Sport in Focus
The 2020 NFL draft is set to contain an incredibly strong stock of quarterbacks, and these collegiate signal-callers could prove to make a difference for several teams. But who will be available? And which teams might be in the market for a quarterback?
Entering the 2019 season, the top quarterback prospect was Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa. The 6-1, 218-pound junior from Ewa Beach, Hawaii first entered draft talks in January 2018 after making a spectacular 41-yard touchdown pass to secure the 2018 College National Championship. He followed that with a 3966-yard 2018 season, where he led Alabama to another National Championship game and finished second in Heisman Trophy voting. Tua is an aggressive passer with exceptional athletic ability. The latter is an invaluable skill in a faster NFL that pushes defences to attack the quarterback more often. Despite these upsides, Tua comes with injury concerns that could affect his standing with NFL teams. A serious hip injury ended his 2019 season early, leaving questions as to how he might fare in the hard-hitting NFL.
However, a new frontrunner emerged in the wake of November 9th’s Alabama-LSU rivalry game. Iowa-born LSU quarterback Joe Burrow saw his draft stock skyrocket in the wake of the 46-41 win, a definite highlight in what was a fantastic season for the Tigers. Burrow is known for his good arm and solid accuracy. While draft experts initially had Burrow going in the second or third round, he quickly jumped to the top of many mid-season mock drafts. He cemented those predictions by leading LSU to an undefeated season and a National Championship. With 5671 passing yards and 60 touchdowns, he was the natural choice for the Heisman Trophy. Though there may be concerns about his versatility, anyone who can take down Alabama and have a season like he has just had is certainly one to watch.
Another potential draft pick out of the SEC is Georgia’s Jake Fromm. He led a strong season by the Bulldogs, as they reached the SEC Championship game. However, he broke many hearts in Athens by declaring for the draft. Fromm was one of the best decision-makers at the college level and put up solid numbers over the 2019 season. His sturdy 219-pound frame make him perfect for absorbing the sort of physical play one can expect in the NFL. With a slight lack of arm strength, Fromm would be perfect for any team that doesn’t rely on the deep pass.
Also forgoing the rest of his NCAA eligibility to join the NFL is Washington’s Jacob Eason. Eason also began at Georgia until he was replaced by Fromm following an injury. After Eason lost the starting role, he transferred to the Pac-12 and Washington. While he has limited experience under centre, he has displayed good field vision and one of the best big arms in the NCAA. He has great potential to be the next great pocket passer of the NFL. However, he is certainly one of the bigger draft risks in the quarterback category.
Senior Justin Herbert made the Oregon Ducks a top-10 team in 2019 and now looks to take his talents to the NFL. Herbert is known for his strong arm and deadly accuracy but has problems under pressure. With defences growing increasing vicious across the league, and pockets collapsing quicker, being able to handle the pressure is a vital skill. Despite this, Herbert is a talented player and would be a great asset to any team around the league.
The mobile and accurate Jordan Love from Utah State, has begun to gain a lot of interest from several teams in the NFL. Love combines excellent skills with a big arm and impressive athletic ability and is capable of making plays when things break up around him. However his play was definitely inconsistent in 2019, which could cause teams to have doubts about picking him.
The wild card this year will be Jalen Hurts out of Oklahoma. Hurts transferred to the Sooners for his senior year after three years at Alabama, having lost the starting QB spot to Tua. In Norman, Hurts showed everyone just what he was capable of. Whilst some scouts have dropped him to the late rounds of the draft, Hurts’ versatility gives him a major upside. His tendency to keep the ball and run is reminiscent of Lamar Jackson, Baltimore’s MVP-winning quarterback. Now that Jackson has shown what a run-heavy QB can do, teams will be lot less averse to drafting a player like Hurts.
The later rounds of the draft are also going to have solid quarterback talent. Steven Montez is a small school QB who did well at Colorado but needs development. He could turn into an excellent backup with a few years in the league. Finally there is also Nate Stanley, the versatile passer out of Iowa who is generating interested across the league.
There are two teams who will most likely draft a quarterback with their first pick, and two more teams who are widely projected to pick up a quarterback in the first round.
Cincinnati Bengals: The team widely expected to pick first overall at the draft have made moves indicating that they intend to move on from eight-year starter Andy Dalton. While they have two young quarterbacks already on their roster, the consensus is that they will not pass up the opportunity to draft a franchise player like Burrow or Tua first overall.
Miami Dolphins: Miami is looking to rebuild without tanking, as has been evidenced by numerous quotes from head coach Brian Flores. However, they have amassed large amounts of draft capital and hold three first-round picks. With quarterback being a position of need, the Dolphins are likely to take the best prospect available after Cincinnati make their pick.
Los Angeles Chargers: After losing Phillip Rivers, the Chargers will be looking for the next QB to lead the franchise. With the 6th pick in the draft, the Chargers are in prime position to take a franchise talent who could either start come the fall or develop behind Tyrod Taylor. They could be set to take the likes of Herbert, as many mock drafts are predicting.
New England Patriots: The age of Brady is over. With TB12 headed to Tampa Bay, the Patriots may be looking to use the draft to work with their limited cap space. One option could be Jordan Love, who the Patriots have expressed interest in over the offseason.
However it is important to remember that there are plenty of veteran quarterbacks on the market and at new teams. Cam Newton, Jameis Winston are still free agents at the time of writing and Andy Dalton clearly available via trade. Meanwhile, teams like Carolina and Tennessee have announced their intentions for the near-future through their free agent signings.
While Tua and Burrow will be the big names of the quarterback pool, the class is one of the most talented of the last few years. Don’t be surprised if there are numerous QBs called on April 25th and throughout the rest of the draft proceedings. Keep up to date of the timings of the 2020 NFL Draft with the Fixture Calendar.
Benjamin Mock, March 2020
Photos by NFL