2020 QB Rankings: How We Got Here

For me, time is split in two.  The first decade I was a very good student.  I read everything I could on QB mechanics. I read every QB evaluator’s work in an attempt to learn all that I could.  I was a sponge that bought into everything that was considered known. Then I got an evaluation horribly wrong. A number of people would simply turn the page and move on.  Forget the error or state that the player unexpectedly improved. That’s not who I am. I was clearly wrong, and was very irritated about it. His traits were not supposed to succeed in the NFL and I couldn’t let that go.  I redid my work, I reexamined his traits and I looked to see what I saw wrong. Nothing. He hadn’t changed a bit since college. He played the way his evaluation said he would. It wasn’t supposed to work but that was not the case.  Why? What changed? What didn’t I value highly enough? Mind you, I was not the only one who got this player wrong, but after that QB, I tore up everything I knew and started over. Or so I told myself. It didn’t change overnight and I didn’t figure it out in a year.  The very next year, I still had some of the same misconceptions ingrained in my evaluations. Again, I wasn’t alone in that and another QB slipped through my/our fingers. That was the final straw for me. That was the catalyst for a complete overhaul. I tore my QB evaluation tools to shreds and changed the way I looked at the position.

Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen

And keep your eyes wide, the chance won’t come again

And don’t speak too soon for the wheel’s still in spin

And there’s no tellin’ who, that it’s namin’

For the loser now, will be later to win

For the times, they are a-changin’

There are two eras in my QB scouting journey.  BC and AC. Before Cam and After Cam. I can’t say the same for many other QB evaluators despite the fact that it was painfully obvious after Russell Wilson stepped foot on the NFL stage.  

We had to change our line of thinking because the league had changed.  Offenses were changing, defenses were changing and the QB position was getting stressed in ways we hadn’t seen before.  Due to that, new traits were gaining importance and old traits were taking on water.

Come gather ‘round people wherever you roam

And admit that the waters around you have grown

And except it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone

If your time to you is worth saving’

And you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone

For the times, they are a-changin’

Better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone, indeed.

Between 2012 and 2015 I rewrote my book.  What mattered in today’s game? What didn’t matter as much anymore?  What weaknesses can be hidden by a scheme fit? How have things changed and where were the tides of change taking the league?  By 2016, there were three major changes in my QB evaluations. I added adaptable mechanics, added a second type of throwing accuracy called ball placement instinct and pocket mobility was morphed into a spectrum of survival tactics.  These traits hold water. In 2016, I stated Dak Prescott was going to be an NFL starter. In 2018, I fought everyone who doubted Lamar Jackson while I completely wrote off Josh Rosen and Mason Rudolph. I laughed at people who thought Kizer could play, then vowed to never watch him when he was traded to GB.  More importantly, these traits explained why Mahomes was the best player in his class, and the best QB prospect we’ve seen in the new era. These traits pointed towards him being a generational superstar.

This doesn’t mean my board has been without error.  Last year I was very high on Will Grier despite his substandard NFL arm and modest mobility.  I was very high on his mental traits. Athletic tools can succeed immediately. Mental tools take time to adjust.  He played poorly and many have written him off. It was worse than I expected, but I haven’t waivered from my stance even though I admit my stance is in an ocean of hot water.  I love how he is positioned as the backup to Teddy with Joe Brady at the helm. If Teddy rips up his knee again, we’ll see what happens. I said 2020 was the year for Grier. In 2017, I was not high on Watson and I’m stunned he hasn’t been figured out.  You defend him alternating between 2 high with slot pressure and 3 high zoning 4 flat across the intermediate. You force him to beat you into the intermediate zone which also limits his scramble game. It kills two birds with one stone and it has proved effective when used.  Bill O’Brien trading Hopkins and adding Cobb makes 3 high unnecessary and I expect opinions to sour on Watson this season due to that. If teams run 2 high zone at him constantly in 2020, you can cue up the talking heads scream piece. “What is wrong with Watson?” Answer, the same issues he’s shown since college.  In 2017, I was higher on Trubisky than Watson (that is wrong) but I remain high on Trubisky. However, his pre-snap and 1st read talents have not progressed at the pro level as I had hoped.  He was a fantastic pre-snap 1 read QB in college but he had limited experience.  You’d expect some growth. Zero growth has taken place. He will work in the NFL without that growth but that brings us to another piece of the puzzle.

While the QB position is becoming more physically demanding, it’s easier than ever to scheme to the QB you have.  It’s truly a golden age of QBs. Great athletes, fantastic training from an early age and a ton of offensive models that an OC can use to make their QB’s path to success easier.  This doesn’t mean OC’s are going to do it, but the options are there. For a recent example see Tannehill under Mike Sherman, under Bill Lazor, under Adam Gase and under Arthur Smith.  When his skills fit the scheme, he succeeded. When he was asked to do what Gase expects or the WCO, he failed. He’s the same QB he’s always been. His game didn’t change last year and being in the right scheme doesn’t make you worth 30 million a year.  However, you can’t overestimate how important it is for a limited QB to fit his scheme. Does BB want to chime in?

“New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said the team will adapt and gear everything for doing what is best for their new starting QB, whoever that may be.  Belichick said that’s what they did previously for Brady and he doesn’t see that changing. “Whoever the QB is, we’ll try to make things work as smoothly and efficiently for that player and take advantage of his strengths and his skills.””

It’s a no brainer.  It’s also not as common as you’d think.  If you are looking for the next Tannehill, his name is Mitchell Trubisky.  Nagy is not altering. Nagy is brilliant but he will not humble his offense to suit Trubisky.  Although, he did hire Lazor this offseason. This exists while Daboll has completely catered to Josh Allen.  He built an offense so that a QB who can’t read the field can function. (I had Allen in the late 1st where he belonged.)  Allen is a one read QB, and with the proper offense it works.  Trubisky is also a one read QB, (he is better than Allen and Tannehill) yet he looks terrible in the wrong scheme.  Kingsbury is pushing the envelope and without Murray (hyper-mobile) it would be impossible. Baltimore not only took Lamar, but took Brown Hurst and Andrews to set up the template build (dreamed up perfectly) around Lamar that made him earth shatteringly successful last year.  The importance of certain traits was shifting 10 years ago. It continues to move away from the past. There are a number of different traits that can be combined to make a successful NFL QB. In some way, in some system. There are QBs failing in the league, who would succeed in their system fit.  That means that if you only like QBs of a certain type, you’ll miss a number of success stories. If you think a QB must be able to go through progressions, you’ll be proven wrong. If you think every athletic QB will succeed, you are flatly wrong. It also means you can be right, and watch that player fail in the wrong system.  You can be right, and it can still be too early in their development. You must know there are many ways to skin a cat but that doesn’t mean anyone can do it. Translation: Unless you have one of the top dogs in the QB world, you better know how to scheme to/build around your QB. If not, you must pick a QB who fits your scheme. If you don’t, results will be disastrous.

Is there a QB who can play in any scheme in this draft class?  Yes sir.

#1 Joe Burrow QB LSU

Before the 2018 season, I was hunting for a bet.  I liked how LSU matched up vs Miami but transfer QB Joe Burrow was an unknown.  I went to YouTube and watched Joe Burrow play in the spring scrimmage (while he was at Ohio State) so I could get a feel for what to expect from him.  By the end of that limited tape, I thought Ohio State kept the wrong QB. It wasn’t that Burrow was a world beating talent, but he was incredibly solid across the board.  That’s exactly who he was all year. Solid. What happened next is the reason why you want two years of tape on QB prospects. One off-season later and Burrow had made small gains in every area of his mechanics.  He improved his ability to move in the pocket. The game dramatically slowed down for him. Everything got better and that type of improvement isn’t common. He is the 1st pick overall.  There is no doubt in that.  Burrow wasn’t a product of the Joe Brady system.  It isn’t an easy system to run. Every single game there were plays that wouldn’t have worked unless Burrow made them work.  Joe Burrow’s game is sublime. His mechanics are pristine in the pocket. They are balanced, controlled and clean on the move and off platform.  He doesn’t lose throwing velocity on the move. His accuracy is barely affected. He is accurate and is comfortable when asked to throw his WRs open.  He’s made a number of back shoulder throws up the seam and down the boundary that are NFL ready. Progressions are not an issue. He’s shown the ability to execute RPO, half field, and full field reads with speed and precision.  He sees the entire field when he is on the move. He doesn’t shy away from attacking a defense but there is no delay in finding his check downs and moving on to the next play. You’ll see beautiful footwork in the pocket to slide around traffic and creative scrambles while staying within the pocket. (Where he is most dangerous.)  He’s a good enough athlete to take what you give him in the run game. He is the standard WCO mobile QB. Burrow has absolutely everything you need in a QB and there are next to no drawbacks. Your OC can draw up whatever he wants to run and Burrow will execute it. Some have worried about Joe Burrow’s 9 inch hands. It doesn’t show up on film and this is not worth worrying about.  The only aspect of Burrow’s game that will hold him back is his arm. His arm is not elite and this affects him from time to time. Auburn ran a tightly packed 7-8 man zone and this bothered Burrow. He isn’t reckless and he knows he doesn’t have the arm to wedge a ball through a very tight window. This is something I expect to show up in Cincinnati. (Especially early in his career)  The McVay family tree sees a healthy amount of zone with tight windows so Burrow will have to navigate this at the pro level. (1st year the speed of the game will be a factor for him and this will be a struggle, he’ll adjust by year 2)  His arm talent isn’t on par with Tannehill, Goff and Rodgers and we’ve seen how this system affects lesser QBs like Dalton and Mariota.  While this will be the weak part of his game it will not stop him from succeeding. It will/should put Taylor to the test. Can he bend his system to get the most out of Burrow?  We simply do not know but that shouldn’t concern Cincinnati. I’d give Taylor two years to prove his capabilities. If he isn’t up to the task, there will be a number of coaches who want to run the team that has Joe Burrow for the next 10 years.  (Brady reunion?) While Burrow doesn’t have an athletic profile that will wow you, he is elite due to the completeness of his game. Evaluators are starting to qualify QB’s based on WAR. (Wins above replacement) I do this as well. There are two QBs who are on the 2.5 win level.  Mahomes and Wilson. (I’ve under-rated Wilson long enough and I’m done doing that now) You could make either of them the highest paid QB in the game and they’d still be underpaid. There are a few QBs who are worth 2 wins. QB’s on this level are also incredibly valuable and rarely overpaid.  QBs on the 1.5 win level consistently get overpaid and QB’s on the 1 win level get horribly overpaid. Teams chase QBs. Teams fear not having a QB. Teams overpay QBs and undervalue OCs and scheme fit. Like it or not, that’s how the league works. The goal is to draft a QB who sits on the 2 WAR level or better.  They will eventually be expensive, but they won’t end up overpaid like Tannehill, Jimmy G, Kirk Cousins and in short order Dak Prescott. I see Joe Burrow as a 2 WAR QB by year 3. That makes him worthy of the 1st pick in the draft.  I have Sam Darnold and Kyler Murray on that same level and I would place Burrow slightly behind each of them.  Darnold’s arm is slightly better and his ball placement instinct is elite. Murray stays ahead of Burrow with his superior athletic creativity.  I believe all 3 will be among the top 10 QB’s in the game once they have settled in.

#2 Tua Tagovailoa QB Alabama

When Alabama benched Jalen Hurts for Tua Tagovailoa in the National Championship game I had no idea who Tua was.  I hadn’t seen him play. I don’t follow recruiting. Six minutes later, Alabama was in the end zone and I was checking to see when Tua could declare for the NFL draft.  Unfortunately, his prospect status was never higher than it was that night. That shouldn’t be seen as a negative, and it hasn’t tarnished Tua’s draft stock a great deal.  It’s simply the truth and it’s rather common. Tua is a distributor more than a creator. He has a wonderful blend of arm talent and athleticism. He throws a gorgeous ball.  From the pocket he is able to throw with angles, touch and loft. There is no area of the field that is off limits for him. He can place a ball and throw WRs open with ease. He is a better thrower than Burrow and throws a better ball than anyone in the last two draft classes.  His progressions have been good from the start. Half field, region reads and RPOs allow him to slice a defense to shreds. His full field reads tend to slow down and get sticky on options down the field. I’d like to see him complete full field reads a little quicker but that’s nitpicking.  This is not the only read concern that has presented itself on Tua’s film. He’s shown that defenses that twist can surprise him. He goes through his progressions well but his field vision is not as broad as you would like. Burrow sees everything, Tua sees a 10 yard section (1/5th of the field’s width) of the field.  He misses defenders who flow against the grain and rally back under the play.  CB/S inversion games will bait some interceptions. This is something that plagues a lot of young QBs and will be something he needs work through as he ages.  There will be youthful mistakes early on in his career. This isn’t ideal but it also isn’t a down-gradable offense. I’d have him even with Burrow at this point.  We aren’t done though. There are two areas where Burrow clearly outshines Tua. Guess where those differences live? Adaptable mechanics and the spectrum of survival tactics.  Tua wants to live in the pocket. He needs to be protected in the pocket. He is a surgeon, not a magician. There isn’t a clean comparison for Tua but the game style you should expect from Tua is similar to Jared Goff.  Great arm talent, great mechanics and when he’s comfortable in the pocket he can do a great deal of damage. Like Goff, Tua loses value when he is pushed off platform. His accuracy declines and his velocity declines. Demanding throws affect his results and that’s to be expected of most QBs.  That isn’t the case with the NFL’s elite class of QBs though. His adaptable mechanics do not sink to a level that is concerning, but it’s a limiting factor in his game. He’s slightly below average in this area and that pushes him towards being a standard “pocket passer.” In my grading process, this pushes him towards the 1.5 WAR level.  Then comes the truly concerning part of Tua’s game. It isn’t that he has been injured. It’s that he’s going to take hits in the future. This is because Tua’s pocket mobility is rather rudimentary. I’m not grading this on his 2019 tape because his balky ankle was an obvious issue for him much of the season. I graded this on his 2018 film when he was moving the way a healthy Tua moves.  He likes to stay stationary and he sees pressure late. He doesn’t slide in the pocket to avoid the rush the same way Burrow can. This will put stress on his OL. Burrow’s ability to slide allows his OL to save blocks they initially lost. Tua won’t make life easier on his OL. It will lead to him taking hits and sacks. It didn’t show up a lot at Alabama because they’ve been purring out NFL OL talent in the last 2 drafts.  They’ve done a fantastic job of protecting him. You rarely see him having to navigate the pressure Burrow weaved through at LSU this year. When Tua faced pressure, it tended to be one guy breaking the line. He was able to spin/sprint out and avoid it with athleticism. This will not be the case in the NFL. He will see consistent pressure. When the pocket collapses he’ll need the footwork that makes pressure avoidance look easy.  He doesn’t have that. Goff doesn’t do a very good job at this either. However, they handle it in different ways. Goff sees pressure early and is prone to rush a play and throw the ball away. He’s very talented but he’s got some coward in him. Blitzing Goff (Over the last 2 years you’ve seen this from Chi NE Pitt.) will throw him off his game and the offense will struggle to string together drives. When Tua sees this on the pro level, he’s going to take hits.  Lots of hits. He’s going to hang in there and make plays that Goff wouldn’t attempt, but he’ll pay for it. Even if there wasn’t an injury history, his size and this factor would be concerning. With his injury history, hold your breath. This is compounded by the teams who are drafting where he deserves to be taken. Miami, LAC, Caro and Jax do not have an offensive line who will keep him upright. You’d love to see him in Oakland, SF, Dallas or even NE but he’s too good to fall that far.  To me, Tua is like having a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro. It’s a prized possession but it’s staying in the garage until a nice sunny day. You wouldn’t consider taking it off-roading. While Tua is ready to play day 1, it’s likely you’ll want to hold him out until you can trust your OL to protect your asset. He’ll be able to run any offense but you’ll want him to be up to full speed in your offense before you put him on the field. Basically, he’s too good to pass up, but upon taking him you must commit to building him a stellar OL.  You must commit to an offense that gets the ball out quickly. You have to limit the number of shots he will take. He won’t save himself. I expect him to be a 1.5 WAR QB but you’ll need to commit cap and assets to the offensive side of the ball to get the most out of him and keep him healthy. He’s going to be an expensive QB to maximize, not a practical one who can survive and create by himself. Concerning, but how many QBs do you put ahead of Jared Goff and Dak Prescott? Tua is better than both of them. Both of them command over 30 million dollars a year.

#3 Jordan Love QB Utah State

During the season I said to a friend of mine, “Remember when everyone wrote up their draft profiles on Patrick Mahomes?  Those profiles were wrong on Mahomes, but they do describe Jordan Love pretty well.” Nothing has given me more joy this off-season than reading evaluators try to explain Jordan Love.  It’s been hilarious. I don’t blame them because he’s a very difficult read. From PFF trying to analyze him with metrics and completely missing the point, to people actually comparing him to Mahomes.  It’s been a hoot. There are a lot of bad takes floating around about this prospect. Let’s explain what is going on here. Who is Jordan Love? Well, Jordan Love has the arm and recklessness of Brett Favre and the mechanics of Russell Wilson.  He should play the game like Ben Roethlisberger but he’s doing a bad Patrick Mahomes impression. See why people are confused? If you draft Jordan Love, you will need to strangle bad habits out of him. If you invest the time, the payoff will be well worth it.  Tell your HC to put on his bad cop hat, and your OC/QB coach is cast in the role of good cop. Away we go. Jordan Love has the best arm talent in this entire class. You can go back quite a few years and the only QB with a better arm is Patrick Mahomes. He has a bigger arm than Josh Allen.  Yet, you rarely see it. When Love is set in the pocket and completes his mechanics he throws a ball that forces WRs to catch it in self-defense. His mechanics are incredibly solid and accurate. The ball flies tightly off his hand. He throws thunderbolts that do not give the defense time to react.  This is similar to Brett Favre. However, Love is off platform or minimizing his mechanics constantly. For no reason whatsoever. Adaptable mechanics are to be used when you are forced off platform. Love chooses to go off platform. The results on these throws are often very bad. If you grade him based on all of his throws without looking at context, your grade will be wildly skewed to the negative.  This is because he’s not supposed to be doing what he is doing. He’s attempting throws that would drag down Mahomes’ efficiency. While I appreciate people seeing that Jordan Love is in his adaptable mechanics regularly, (like Mahomes) his ability to function that way is nowhere near Mahomes. He may be trying to be Mahomes but he sure as heck isn’t Mahomes. Do not compare him to Mahomes. Love is above average in his adaptable mechanics.  When you put him in planned off platform throws he does a fantastic job. Rolling him out works beautifully. When he is freelancing, he tries to do things no one can effectively do. Especially on short flip throws to his RBs. He is sandlot, he is a wild mustang. You need to break him. That doesn’t explain everything though. Love’s 2018 numbers were dramatically different from his 2019 numbers. The reason for the change wasn’t him. The talent on his team took a serious hit.  The scheme he was put in exacerbated one of his weaknesses. Much like Wilson, Love throws a fairly flat ball within 15 yards of the LOS. This means that the ball flies on a line, it does not lift up and settle down. (He can’t hit the flag on a hook/flag combo because of that.) It lacks arc. It hums and carries. Due to this, Love has a region of the field he can’t attack. Unless you clear out the LBs, he can’t throw a ball over the LBs and in front of the Ss. Yet, his scheme this year asked him to do just that and it led to a number of his interceptions.  In 2018, his scheme operated in front of the LBs or cleared windows for him to throw through. His INTs also spiked due to a healthy amount of hero ball. If you look at his INT total from 2019, it can be broken into 3 parts. The same INTs he threw in 2018, flat passes that LBs were able to go up and get and wildly aggressive shots down the field in times of desperation. The decline wasn’t a change in him. His deep ball is similar to Wilson. As I stated, he chokes off his momentum in his shoulder to gain touch and this makes his deep ball volatile. He has some very impressive deep throws on his film.  He has just as many that he leaves short. He would appreciate WRs who can win a few of those passes for him because his ball placement won’t do it by itself. Excited yet? Well his reads aren’t developed either. Jordan Love gets deemed a 1 read QB by a number of people but that isn’t the case. They see it on film in 2019, but that wasn’t the case in 2018. The reason he did this in 2019 is because no one was opening up consistently so he tried to wedge the ball to his best option. 2018 was a different story. He’s a half field and region read QB. (If you ask him to do more, he will be late.) 1 combo, check down or run.  Buffalo, does this sound familiar? TB, does this sound familiar? NO does plenty of this if you omit the run portion. Brees isn’t going to run. While this is not ideal, this is enough to work in the NFL. Love is a very solid athlete, but his pocket mobility is similar to Tua. He sees pressure late and he will take hits. Love, like Cam and Roethlisberger, is built for that. He grades out average in that aspect but that’s all he needs with his physical profile. Why do I see a limited read, average mobility, above average adaptable mechanics QB as a 1st round pick?  When he is balanced in the pocket and drives his shoulder through his throw (he doesn’t always do this) you can’t defend what happens next.  He is going to accurately drive a ball into his WRs hands and it will be as effortless as a hand off. Easy football due to his accurate and incredible arm talent.  Arm talent matters. You saw this on his LSU tape this year. (Love’s LSU tape is a lot like Darnold’s Ohio State tape. People killed Darnold’s tape vs Ohio State and I said that game cemented him as the best QB in the draft.  Love’s LSU tape shows he is an NFL starter despite the warts.) His team was woefully overmatched. When they attacked with post routes he was able to fire a ball through the LSU defense with ease. He sped up to SEC speed in that game.  His team did not. There are bad things on that tape but there are a number of plays that are successful because he makes football easy. His arm talent is better than Josh Allen. He is more accurate than Josh Allen. He reads the field better than Josh Allen.  He is an equal athlete to Josh Allen. His deep ball is well ahead of Josh Allen. Josh Allen went 7th and I had Josh Allen in the late 1st.  Love must be put in a paint by numbers offense.  He must be treated exactly the same way Pittsburgh treated Ben Roethlisberger early in his career. (Roeth won a SB in year 2 playing this way)  Make it simple, make him stay on schedule. Play him immediately. He will not stop the ad libbing on the bench. You have to dress him down every time he adlibs into a mistake and then let the good cop coach pick him back up.  Exactly the way Holmgren and Gruden broke in Favre. You have to show him the error of his messy off platform attempts. Use him in the boot game. Use him in play-action. Put him under center. Don’t give him the chance to go off script.  Drill him on proper footwork. Combo read, outlet or run. Double slants, outlet or run. Keep the offense balanced. It’s going to be a process. He’s going to look ugly at times early on. It will pay off. Think about it this way. Tampa Bay picked Jameis Winston 1st overall 5 years ago.  They gave him 5 years to sort it out despite the fact that it was NEVER going to work.  Yet, there are people who don’t have Love in the 1st?  Come on folks.  If you watch the plays where he stays within himself, it’s blatantly obvious he is an NFL starter.  This frog has a ton of warts. He’s going to be a prince. I’m certain there are good QB evaluators in the league who see him as a potential steal.  I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s picked in the top 10. I value him as highly as I valued Daniel Jones last year. I won’t put him in the top 10 but if Jones and Allen are top 10 worthy, Love is as well.

#4 James Morgan QB FIU

I’m telling you, go watch him.  It’s like seeing Joe Flacco at Delaware.  Go watch him. He has plus NFL arm talent.  Without a doubt. My goodness can he whip a ball around.  The ball comes out of his hand hot and in a very tight spiral.  His footwork is crisp. He throws beautifully off his back foot.  Shows success in the boot game as well. Every throw has heat and he puts it on his WRs.  They can’t catch it but he puts it on them. It’s a spiral and they still can’t catch it. Don’t body catch, it’ll bounce off you.  Sometimes a few yards off you. Progressions look sharp as well. He’s processing quickly and there are full field read examples on his tape.  Most of the playbook puts him in region or half field reads but he gets his eyes around and will look off the safeties. Finds his outlet well and the ball doesn’t waste any time getting there.  He could stun the world and go in the 1st round.  I have him in the early 2nd.  James Morgan has some talent folks.  FIU doesn’t. It’s not all positive though.  There are some negatives of note. He’s a quality athlete but he doesn’t feel pressure well and he’s very stationary in the pocket.  Doesn’t understand how to slide and buy time. He has some scramble game to him but if he stays alive he’s likely forcing the ball down the field into double or triple coverage.  I’m not sure if that’s a vision issue or if everything works deep as the play extends. Either way, he can be very reckless after he breaks contain. He throws line drives, but he has the ability to put loft under a touch throw to the corner.  Doesn’t show back shoulder or advanced throws but I’d expect those to come around with the ball skills he shows. This is the sleeper of the QB class and I don’t think he lasts long enough to be considered a sleeper. I’d take him over Haskins without hesitation.  I’d have him neck and neck with Lock. I believe he’s going to be a starter in the NFL. A couple throws into his 1st preseason game, his fan base is going to start dreaming.  The arm is that good. The ball flies that well.

#5 Justin Herbert QB Oregon

There are rumors that Herbert could go to Miami at the 5th overall pick.  If he is taken in the top half of the 1st round, someone made a big mistake.  This has nothing to do with his quiet demeanor.  (Side note: Talking about a QB’s leadership qualities is a worthless endeavor.  There hasn’t been a single QB who has succeeded in the NFL because they were a great leader.  They have to be able to play. There are QB’s who quickly failed because they were horrible people who were hated by their team (I have Cade McNown stories) but no QB has ever succeeded due to their leadership.  Word out of Pittsburgh is the Devlin “DUCK” Hodges is a fantastic leader. He is a tireless worker and is well liked. He still sucks at football. That’s pretty important.) Herbert is quiet but he’s also a well-liked hard worker who is loyal.  His demeanor is a non-issue. People should spend their time talking about actual issues and Herbert has quite a few. I’ll start with my positives on Herbert. He shows his athleticism well. He moves well in the pocket and he’s a quality threat as a runner.  He isn’t as good as Burrow in this area but he is ahead of Tua and Love. He’s smart. Ok, we are done. Seriously, that’s all. I do not think Herbert will flop in the NFL, but I don’t think he’s going to be considered a good QB. He reminds me of Alex Smith and frankly, Alex Smith was better.  If Miami takes him, it won’t be a sizable upgrade over Fitzpatrick. Is that worth a high pick? Answer..no. First and foremost, Herbert’s arm talent is severely overrated. His arm is merely average for the NFL and that shows up in the intermediate passing game. Slants and short posts are often contested because the DB is able to break on the ball.  It’s very clear when he’s making throws up the boundary. Those throws work in college but the cover two boundary window shrinks considerably at the pro level and this will challenge him. He shows back shoulder capabilities on this throw but I don’t see that being enough to make him dangerous. His mechanics have a number of issues that aren’t going to be easy to fix.  He stands in a wide stance and this limits his hip turn. His hips are stiff, and you can clearly see that when he is moving to his left. He does a solid job throwing on the move to his right, but he is limited moving to his left. His adaptable mechanics are below average and he doesn’t have the raw arm talent to save that. When he spreads his chest open to load the ball it isn’t smooth.  It was robotic in the past, it’s getting better, but it still looks unnatural. This affects his load point. Where he loads the ball drifts. It isn’t consistent and anything that isn’t consistent affects accuracy. When Herbert brings the ball forward you’ll see his shoulder tuck or a bend at the waist. This causes the ball to nose up or nose down depending on where he hits his release point.  Again, this isn’t consistent. You’ll see his vertical accuracy waiver greatly from throw to throw. Deep passes that sail over the defense, or balls that dive to a WR’s ankles when he’s trying to hit them in stride. He’s more of a body accurate passer than a passer who can lead his WRs. There are a lot of passes where the WR has to go get or wait for the ball. Progressions also show issues in Herbert’s film.  He loves to work in quick passing WCO-like situations. He can move through these early reads quickly and find the right target. (As I said, he’s smart) However, when teams walked up on Oregon, their offense struggled to move. This is due to Herbert. Like Alex Smith, he is most comfortable in the horizontal stretch. Quick read, dink and dunk. When teams walk up on that, it forces him to work down the field.  He was consistently late on throws down the field. His feet are not getting set as quickly as his eyes are moving through the progression. Similar to what we’ve seen from Trubisky. When Auburn closed on the LOS, points stopped coming. Stanford, Cal, Oregon State, Utah and Wisconsin show this as well. Herbert is going to look very good in a basic quick hitting offense. You saw this at the Senior Bowl. Quick opens and check downs are his friend.  He’s mentally quick and poised but when teams force him to win up the field, he fades away. I’ve wanted to like Herbert for some time now. I never got onboard. The deeper I dug into his film the worse it got. I assumed he’d get a 1st round.  The more I watched, the further he dropped.  He is a smart QB. He can manage his offense.  He will be able to do that immediately. The problem is, I’d rather start Tyrod or Minshew or Fitzpatrick and save the draft pick.  I’d rather sign Dalton on the cheap next year and save the draft pick. Herbert isn’t dynamic. He isn’t dangerous. He’s serviceable.  No one’s looking for a serviceable QB in the 1st round.  No one is drafting a 1st round QB in the hopes that they are a bottom 8 NFL starter.  It happens. Last year I had Haskins in the 3rd.  He went in the 1st.  Herbert could too.  I wouldn’t do it. Last year I had Lock in the early 2nd and Haskins in the early 3rd.  I’d put Herbert squarely in the middle of those two options.  He can start and be serviceable, but you’ll be looking for a new QB in 3 years.  I highly doubt anyone will see him as their franchise QB.

These are the only QBs who should be drafted before the 4th round.  Let’s discuss a few others that people seem to like.

Jake Fromm QB Georgia is a coach, not a QB.  This is precisely why you don’t let coaches scout players.  He’s going to dazzle on the white board. He’s very smart. He’s a “great leader.”  Turn on the tape and explain to me how panicking under pressure and throwing the ball to the other team is a leadership trait.  I understand that self-preservation is a sign of intelligence but leaders can’t cower under pressure. He doesn’t have NFL level arm talent.  He’s a backup. Recently a news article crawled across my FF league saying evaluators compare Fromm to Chase Daniels. I agree. I don’t draft players who I can’t imagine starting.  He’s Nathan Peterman or Brett Rypien from a better conference.

Jalen Hurts QB? Oklahoma:  If you are going to start off a take by saying a player could play in a system like Lamar Jackson.  Stop. They can’t. Jalen Hurts gets compared to Lamar Jackson and that is baffling. He isn’t even close to Lamar athletically.  Jalen Hurts is Tim Tebow mixed with Deshone Kizer and if my Packers take him I’m going to be so pissed off that you’ll all hear me.  Rashaan Gary at 12 last year would be nothing compared to a day 2 pick used on Hurts. His arm is wildly overrated. He can’t throw from the middle of the field to the boundary without the ball dragging in the air.  His adaptable mechanics are bad. This is because his wrist flick is terrible. The ball is loose and wobbles all over the field and the more he moves the worse it gets. Turn on the Texas film. That was a blow out if not for Hurts.  He is mistake prone. He forces the ball into traffic. There’s no explanation as to why he thought he could get it to the WR on 3 separate occasions in the red zone vs Texas. He tried to avoid pressure by passing the ball behind his back to himself.  He was voted most likely to commit a butt fumble. Wait, he’s a “great leader.” I don’t care. He isn’t a QB. Lincoln Riley stated they were going to unleash Hurts and doing that nearly cost them the season. When push came to shove, the Oklahoma offense went into a ground and pound attack with Hurts running the ball.  That’s where he is at his best. As a power runner. Not a QB. You can’t be a power runner at the QB position in the NFL. It doesn’t work. If you want to build around that, be my guest. He can’t play in the NFL. Even if he makes a college to NFL improvement on his wrist flick comparable to Tom Brady, he’s still a terrible decision maker.  Buyer beware.

Jacob Eason QB Washington has a phenomenal arm.  That’s about it. His reads are late. He throws his WRs into coverage.  He doesn’t understand that his adaptable mechanics are bad. His feel for the pocket is bad and he isn’t mobile.  Washington rotted from the head last year. They were a very talented team but they lost their games due to mistakes.  Eason was a big part of that. A Youtuber named Strong Opinion Sports (I respect him) stated that there were whispers inside Washington that Eason didn’t know the playbook and has work ethic issues.  He’s from the Washington area and he doesn’t seem like the type to make stuff up for ratings. The film looks like a guy who didn’t know what he was doing. At least he has the arm to play in the NFL but I’m not excited about him.

If you want an interesting flier QB, may I suggest:

Cole McDonald QB Hawaii

Calm down, I know his downfalls.  Take this as a criticism of the other options in this draft class.  Cole was benched on and off at Hawaii for making too many mistakes. He also got streaky hot and obliterated teams.  He has two sets of mechanics. He has a side arm action that he uses for just about everything and an over the top throwing motion for short crossing routes.  (He uses this to clear the OL) One is similar to Phillip Rivers and the other is similar to Aaron Brooks. It may not be pretty but there is no denying that McDonald has a quality arm.  He’s also a very good athlete and he has the height you are looking for. There are throws on his film that are NFL caliber. There are also a lot of mistakes. He plays in a run and shoot offense that is crazy and loose.  They attack vertically more than you probably should attempt. I merely want to see him in camp. He has undeniable talent but he is a lottery ticket. I’d like to see what happens when he plays in a less aggressive offense.  I want to see him as Mahomes’ backup for a few years. I’d love to see him in a McVey offense as well. GB? I’d gamble a day 3 draft pick to make that happen.

Anthony Gordon QB Washington State

It’s almost as if Mike Leach gets it.  He keeps pulling in these QBs who can stay alive in the pocket and throw accurately off platform.  I wonder if that’s important in football. I am higher on Minshew that I am on Gordon. Minshew’s lower body mechanics were garbage; if they were fixed he would add considerable velocity on his throws.  Minshew will not be a legitimate starter until he does that. Gordon doesn’t have the same room for improvement. He is arm limited but he can throw from a number of different angles and off platform. I don’t see him as a starting QB in the NFL but I feel like he could admirably survive.  He could stick around for a few years and work his way into an opportunity. At least he is interesting and worth a flier.

The rest of the QB class does not inspire me.  It’s possible that I overlooked someone and I will review the QB’s once they have found their NFL homes.  To be continued.