someone who paints by the numbers, functions in a run-heavy, play-action oriented offense and becomes a quarterback you win with, not a passer you win because of.

Burrow | Tagovailoa | Herbert | Love | Eason | Hurts | Fromm | Gordon | McDonald | Stanley | Huntley

8. Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State

a person talking on a cell phone: USA TODAY © USA TODAY USA TODAY

(James Snook-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6’2″ Weight: 205

40-Yard Dash: N/A

Bench Press: N/A

Vertical Jump: N/A

Broad Jump: N/A

3-Cone Drill: N/A

20-Yard Shuttle: N/A

60-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Bio: Anthony Gordon lit up scoreboards at Terra Nova High School in Northern California, setting a conference record with 4,899 passing yards and 49 touchdowns as a senior. He was also a three-time letter winner in baseball, something we will return to in a moment.

Despite his high school gridiron success, big-time programs did not come calling, so Gordon opted for junior college, enrolling at the City College of San Francisco. As a freshman, he was an All-California Community College Athletic Association first-team QB, leading CCSF to a 12-1 record and the CCCAA championship. Gordon threw for 3,864 yards and 37 touchdowns, averaging 297.2 yards per game, with just 12 interceptions.

He then enrolled at Washington State to play for Mike Leach and waited his turn behind Luke Falk and Gardner Minshew. He finally got his chance to play as a senior and made the most of it, completing 71.6% of his passes and throwing for 5,579 yards and 48 touchdowns, with 16 interceptions.

Stat to Know: 740. That is the number of times that Gordon dropped back last season. He might have waited his turn, but he got in almost two seasons’ worth of film when given the chance to play.

Strengths: As mentioned above, Gordon was a baseball player before he was a football player, and a middle infielder to boot. That shows up in his play on the field, as he has a Patrick Mahomes-like ability to make throws from a dizzying array of platforms and arm angles. Gordon also functioned at a high level in Leach’s Air Raid system, which as Gordon and predecessor Minshew are more than happy to explain, is an offense that tasks the QB with making full-field progression reads on each snap. Gordon also shows a penchant for attacking underneath coverage and leveraged linebackers and safeties. He is not afraid to challenge any window at any level of the field. He also throws with pretty good anticipation for a collegiate passer. Finally, his mechanics, despite appearing odd at first, are rather tight — and the ball comes out of his field quickly.

Weaknesses: Gordon’s footwork is going to need some work. In stark contrast to Minshew, who always moved his feet while working through reads, Gordon is more statuesque in the pocket. This sometimes artificially creates instances where he makes a throw off platform. Also, his willingness to play like Mahomes leads to some splash plays, but also some moments like this:

There’s just … there’s just no need to try and no-look this throw.

Gordon, similar to Fromm, might be limited schematically. When the route concepts started to get more vertical, he struggled pushing the ball downfield. On 61 deep attempts last season, Gordon threw five interceptions, and his passer rating of 89.2 was his lowest when graded by depth of target.

Conclusion: Gordon would be best suited to land with a team running a blend of Air Raid and West Coast concepts, where he can work on refining his footwork and learning some of the nuances to playing the position. He might not be able to contribute immediately, but a team looking to grab a Day 3 developmental QB would be smart to bet on his growth.

Comparison: Watching Gordon brings back memories of watching Jared Goff. They have a similar frame, move around in a familiar way (although Goff had much better footwork in the pocket) and played in a similar offense. This is not to say that Gordon is worthy of an early-round selection, but if things really come together for him, he could be a quarterback that can deliver in a system catered to his strengths and with weapons assembled around him.

Burrow | Tagovailoa | Herbert | Love | Eason | Hurts | Fromm | Gordon | McDonald | Stanley | Huntley

9. Cole McDonald, QB, Hawaii

a group of people playing a game of football with Boise State University in the background © Provided by Touchdown Wire

(Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6’3″ Weight: 215

40-Yard Dash: 4.58 seconds

Bench Press: N/A

Vertical Jump: 36 inches

Broad Jump: 10 feet, 1 inch

3-Cone Drill: 7.13 seconds

20-Yard Shuttle: 4.52 seconds

60-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Bio: Cole McDonald had just one offer coming out of high school in Southern California: the University of Hawaii. So he left the contiguous 48 for the sunny shores of Oahu and served as starter the past two seasons in its Run-and-Shoot system. In 2018, McDonald completed 58.5% of his passes for 3,875 yards and 36 touchdowns with 10 interceptions, and his numbers took some steps forward this past season. Last year, he completed 63.8% of his throws for 4,135 yards and 33 touchdowns — but he also had 14 interceptions. He was a darling of many this past summer scouting season, including in this writer’s eye, but his season opener against Arizona saw him benched after his fourth interception. He rebounded and finished the season strong with a comeback win over BYU in the Hawaii Bowl. He then turned in a solid combine performance, but is that enough to get on the radar of NFL teams?

He also had one of the all-time great combine answers, in response to a question from Trevor Sikkema from The Draft Network:

“Hair grows back; opportunity doesn’t.”

Stat to Know: According to Pro Football Focus’ charting, McDonald led collegiate passers with nine completions on throws over 40 yards last season.

Strengths: As evidenced perhaps by that above statistic, McDonald has tremendous arm talent. Throws to all levels of the field just pop out of his hands, and he does this despite unrefined footwork and sloppy mechanics at times. He also has a gift for the quarterback position: a short-term memory. You can watch that game against Arizona to open the season and see him make just a foolish decision on one drive and come back the next and play flawless football. There is no quicksand concern with McDonald.

While many might question his offense, I would argue that the Run-and-Shoot perhaps prepared him for the NFL more than some might think. At the combine, he walked me through his favorite design from college, which he termed the streak read — a four-verticals concept but with each route potentially converting based on the coverage. That tasks the quarterback with being able to diagnose a defense on the fly and adjust accordingly. That is perhaps the essence of quarterback play from a mental perspective.

Speaking of the mental part, McDonald is fearless. In that comeback win against BYU, he led a game-winning drive in the closing minutes. When faced with a third-and-1, he passed on a wide-open shallow crosser (that would have stopped the clock with about a minute remaining) to try a vertical hole shot along the left sideline between the cornerback and safety. Throwing the crosser to get the first down and stop the clock is the safe play, but McDonald does not play safely. I asked him about that play at the combine, and he said, “We’re a counter-based offense. If you’re going to give me that hole shot, I don’t care if it’s third-and-1 or fourth-and-long, I’m going to throw it.”

He is also tough. I will just let this speak for itself:

Yeah.

Weaknesses: There is a fine line between fearlessness and insanity in a quarterback, and McDonald does his best to blur that line. He was benched for throwing four interceptions in the 2019 season opener, and it was not the only time he was sent to the sideline during his Hawaii career. Taking risks with the football has gotten him burned time and again. Mechanically, he can be a bit of a mess, as his footwork is all over the place, and his throwing motion had a very pronounced dip and loop to it early in the season. He seemed to work on it over the course of the year, and by the Hawaii Bowl, the release seemed tighter.

Conclusion: If you are looking for a Day 3 lottery pick at the quarterback position, McDonald could be that player. He has the NFL arm and the fearlessness that often works at the position. Will every coach love him? Absolutely not. But a coach who likes pushing the envelope offensively is going to have a soft spot for him.

Comparison: Every so often, I find that a movie character is a more apt comparison for a quarterback than someone who has previously played the game. A few years ago, I went with Nuke LaLoosh for Josh Allen, with a side of Happy Gilmore. I think such an approach works for McDonald. That comparison? Captain Pete Mitchell — callsign: Maverick. McDonald does it his own way, and pushes the envelope every chance he gets. Sometimes it works; other times it fails spectacularly. It also might not be for everyone.

Tom Cruise looking at the camera © Provided by Touchdown Wire

Burrow | Tagovailoa | Herbert | Love | Eason | Hurts | Fromm | Gordon | McDonald | Stanley | Huntley

10. Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa

a man wearing a helmet © Provided by Touchdown Wire

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6’4″ Weight: 235

40-Yard Dash: 4.81 seconds

Bench Press: N/A

Vertical Jump: 28.5 inches

Broad Jump: 9 feet

3-Cone Drill: 7.26 seconds

20-Yard Shuttle: 4.48 seconds

60-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Bio: Nate Stanley looks every bit the part of an NFL quarterback, with ideal size and a blue-chip pedigree. He spurned offers from Pittsburgh and Wisconsin to enroll at Iowa and was a three-year starter for the Hawkeyes. He protected the football well but failed to crack that magical 60% completion threshold that many evaluators point to as a benchmark for collegiate quarterback play.

Stat to Know: Stanley leaves Iowa with a career completion rate of 58.3%, not the best number we can find in this class.

Strengths: Stanley is every bit the prototypical pocket passer. He has an impressive arm, which is going to move the needle for some NFL teams. If you are looking for the guy who can deliver the deep out route from the pocket, Stanley checks that box:

Stanley is also going to get that pro-style quarterback bump. In every draft class, there is a passer or two who comes from an offense that looks like what we grew up watching: quarterback under center, maybe a fullback in the backfield, and a deep drop into the pocket to throw that downfield out pattern. The problem is that the game is moving in a different direction, and pro-style offenses are no longer the systems we grew up watching Pat Summerall and John Madden describe.

To his credit, Stanley brings more to the table than a wistful thought of yesteryear. He shows a willingness to fight in the pocket and some quick processing on route concepts in the short and intermediate areas of the field. He makes throws on time, in rhythm and with some anticipation to his game. He also is able to attack leveraged defenders in the passing game, something that will serve him well in today’s NFL.

Stanley is not considered the most athletic quarterback, but there are examples of him on film getting what he can with his legs and extending plays outside the pocket. It will not be a huge part of his game, but his film shows a bit more athleticism than he is given credit for. He is also a tough guy in and outside the pocket, unafraid to hang in versus pressure or run through a defender in the open field.

Weaknesses: The completion percentage points to a key area of concern: His ball placement and accuracy. Pro Football Focus charted him with a sub-70% completion rate, and that got worse the deeper downfield he attacked. PFF also put him with just 35.9% of his throws as accurate over 10 yards downfield, and the film largely supports that analysis. Stanley is at his best when he can attack the defense based on his pre-snap read and expectations, but when the secondary rolls things on him and he is forced to adjust, his decision-making and accuracy suffer.

Conclusion: Similar in a sense to Jake Fromm, there will be teams that like what Stanley offers as a throwback pocket passer. But other teams with more spread, up-tempo offenses will look elsewhere on Day 3. Some teams, like the Pittsburgh Steelers or New England Patriots, will covet what he brings to the table, and in either of those situations he could be in a position to develop well.

Comparison: Connor Cook. Similar to the Michigan State product, Stanley is a throwback quarterback who fights in the pocket and has the big arm to make the leap to the next level.

Burrow | Tagovailoa | Herbert | Love | Eason | Hurts | Fromm | Gordon | McDonald | Stanley | Huntley

11. Tyler Huntley, QB, Utah

a group of people playing football on a field © Provided by Touchdown Wire

(Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6’2″ Weight: 205

40-Yard Dash: N/A

Bench Press: N/A

Vertical Jump: N/A

Broad Jump: N/A

3-Cone Drill: N/A

20-Yard Shuttle: N/A

60-Yard Shuttle: N/A

Bio: Tyler Huntley was a well-regarded prospect coming out of Hallandale High School in the Miami area, earning scholarship offers to schools such as Cincinnati, Louisville, Temple and Duke. But he chose to sign with Utah, and he started each of the past three seasons for the Utes. This past year, he took a huge step forward as a quarterback, completing 73.1% of his passes for 3,048 yards and 19 touchdowns — all three marks were career highs. His four interceptions were the lowest of his career, and Pro Football Focus graded him with the second-lowest turnover-worthy play rate overall, and the lowest among Power 5 QBs.

Stat to Know: We saw earlier some incredible passing efficiency marks from quarterbacks such as Joe Burrow, whose 202.0 efficiency rating was the best in FBS history. Well, Huntley’s mark of 177.6 was the 25th best in FBS history, the fifth-best number in FBS a season ago, and the top mark in all of the Pac-12.

Strengths: Where Huntley stands out as a passer is in his ability to make smart, quick decisions with the football (as reflected in those efficiency numbers) and to get the ball out of his hands quickly in the passing game while still working through his progressions. He is adept at ruling route concepts in or out prior to the snap, which aids his decision-making process. If he sees soft coverage or a big cushion before the snap, he is often quick to exploit that leverage advantage.

Huntley also is athletic and can extend plays with his feet. When protection schemes break down in front of him or there is an unaccounted blitzer up front, Huntley can make the defense pay. His ability when pressured is the ultimate insurance policy, because when the protection breaks down and bad things happen in the pocket, he can bail out the guys upfront with what he can do off structure.

Weaknesses: Huntley lacks the prototype NFL arm, and when tasked with pushing the football deeper downfield, he needed a bit more arc and touch rather than relying on velocity. This might get to a scheme limitation, and it was something that even showed up on some of the deeper out patterns — those proverbial NFL throws. He is also a see it, throw it passer who needs to learn the art of anticipation when he gets to the NFL.

Conclusion: Huntley is not a guy you can expect to see drafted on either Day 1 or Day 2, but with how the league is trending toward valuing athleticism and play-making ability at the quarterback position, Huntley is a prospect that a team can safely draft on Day 3 knowing he has abilities that translate well to today’s game. Teams with a mobile quarterback at the top of their depth chart — or who are looking to inject that type of player into their QB room — would be wise to turn in a card with his name on it. Or Skype in the card, as we do not yet know exactly how the draft will transpire this year …

Comparison: P.J. Walker. Huntley’s ability off structure and with his athleticism is very similar to the former Temple product who tore up the XFL this season and earned a spot with the Carolina Panthers.

Burrow | Tagovailoa | Herbert | Love | Eason | Hurts | Fromm | Gordon | McDonald | Stanley | Huntley

After 10 years practicing law in the Washington, D.C., area, Mark Schofield now dedicates his time to his first love: football. The former Wesleyan University quarterback’s writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Bleacher Report, SB Nation, Pro Football Weekly and the Matt Waldman Rookie Scouting Portfolio.

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