We have reached the final version of my positional draft rankings with the long-awaited and much-discussed quarterback class. Check out all my other breakdowns and come back for my top 100 big board later on this week, before I release my one and only mock draft for 2020!
I think a lot of people look at this group completely wrong. I don’t see a top four, but rather two top ten prospects and then a second tier of two QBs that I don’t even have first-round grades on. Then after that there are only four more guys I would even consider on day two, with very little after it. However, there are a few guys I think have a skill-set to be considered developmental prospects and a couple of players I haven’t heard anybody talk about.
You can also check out my video breakdown on Youtube.
Here is the list:
1. Joe Burrow, LSU
This two-time Ohio Gatorade Player of the Year and all-state point guard in high school never lived up to his high recruit status with the nearby Buckeyes. Burrow backed up J.T. Barrett his first two years in Columbus and only attempted 39 passes over that stretch. Once he lost the quarterback competition to rising star Dwayne Haskins the following spring, Burrow decided to transfer to Baton Rouge. After a rather average 2018 season with the Tigers, Burrow went from another one of those game-managing LSU quarterback to a Heisman trophy winner in a wide open, pass-heavy offense. He completed a nation-leading 76.3 percent of his passes for 5671 yards and an NCAA record 60 touchdowns compared to six interceptions, averaging a ridiculous 10.8 yards per attempt despite throwing the ball well over 500 times. More importantly however, he led the Bayou Bengals to their first national in more than a decade.
This guy’s intelligence to determine defensive looks pre-snap and the accuracy to carve those up is outstanding. He quickly processes information and gets the ball out of his hands. Burrow has a tremendous ability of throwing his receivers open with ball-placement, even against some really tight coverage, putting the ball to the back-shoulder or away from the leverage of defenders. He just finds open space and trusts his receivers to get there. He is at his best on those rainbow balls over the top of the defense, that always seem to drop right into the hands of his streaking receivers. Burrow also doesn’t mind checking it down to his back when the mental clock runs out instead of forcing the ball into a window that simply isn’t there. In the National Championship game versus Clemson it was the first time all year that he looked a like shook at the start, but once that explosive offense started rolling, not even one of the best defenses in the country could slow them down. As good as he is on schedule, what really makes Burrow special is the way he can make things happen when plays break down.
Burrow has some of the best pocket presence I have seen from any quarterback I have ever scouted. You see him shuffle, hitch up and fade when necessary, while keeping two hands on the ball at all times. He has a great feel for when he has to retreat to buy himself that little bit of extra time to float the ball and he also spins out the backdoor quite a bit to escape that way. Burrow only fumbled four times last year on almost 600 drop-backs and despite taking some big hits in the open field. While he did break the all-time single-season record with 60 passing touchdowns last season, he also added five more on the ground. He is an extremely tough and weirdly elusive runner, who burned defenses routinely for crucial conversions. He also shows some deceptive speed to take a crease once he takes off and defenders seem to be surprised looking at their angles, averaging 8.6 yards per scramble. While he obviously was great at carving up defenses from the pocket, he made some incredible plays off script, scrambling towards the sideline and somehow still finding somebody for a nice gain. Burrow doesn’t seem to be afraid of anybody or anything. He is country-strong, shaking off tacklers and standing strong inside the pocket or taking off. He took some huge shots at the sideline and always seemed to get up without any hesitation.
Among all draft-eligible quarterbacks in this class, Burrow is the only one whose passer rating actually went up when he was under pressure last season (-30.2 on average for the top 17). Burrow came through in all the big games for LSU last season. He hit Justin Jefferson for a huge game-clinching touchdown on third-and-17 in the Texas game. He made a bunch of plays off script in that huge showdown at Alabama to keep the chains moving and always found a way to answer when the Crimson Tide looked to pull even again. Even in the National Championship versus Clemson, when it took up until about the middle of the second quarter to understand what DC Brett Venables wanted to do to him, he still managed to throw five touchdowns and make the final result pretty convincing. And then he obviously put together one of the most incredible performances ever by any college quarterback, when he dismantled the Oklahoma defense in the Peach Bowl, throwing seven touchdowns and running for another one through the first three quarters only.
With that being said, Burrow does not have the elite arm strength to drive passes from one hash to the opposite sideline as powerful as some other guys in the top 6-7 can. That lack of a laser also probably led to the game-deciding pick-six in the 2018 Florida game, where it allowed the DB to undercut an out-route. Burrow had great pocket integrity and as good a skill position group as anybody in the country for all of 2019. He also had the benefit of playing for one of the better group of offensive minds in Joe Brady and Steve Ensminger, where it was rather easy to decipher defenses with a lot of check-motions and pass-catchers being schemed free, while also having a receiver going in the first round in this and next year’s class, an outstanding running back in Clyde Edwards-Helaire and a super dependable tight-end in Thaddeus Moss. A good 1000 yards probably came on screens and quick slant routes to Justin Jefferson in the slot. Burrow only played one season close to this level and that hasn’t translated too well recently with guys like Mitch Trubisky and Dwayne Haskins just last year, even though the evaluation as far from over with him. I actually liked Burrow a lot more than most people as a junior because of the toughness and I know that the numbers won’t look great in a heavy run and play-action system, but you have to put his 2019 performance in perspective to some degree.
While Burrow might not have the biggest arm out there, his combination of athleticism, poise, toughness and accuracy make him a shoe-in for the first overall pick. He has those football bloodlines going way back and he always seemed to come through whenever his team really needed him. While you can certainly look at the supporting cast around him as major factors for his success, Burrow also was a big reason all those players around him are looked at the way they are and those coordinators have now received more coveted jobs.
2. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Despite being Hawaii’s High School Player of the Year in 2016 and the top dual-threat QB recruit, Tagovailoa was limited to mop-up duty for most of his freshman season. However, after coming in at the second half of the 2017 National Championship game and leading the Tide to a comeback over Georgia, Tua won the battle versus Jalen Hurts the following camp and never looked back. As a sophomore he completed 69 percent of his passes for just under 4000 yards, 43 touchdowns and six picks. The lefty was the favorite to take home the Heisman trophy all the way until December, when he got his ankle banged up versus those same Bulldogs in the SEC title game, and he had his worst showing as a college player. Expectations were high for the Bama offense again last season and Tua was on a historical pace once more, completing 71.4 percent of his passes for 33 TDs compared to just five INTs, before his season was cut short by a somewhat career-threating hip injury nine weeks in. According to the star signal-caller himself, he is back to 100 percent and is now looking to prove he can stay healthy at the next level.
Tua is a great distributor, who has the arm and poise in the pocket to get everybody involved, plus he has the mobility and creativity to create wins off schedule. He has shown the ability to diagnose defenses and stay calm in the pocket to go through his progression – something Jalen Hurts simply wasn’t able to do before. To me he is the most natural passer and has the quickest release in this draft class, displaying soft touch and throwing a very catchable ball, Tua’s eyes and feet are linked together tightly and you see him process information to work through progressions rapidly. Because of that he forces defenses to defend every single inch of grass on the field. Tua is pretty violent with how he pushes off that back-leg and emphatically works up inside the pocket to set up his throws. The ball really jumps out of his hand and he is very sudden with turns of the shoulder, as he works his way through his reads. He is very much like Drew Brees in those type of movements, but he is more athletic than the Saints QB ever was. His command of the offense is something that is reminiscent of the legendary signal-caller.
This young man is lightning quick at setting his feet and getting the ball out. You see him let the ball go before receivers even get into their breaks a lot of times. RPOs with his quick, compact release were an absolute nightmare facing Alabama, while also displaying the kind of pin-point accuracy that allowed his receivers to not break stride and gain yards after the catch. He showcases great rhythm and timing to work the short and intermediate areas, while also throwing a beautiful deep ball, where he lets the ball drop right into the bucket – especially from the opposite hash. That Alabama offense could score at any moment because of that quick-strike ability and it was both a tool to quickly get back into games and to create separation to the opponent. Tua already carved up opposing defenses when they tried to blitz him during his two years as a starter for the Crimson Tide, averaging 10.9 yards per attempt and completing 65 percent of his passes in those situations. While the injuries are obviously a concern, you also have to applaud Tua’s toughness to stand in there when he has a free runner coming at him, in order to get the ball out, as well as playing banged up for the Tide.
The Bama signal-caller is highly elusive inside the pocket and finds ways to get to ball to his guys even with defenders charging right at him. He has that quick twitch a lot of taller passers don’t, which not only lets him operate efficiently from the pocket, but also enables him to get rid of the ball on bootlegs, where he hasn’t even been able to square his shoulders yet. Tua avoids a lot of sacks and gets rid of the ball to take away those negative plays. When he works the scramble drill, his eyes are up at all times as he is moving sideways and puts the ball to a spot where one of his receivers can run underneath it. Tua is also pretty elusive as a runner and has some start-stop quickness to him. Until banging up his ankle in 2018 he was well on his way to win the Heisman and in 2019 he threw a total of 17 touchdowns through the first four games, despite barely playing in fourth quarters through any of them, before injuries started to somewhat derail his season. Still, he is now leaving Tuscaloosa as the school’s all-time leader in career passing touchdowns (87), while putting up the top mark in single-season passing yards (3966) and the two highest marks in single-season passing touchdowns, recording passer ratings of 137.5 and 143.3 respectively.
However, Tua had four potential first-round receivers on his offense and he threw a bunch of passes behind the line of scrimmage on different screens or dump-offs off fly motions, where he just those guys make things happen with the ball in their hands, or hit somebody on a quick slant and that guy took it for 70-80 yards to make his stats look much better. He doesn’t nearly seem as comfortable firing the ball in some tight windows downfield and decides to pull it down instead, while his effectiveness takes a huge dip when coming off the first read and holding onto the ball. Tua misses some defenders in underneath coverages every once in a while and he is also kind of erratic movements in the pocket at times, while holding on to the ball too long, which not only gives defenders a chance the knock it out of his hands, but also puts his body at risk at time. With the way his receivers were open a lot of times when he expected them to be because of the way defenses usually reacted, Tua can be caught predetermining throws (pick-six vs. Clemson 2018) and it is kind of ironic that he entered the spotlight coming in as the savior for Bama in the 2017 national title game, considering he came up a little small in their rematch with Georgia in the following SEC Championship game and then Clemson the upcoming CFP. Tua is only 6’1” and looks a little small in the pocket – especially against interior pressure. He has this weird tendency of kind of running up into some throws and is not great if he can’t have his feet underneath himself,
To me it is less about the hip injury, but rather if Tua can stay healthy going forward. He’s not an all-world athlete and puts himself into positions were he is vulnerable, but as great as his SEC rival Joe Burrow was last season, the Alabama signal-caller has put together one of the greatest two-year stretches of any quarterback in college football history. His ability to work through progressions like a computer almost, throw the ball with tremendous accuracy and make the most of plays is special. There are some other concerns here and he had a lot of help around him, but assuming he is actually back to 100 percent and those nagging problems have had time to disappear, I think he is absolutely worth a top ten pick and he is clearly the number two quarterback in this draft.
3. Justin Herbert, Oregon
Herbert always had strong ties to the Oregon program with his grandfather having been a wide receiver for the Ducks back in the 60s. His family also went to many games at Autzen Stadium and Herbert became an All-State quarterback for his high school in Eugene. While he was only a three-star recruit back in 2016, ne never intended on going anywhere other than the Oregon program either way. Herbert ended up starting seven games as a freshman and won the team’s offensive MVP in 2017 despite missing five games with a broken collarbone. He was already well on the radar of NFL scouts when throwing for 3151 yards and 29 TDs compared to eight INTs as a junior, but decided to return to his final season with the Ducks to lead a contender and play with his younger brother. The move paid off, as he recorded career-highs in completion percentage (66.8), passing yards (3471) and touchdowns (32), while only throwing six picks in 2019. He also led his team to a Pac-12 and Rose Bowl title over Wisconsin.
This guy is 6’6’’, 230+ pounds and probably has the most talented arm in the entire draft. Herbert doesn’t have to strain when letting the ball 50+ yards, almost like the flick of a wrist. You see him throw those impressive darts all over the field and he can put the type of velocity on the ball to drive it from one hash to the opposite sideline with ease, while also drilling some throws down the seams where no defender can get to the ball in time. He is also light on his feet, being able to move, reset and launch as well as quarterback in college football these last few years. Herbert doesn’t mind holding onto the ball and taking big hits to give receivers enough time to where he can put it the air late and allow them to separate. He didn’t receive much help from the skill-position players around him, as he saw his pass-catchers drop almost 30 passes in 2018 and last season 7.4 of his passes were dropped as well. Herbert ran a very simplistic offense at Oregon this past year, with a bunch of screens and then deep routes off faking those. The Ducks went from a no huddle, spread offense to a system more based around the rushing attack and play-action off it, where he gained experience actually turning his back to the defense and relocating his targets.
Herbert also has some shiftiness to escape the rush, while being a true threat to pull the ball on zone-read plays and burn you. He is a decisive runner when he chooses to take off and can slice through a lane quicker than a lot of defenses can adjust their angles accordingly. Towards the end of the 2019 season, Herbert really started making use of his athleticism and burned opposing defenses with his rushing ability on several occasions. He rushed for three touchdowns in the 2020 Rose Bowl versus Wisconsin, before closing the game out with a couple of big third-down passes. In addition to that, the Oregon signal-caller has the arm talent to make crazy throws on the run and point to spots for his receivers as he moves towards the sideline, letting the ball go over half the field a lot of times. He made a bunch of those plays versus Washington in a huge showdown as a junior. The Oregon QB ran a strong 4.68 at the combine and had a great passing showcase. He was right on target on deep in-breaking routes, threw three beautiful corner routes in a row and showed off his big arm on the go-ball.
Moreover, Herbert put together a very consistent Senior Bowl week. He clearly stood out among the quarterbacks and if not for Jordan Love putting together some good stretches himself, Herbert would have been heads and shoulders above the rest there. He wrapped things up by absolutely firing some piss missiles during the two-minutes drill on the final day and then was named the Offensive MVP in the actual game. When protected and in rhythm, we have seen what Herbert can do. In 2018 he completed 17 of his first 18 passes versus Stanford and I thought he learned to be more of a well-rounded passer than just a thrower last season. With that I mean not always putting a hundred miles per hour on the ball and driving it, but also using some touch and taking heat off it, when he checked it down late to one of his running backs. I also thought he become more efficient with his pocket movement, especially gaining ground as he hitches up.
On the flipside, Herbert has to do a better job anticipating throws and not waiting for receivers to actually come open, mostly locking in on his first read. At this point he is most comfortable rolling to either side and throwing the ball, rather than working through his progressions and adjusting to defenses post-snap. He lacks someone awareness of who’s coming on blitzes and doesn’t always put his second hand on the football to protect it, which resulted in 26 total fumbles in 43 career starts. As a pure thrower, his feet get stuck at times and he doesn’t have them pointed properly for the throws he goes on to attempt, while also not bringing his whole body into the throw and swinging his back-leg through routinely. That led to plenty of passes landing at the feet of his receiver or going over their head. His front-shoulder gets frozen too many times and he limits the torque he can build up, muscling some throws due to an elongated motion. Herbert is kind of stiff overall and his throwing motion is pretty mechanic. Because of that, he is not super accurate on short throws, as he finished 50th in the FBS in the 1-9 yard range in accuracy percentage according to PFF. Most problematic however, Herbert was only present physically in a lot of big games for the Ducks and did not show that spark necessary to take those contests over, while making some bad decisions and looking like a deer in the headlights.
Herbert’s lack of consistency with reading the field and being precise with his throws is definitely concerning, but his flashes of brilliance when it comes his athleticism and big-time throws is even more intriguing. 728 of his passing yards came on screen passes and he doesn’t work through his progressions particularly well yet, but with the way he ended the season and performed in Mobile, Herbert has likely secured a spot in the top ten of the draft. However, I have some major question marks about his game and his readiness to be a week one starter for whoever drafts him. So I would actually not look at him before the end of the first round.
4. Jordan Love, Utah State
Just a three-star recruit coming out of California, Utah State was the only FBS program to offer Love a scholarship. He quickly jumped into the action, starting six games in 2017. The following season he completed 64 percent of his passes for over 3500 yards, 32 touchdowns and six interceptions on 8.6 yards per attempt, leading the Aggies to a school-record 11 wins and had them finished ranked 22nd in the final AP poll. Utah State also finished second nationally with a bonkers 47.5 points per game and Love had seven 300+ yard passing games. His numbers looked a lot different under the new coaching staff last year. His completion-percentage and yardage totals also matched the prior ones, but he only threw 20 touchdowns compared to an FBS-high 17 interceptions. Still, his talent is very intriguing to NFL scouts and has already received some Patrick Mahomes-hype.
I already believed before the 2019 college football season even started, that Love could be that surprise first-round quarterback this year. He is 6’4”, 225 pounds with an incredibly dynamic arm and overall skill-set. He uses his different arm angles and trajectories, really showing that flexibility and bendiness to change things up with how the ball comes out of his hands. He can not just drive the ball, but also put arc on it or use different speeds. Love shows some suddenness with the way he can snap his feet and turn his shoulder to go with a quick release. You see him give those little look-offs to open up quick throws underneath routinely. He has the velocity on the ball to complete out-routes without allowing trailing defenders to undercut the pass and he has the confidence in his ability to fire the ball into some tight windows over the middle. Even when his receivers were well-covered, Love put the ball into some spots where they had a chance to make a play routinely and when those guys did find a way to hold onto the pass, it ended in spectacular plays. Love can throw off his back-foot with a defender in his face and is not afraid of attacking the deep middle, especially when he had Dax Raymond at tight-end in 2018. When he was surrounded with bigger receivers, he put the ball up in the air for them and allowed them to make a play quite often.
Love has a way of escaping from defenders, by spinning off or making them miss, leading to just 23 sacks taken despite being pressured on 27.7 percent of his drop-backs last season. He has a special ability to make throws on the run, can fire the ball 50+ yards off the wrong foot like it’s nothing and you see him fire bullets off a dead-sprint to the left, where he somehow still finds a way to square his shoulders and give his receivers downfield a shot. However, even on bootlegs when he somebody wide open in flats off a sift block fake or on a shall crosser, he goes for the deep comeback instead and hits it in on the run routinely. Love scored seven rushing touchdowns in 2018, despite just recording 63 rushing yards. He is much more dynamic runner than his numbers would indicate, being able to give that little head-fake and the dip defenders for yardage right up the middle. Love also shows pretty good speed to the edge and toughness in traffic.
In 2019 his top three receivers were no longer there and Love didn’t have that explosive check-down option Darwin Thompson presented his sophomore campaign. The offense also wasn’t very creative and under the new coaching staff, they didn’t give Love much help, with plays repeating themselves a whole lot. Much of his bad play was about pressing and trying to do much, when there simply wasn’t much there. Of his 17 interceptions last season, two were tipped by defensive linemen, three came on hail mary attempts and on another three it seemed pretty obvious that receivers were running the wrong route. He impressed at the Senior Bowl with the way his ball cut through the wind while other QBs struggled with that. He also showed some good mobility inside the pocket and the ability to keep his eyes down the field and after a somewhat shaky first day, he put together two more excellent practices, really showing poise and control. Love also had an excellent athletic showing at the combine for a pretty big guy, including a 1.58 ten-yard split, which shows you the quick burst he has to escape the pocket if necessary.
While you have to put it into perspective, you can’t overlook the fact Love took a big step back in 2019, going from six to 17 interceptions while completing two percent less of his passes for an average of 1.4 yards less per attempt. He tends to throw some short passes with his arm only, not bringing his lower body forward at all. He also needs to stop trying to lob balls into his guys instead of actually throwing it, at times putting his feet parallel to each other and just leaving the ball up for grabs on those rainbow type throws, with too much under it. While several of his interceptions actually weren’t his fault, there could have been plenty of others going the wrong way, as Love ranked 101st nationally with 26 turnover-worthy plays last season according to PFF. He tries to get the ball to receivers that look open at the moment he releases it, without noticing the pecillinary coverage. His completion percentage last season was highly inflated by the amount of screens he threw – 26.5 percent of his completions were behind the line of scrimmage – and he really struggled in Utah State’s two matchup versus Power 5 teams – LSU and Wake Forest (six INTs combined).
Love has those quick-twitch movement to adjust his platform and get the ball to where it needs to be in a hurry. While it is obviously crazy to make that comparison to Patrick Mahomes, since that guy is probably the most talented quarterback I have ever seen, Love has a lot of similar qualities, in terms of being a flexible athlete, who can change up his throwing angles and releases, as well as being a magician off script. However, at Utah State he also made some absolutely bone-headed decisions and was really pressing last season. His upside is very intriguing, but you need to surround him with the appropriate weapons and a creative offensive coordinators if you don’t want his backyard style of play to be the norm.
5. Jacob Eason, Washington
This guy was the 2015-16 Gatorade National Player of the Year and a five-star recruit coming out of the Seattle area. Eason started 12 of 13 games for Georgia as a true freshman and expectations were high when the Bulldogs entered 2017 with him as the starter, but the second-year QB was forced to leave the season-opener with a knee injury and once Jake Fromm took over for him – leading the Dawgs all the way to the National Championship – Eason never good his job back. Therefore he decided to move back home and join the Huskies. Last season he started all 13 games for UW, completing 64.2 percent of his passes for 3132 yards and 23 touchdowns compared to eight interceptions.
This young man has the size and arm the NFL is looking for, with the prototype measurements of 6’6”, right around 230 pounds, which most scouts were hell-bent to find just a few years ago. More importantly the arm strength is second to none in this class. Eason can put the ball in the air 50-60 yards without even breaking a sweet and he can fire lasers pretty much to any spot necessary. The ball comes out beautifully and the Washington QB spreads the it all around the field. He has no problem completing corner-routes to the close to the white lines on the field side without much arc to keep the safety from undercutting it in time. He loves to throw all those curl and hook routes, where he can put some zing on the ball. Eason can throw those deep post routes on a rope and make it look easy, but also places some fade balls perfectly on those lob passes and can put it over the top of the underneath defender for a crossing receiver to drift further downfield, showcasing the ability to take speed off the ball. He made a couple of throws in the Las Vegas Bowl against #19 Boise State that will absolutely make your jaw drop.
Eason has experience in a pro-style offense, where he was asked to turn his back to the defense off play-action and make big-throws down the field. He has the confidence to pull the trigger for some tight-window throws or let the ball go to a spot in-between defenders on dig or shallow post routes. When he is in rhythm and on his game, there is a lot to like here. Eason excels in the quick-game from the gun, where he has his drive-foot in front and as soon as it hits, he transitions back forward with some power behind the ball. He is also very accurate getting the ball out on hitch and hook routes and deeper drops, where he can really hit that back-foot and let it fly. At the same time, he has the arm talent to roll either way or run up into the throw for some incredible completions. He especially likes to escape through the back door, spinning to his left and then leading his receiver all the way towards the sideline. Eason didn’t get a ton of help from his wide receivers last season with a drop rate of 7.6 percent and he was pressured on 26.6 percent of his drop-backs. With his big hands sticking to the ball, he only fumbled seven times in 32 career games.
Unfortunately, Eason locks his feet into the ground a little too much and doesn’t rotate through in a very dynamic fashion for the most part. You see him throw some balls on a line, which don’t give his receiver a adjust and make a play on it and while you like the confidence, there are some throws where one of the safeties can either make a play on the ball himself or just blast the intended receiver. Eason is a below-average athlete and will not contribute whatsoever as a runner, as he finished his career with -126 rushing yards overall. While some NFL GMs are probably different, there are some situations, where I would have liked to see the QB go head-first instead of sliding in order to convert on third downs. Eason completely panics under pressure and makes some terrible decisions in the process, where he fades away or throws it without any usage of the lower body. He crumbled and gave away some big games with bad judgement against Oregon and Utah, including a game-changing pick-six against the Utes throwing from his back-foot towards the opposite sideline, when the Huskies actually were in control.
I really thought Eason should have returned to Washington for the 2020 season, because there are definitely some parts of his game that need help and I wanted to see him come through in the big games, instead of shrinking in those moment. However, I believe he is more daring than reckless, even if that doesn’t mean there aren’t any issues in his judgement for situations and he needs to improve a whole when facing pressure. Still, the size and arm talent, combined with the fact he really only played two seasons make him a very intriguing option to shape into something special with an established starter allowing him to grow for a year.
6. Jalen Hurts, Alabama
The top dual-threat QB recruit in the country coming out of Houston in 2016, Nick Saban went into the season-opener that year with the plan of splitting time between Hurts and sophomore signal-caller Blake Barnett, but it basically took Hurts that one game to throw those ideas out of the window. In his two years as a starter with the Crimson Tide, he combined for close to 5000 passing yards and 1800 yards on the ground, scoring 51 total touchdowns, while only being picked off once as a sophomore. However, he was benched in the second half of the 2017 national title game for Tua Tagovailoa and spent the following season as a backup – even if he had his moment of shine in the SEC championship versus Georgia, as he flipped the script and became the guy himself to bring the Tide back versus the Bulldogs. Hurts decided to transfer last offseason and in his one full year with the Sooners, he completed just under 70 percent of his passes for 3851 yards and 32 touchdowns compared to eight INTs on a crazy 11.3 yards per attempt, while adding another 1300 yards and 20(!) touchdowns on the ground on 5.6 yards per rush, which made him a first-team All-Big 12 selection.
Built robust at 6’2”, 220 pounds, Hurts has come a long, long way as a passer from when he first took over the Alabama offense as a freshman. His ability to throw the ball from within the pocket with accuracy and rhythm looked much better in spot-duty as the backup behind Tua in 2018 and he became a completely different guy under Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma, where he established himself as one of the favorites for the Heisman trophy only a few weeks into the year. I also believe his throwing motion has become much more fluid throughout this offseason, leading up to an excellent passing session at the combine. However, there was never any question about the power behind his arm, which was apparent ever since he threw that 70-yard touchdown on a deep ball when Bama dismantled USC in the 2016 season-opener – his first ever collegiate game. You see those tight spirals on downfield throws, where the nose of the ball is aimed towards the ground. Last season over 1200 yards of his total came on balls travelling 20+ yards down the field. He has the ability to be pretty accurate off-platform as well.
As prolific as he was as a passer for most of the year, Hurts really took over as a runner in the latter parts of that campaign, carrying the ball 106 times over a five-game stretch leading up to the CFP. Not only has he been very effective in the option run game, but he has made some huge plays taking off when a crease opened up. He displays some slick pump fakes when he has an option in the flats off zone-reads and gets some guys to not even lay a hand on him at times Hurts has great shake and head-fakes as a runner, but while some people may think of him as this Lamar Jackson-style runner, he actually has more of a running back mentality with the weightlifting background to back it up with power. He ran over several defensive backs throughout his career and has gained plenty of yardage through contact, displaying a lot of toughness. At the same time he has the speed to slice through defense, running a sub-4.6 in the 40 at Lucas Oil Stadium. That strength also shows when he breaks free from potential sacks and puts the ball out in front for one of his receivers to run underneath off the scramble drill or lead them back towards himself. More importantly however, Hurts has that gamer mentality you want to see from a quarterback. Yes, he was benched in the 2017 national title game because the passing attack for the Tide was pretty stagnant, but when you think of the way he redeemed himself when he jumped into the action versus Georgia the following season or that 28-3 comeback over Baylor the first time around last year, he has stepped up and willed his team to victories
While gets the ball towards the target most of the time, Hurts has not mastered the ability to use the appropriate type of passes – straight-line, lob, touch, etc. The Oklahoma QB tends to not get the front-shoulder pointed towards his target and limits the torque he can build up on his throws, especially when getting the ball out quickly. While he has made huge strides as a pocket-passer, he is still too quick to take off and leaves opportunities on the table. He has definitely improved from his days of being completely flat-footed as he looked downfield, but he still has kind of lazy feet and runs himself into some pressures. He also makes some dumb decision, when he is all the way out at the sideline and tries to throw back across the field and he fumbled eight times last year, dropping the ball below his belt on too many occasions. Overall, his production at Oklahoma was largely due to Lincoln Riley’s quarterback-friendly system, that had produced consecutive Heisman trophy winners the two previous years. There were a bunch of wide-open receivers off mesh concepts and rub routes, plus having an all-world receiver like Ceedee Lamb making you look good with his ability to make magic after the catch helps your numbers a whole lot as well. The second-lowest drop rate in the FBS (1.8 percent) doesn’t hurt either. He needs to see receivers be open for the most part, instead of anticipating throws and a lot of his issues came in a catastrophic Peach Bowl versus LSU, which Big 12 defenses couldn’t expose.
There are a lot of things to like about hurts – his competitiveness, arm strength and mobility standing out the most. However, to me he is more of a developmental prospect with work to be done in terms of getting his body in position to make the most of his throws. I want more subtle movement inside the pocket and him being more effective with his decision-making. I love what I have seen from Hurts in terms of overhauling his throwing motion and the development he has made overall ever since he lost his job to Tua at Alabama, but he is still growing as a passer. To me he is Tyrod Taylor plus – which he can certainly be a top-20 starter in the right system.
7. Jake Fromm, Georgia
After initially committing to Alabama as a five-star recruit, Fromm changed his mind once Kirby Smart took over the Georgia job and he could stay in his home-state. He took over for Jacob Eason in the 2017 season-opener when the original starter went down with an injury and he never looked back, forcing Eason to transfer eventually. In his first year with the program, Fromm threw 24 touchdowns compared to seven INTs, while leading the number-one ranked Bulldogs to the national title game versus Alabama and being named the SEC’s Freshman of the Year. In 2018, he put up career-highs in completion-percentage (67.4), yards per attempt (10.1) and passing TDs (30). Last season he put up very similar numbers and has put together a really steady three years with UGA. Over the course of his career, Fromm has completed 63.3 percent of his passes for over 2600 yards in each season and 78 TDs compared to 18 INTs, while leading the team to three straight SEC Championship game appearances.
The first thing that stands out to me about Fromm’s tape is the fact he has very clean footwork overall – in the quick game, five- and seven-step drops as well as re-setting off play-action. He is at his best in rhythm, letting the ball go right as that last step hits and completing curl or hook routes, but he also wins on those teardrop and back-shoulder throws along the sidelines. At Georgia, he was outstanding at lofting the ball over the top on fade routes and putting it to where only his receiver can put hands on it. Fromm excels at throwing his receivers open on back-shoulder throws, as corners try to stack those guys and don’t allow them to separate originally- In the underneath areas he actually protects his targets from defenders by placing the ball away from those guy. Fromm also works very well with taller wide receivers, as he puts the ball to a spot where that guy can go over the top of the defensive back. While it is just a small detail, the Georgia QB puts the ball to the outside shoulder on flat routes and outlets every single time, to where his guy can immediately turn upfield. He really understands how to distribute the ball to his arsenal of pass-catchers and spreads the ball around between them, while manipulating defenses with very subtle shoulder- and ball-fakes.
Throughout his three years as a starter with the Bulldogs, Fromm did a great job protecting the ball as part of a team that relied on a heavy running game and stingy defense. Their QB had only 28 turnover-worthy plays in his entire career and had only four fumbles recovered by the opposing team. While he wasn’t asked to fling the ball all over the yard, Fromm has plenty of experience from under center and running pro-style concepts, which can’t be said about many college signal-callers with all those spread offenses. When he was relied upon in certain situations, he did come through for UGA ever since his freshman campaign, stepping up in SEC Championship games. Fromm stands strong in that pocket and keeps his eyes downfield, but he also defeated the blitz a whole lot by releasing the ball extra early to a spot or putting a ton of air under the ball and giving his receivers an opportunity to make a play on it. I also think he is more dangerous when he takes off than you would expect and he is a tough runner when he needs to pick up a first down. The Georgia coaches called his number on a bunch of QB sneaks and they trusted him to find his back late on check-downs if nothing else is there.
However, Fromm is routinely a tick late with releasing the ball, which does not help considering his arm-talent is average at best. You don’t see too many big opposite-sideline throws or drive passes in the intermediate to deep range. When he wants to really push the ball downfield, he needs this wind-up to enable himself to do that. Fromm struggles to hook up with his flankers on short out-routes consistently, giving defenders a chance to undercut the pass. That’s a big reason four of his five interceptions last season came in short range (0-9 yards) and 25.4 percent of his passes last season were uncatchable. Fromm is way too quick to check it down and he didn’t even allow some patterns to develop before finding Swift & company underneath. Last year he only averaged 7.4 yards per attempt. He had one of the sturdiest offensive lines in all of college football in front of him and actually made life harder on his two highly coveted tackles with the way he moved around. Fromm has to do a better job feeling pressure off the edge and moving up into the pocket, having his weight shifted backwards too much for my taste. He also has a bad habit of flipping the ball and is kind of a statue in the pocket, illustrated by not cracking the five-second mark at the combine. His arm also looked pretty weak there and he could not make some of impressive throws other guys in Indy intrigued scouts with. Fromm only dropped back 35+ times in seven career games – most quarterbacks from pass-heavy systems have more than that in a single season.
Fromm is a solid, but not very exciting quarterback prospect. If put in the right system, I think he can be a productive starter right off the bat, but if you ask him to make big-time throws all over the field and be the focus of the offense, you will be disappointed. At below nine-inch hands and lacking arm talent, the upside simply isn’t there quite like it is for some other guys, but he has been an excellent starter in college football’s toughest conference and not shied away from competing against the best, actually stepping up his game. At worst he should be one of the best backups in the league, who keeps a cool head and shows a lot of toughness when thrown in a game.
8. Anthony Gordon, Washington State
This kid comes from a baseball background and was originally drafted by the New York Mets in the 36th round. Instead he followed his true love in football, leading the City College of San Francisco to a junior college championship, before joining Mike Leach in the Pacific Northwest. While he had to sat out his first year due to transfer rules and lost the quarterback competition against Gardner Minshew in 2018, when he did get his chance to show out, Gordon took right over where Minshew left off and even beat out some those impressive numbers the Jaguars signal-caller accounted for, completing 493 of 689(!) passes for 5579 yards and 48 touchdowns compared to 16 INTs, making him a second-team All-Pac-12 selection.
This 6’2”, 205-pound signal-caller took more drop-backs (740) than any other quarterback in the country last season. Gordon displays bouncy feet inside the pocket and is rapid with setting them to release the ball, while being able to shorten his motion when the ball needs to come out. He is very patient at working through his progressions and allowing patterns to develop. Gordon was at his best over the middle on the intermediate level, layering the ball between linebackers and safeties on dig or shallow post routes, to where his receiver doesn’t have to break stride at all, setting up a lot of yards after the catch. He also throws some beautiful tear-drop fade routes towards the opposite sideline. Gordon can utilize some side-arm action on hook or stick routes, as well as putting the ball to the outside of receivers as he moves that way. Overall he completed 220 of his 264 attempts on passes in the zero to nine yard range. Unlike a lot of these guys coming from Air Raid systems, Gordon actually has the tools to succeed outside that kind of scheme and he probably has the most talented arm for a Wazzu QB in recent years.
Gordon also has somewhat underrated mobility and can pick up some crucial third downs, when the defense drops out and leaves a lane for him, but also to run up in the pocket and feather the ball over defenders. More importantly, he can buy time inside the pocket by sliding around and drifting backwards a little to set up some throws. He sees the entire field very well and won’t let opportunities for big plays slip away too much, with 115 completions on passes thrown for 10+ yards, to go with the precision in the underneath areas. I really like the way he can look off defenders and almost start his release before his eyes even move on to the actual target, especially in combination with guys sitting down their routes and creating more room for them that way. He was highly efficient all over the field, but in particular in the red-zone. Gordon tossed an incredible nine touchdown versus UCLA just a regular 60 minutes last season, even if he was stripped for the game-sealing fumble in a huge comeback by the Bruins.
With that being said, Gordon needs to swing that back-leg through more instead of having it hit the turf and kind of whipping the ball. His feet aren’t quite in sync with his upper body at this point. He also has a bad tendency of padding the ball and taking that second hand off it, swinging it around quite a bit. It is maddening to watch the ball drop underneath his belt and then over his head time and time again. Gordon doesn’t drive some balls down the seam enough and allows defender to get back into the picture or exposes his receivers awaiting the pass. You see some ill-advised decisions when he is on the move and just kind of puts the ball up for grabs sometimes. His numbers were blown up in that Air Raid under Mike Leach, where a lot of throws were basically extended handoffs. He led all FBS quarterbacks with 738 yards on screen passes last season and his top two backs caught over 100 balls on swing and angle routes for the most part. At the Senior Bowl, Gordon struggled to cut through the wind for the most part and I would say he’s only slightly above that threshold you want to see from a starting quarterback in terms of arm strength.
While he is shockingly loose with the ball, Gordon “only” fumbled five times last year, which isn’t too bad a rate considering the insane amount of drop-backs. That number will be a lot higher in the NFL if he doesn’t change his ball-handling habits. A lot of his production at Wazzu was manufactured through the scheme and he only was a starter for one year, but there a lot of things to work with in terms of field awareness, pocket movement and ability to set up his receivers for run after catch opportunities. Gordon may not have a special arm, but he is a very natural passer and deserves a chance to compete for a starting job early on. While he isn’t nearly as big or has the kind of arm talent as Tom Brady does, he plays a little like the GOAT.
9. Khalil Tate, Arizona
After recording over 2000 yards each passing and rushing his senior year of high school, Tate was a top-ten dual-threat quarterback coming out of California. As a 17-year old, he became the first true freshman to ever start a game for Arizona at the posit, but began the following season as a backup. A few weeks into the season when the original starter got hurt, Tate jumped into the action and set an FBS record 327 rushing yards from the quarterback position versus Colorado. He would go on to win a conference record four straight Pac-12 Offensive Player of the week awards and emerged as a Heisman trophy candidate for keeping the Wildcats in the hunt for a conference title. Overall he put up almost 3000 total yards and 26 touchdowns, averaging a crazy 9.1 yards per carry that year. With a new coaching staff coming in and changing a lot of things around the program, Tate has lost some of the glamor these last two season, but he still put over 5000 total yards and 45 touchdowns combined in 22 starts.
This guy is 6’2”, 215 pounds with a build more reminiscent of a running back but also a cannon of an arm. While he has mostly been labeled as a pure runner, Tate can throw with touch, arc and good ball-placement. Even though his rushing ability is special and we will still get to it, Tate keeps his eyes downfield the entire way, until he has to become a runner. The Wildcat QB has the arm strength to drill throws at either sideline or dig routes over the middle. He loves hitting those wheel routes on switch concepts and he has the kind of zip to complete passes, where it looks like the defender is actually in position to get his hands on the it. On deep balls, Tate doesn’t just put the ball up for the receiver to run under it, but actually leads that guy so he has to hit that extra gear and separate. I have always been so impressed with his ability to make throws off platform. He can roll to either side and then make some unbelievable throws on the run with a simple flick of the wrist. You see him fire it across his body to a streaking receiver working away from him on a post route or something, but also drive it to the sideline, often times off the wrong foot or even with both legs in the air. He also showed creativeness in that area to create opportunities.
To go with that ability as a passer, Tate is obviously an unbelievable open-field runner, with the speed, feel and power to make things happen. Early on in his career he was actually featured heavily in the run game on option and quarterback draw plays, but now you mainly see him create off script. He splits through cracks and finds daylight routinely and picks up big chunks of yardage. More telling however is the impact he can have on his teammates by just being a threat to pull it. You see edge defenders and the linebacker behind them stay home against Tate, but then safeties leverage that way, just because of how afraid they were of him at times. And while he obviously has the speed to burn defenses – displayed by several 50+ yard TD runs where he pulled away from defensive backs, what sets him apart from some of the other dual-threat QBs is the physicality he runs with. You see him lower his shoulder on some defenders and run them over, as well as breaking out of multiple tackles. Tate really rides the back on zone-read plays and pop passes down the middle, which made him excel in the RPO game. What Kevin Sumlin and that Wildcat coaching staff did to Tate for large stretches over these last two season was absolutely criminal. I thought the overall philosophy of trying to make Tate a pure pocket passer, the offensive play-calling and situational decision-making were all atrocious. Of course you want the young guy to develop as a quarterback, but watching most of his tapes through the last three years, it’s not hard to see how much more comfortable Tate gets if he can use his legs early on and let the game come to him. Still, he found ways to make things happen when nothing was there at times and when they featured his strengths a little more, you saw the talent.
While all of that is great, Tate is still far from a refined prospect. He only completed 56.3 percent of his passes in 2018 and barely cracked the 60-mark last season. There is too much inaccuracy on simple short throws. The biggest reason for that is the fact he rushes his motion and throws overall at times when he sees somebody wide open and gives away those opportunities. However, there are also some balls that he still threw up for anybody to catch, even though he just didn’t have the guys to come up with those last season. Tate’s feet aren’t linked to his upper body very well yet, making a lot of flat-footed throws and where his legs are planted to the ground. To go with that, he needs to work on being more efficient with subtle movements inside the pocket instead of always getting into the scramble drill instantly when there are bodies around him. Tate has thrown at least one interception in 19 of 31 career starts. When teams started stacking the box more as the seasons went along and the Wildcats coaches asked their QB to execute pure drop-backs 30+ times a game, he really struggled to get on track and just it seems like it takes him a while to check into some games mentally.
This is one of the more fascinating quarterback prospects in this entire draft to me. Tate immediately transformed the Arizona program from a non-competitive team to a dangerous one in the Pac-12 when he entered the starting lineup in 2017. A lot of the games I watched over these last two seasons I came away dumbfounded with how the coaching staff tried to make him into something he’s not, but when they did start running a more wide open offense and Tate could get comfortable running the ball, he made some special plays. He was working with a really young receiving corp, which didn’t know how to run the scramble drill yet. Tate is one of those special athletes and competitors, who has all the tools and has already shown flashes of brilliance when he gets into a zone, but needs to be molded so he can get the best out of himself all the time. There might no better highlight reel to watch than Tate’s, but he just needs to be a more consistent passer to earn a shot in the NFL.
10. Nathan Stanley, Iowa
Despite excelling at multiple sports in high school, Stanley’s hometown Wisconsin Badgers passed on him and he moved to Iowa City instead. After sitting on the bench his first year with the Hawkeyes, Stanley has started every single game these last three seasons. Over that stretch, he completed 58.3 percent of his passes, averaging 2745 yards per season. He threw 26 touchdowns in each his sophomore and junior season, but that went all the way down to 16 as a senior. However it was his third straight year as a team captain and he was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection thanks to putting up a career-high 2941 passing yards and led the Hawkeyes to double-digit wins.
This kid is a throwback, under-center quarterback with a big arm and has filled out his frame really well at 6’4”, 240+ pounds. Stanley can spin it with just about anybody and really drops some balls into the bucket of his pass-catchers along the sideline. He stands tall inside the pocket and stays very calm as he moves up and down, while making big-boy throws down the football field. Stanley has the arm strength to be completely flat-footed and still put the ball like 40 yards in the air without even straining. He also has no problem making opposite hash throws on out-routes and he showcases tremendous velocity on curl and comeback routes or even deep-outs, to where the defender can’t go through his receiver for the ball. Stanley can have his feet set at 12 o’clock and get the ball to a shallow crosser at about 45 degrees or to a hitch route on the outside. He excels at throwing down the seams with back-shoulder placement and loves to throw it to the tight-end – probably because he had two of the very best in college football on the same offense in 2018. Last season he completed passes that travelled 20+ yards for over 850 yards (passer-rating North of 100 in that range) and made 28 (what PFF calls) big-time throws on just over 400 attempts. He also has no issues driving the ball on rollouts.
Stanley seems very comfortable operating from under center, executing different depths of drops and turning his back to the defense off heavy play-action, with different personnel sets. For a big-bodied gunslinger, Stanley has a pretty tight throwing motion to execute some quick-game stuff as well. At Iowa he had a lot of control and responsibility at the line of scrimmage. Stanley has freakish hands to hold on to the ball when it’s way off his body and people hit him. That also shows on some pump fakes where he palms the ball the whole way without any movement. He has some slick fakes and ways to hide the ball off play-action, to go with the appropriate body-language, which can be used to sell a bunch of initial plays. Stanley carved up Iowa State and Ohio State’s defenses in 2017 for five touchdowns and no picks respectively, He also threw six touchdowns versus Indiana as a junior and had an excellent showing in the Holiday Bowl versus USC, including a crazy touchdown pass scrambling to his left and putting the ball just a few inches off the ground for the receiver. Last season he may have taken a step backwards, but he didn’t have a lot of help around him at the skill-positions, with 6.7 percent of his passes being dropped.
This has been one of the more confusing quarterbacks in the country for the last few years. Stanley’s game was really up-and-down on a weekly basis and for as many flashes of great arm-talent as there were, there was the same amount of moments where you would scratch your head. You see him miss high and wide quite a bit, putting the ball in harm’s way because of it. What enhances that is the fact his ability to take safeties out of the picture with his eyes is still a work in progress and that he doesn’t always find easy completions. He really struggled to keep his offense moving for large stretches, especially when facing top-flight defenses. While you like the fearlessness to hang in the pocket, Stanley doesn’t show a ton of awareness for bodies around him and allows those guys to attack the ball. He looks like (an old) Ben Roethlisberger when trying to get on the move and has no suddenness to the way he can operates inside or outside the pocket.
If you took the 2018 Nathan Stanley and put him in the draft a good ten years ago, you might have yourself a first-round pick. He has big frame and a cannon of an arm, with the ability fire bombs from a clean pocket as well as make off-platform throws. Unfortunately his game is highly inconsistent, he has some bad judgement and barely any mobility to speak of, considering where we have gone since the start of the last decade. I think there is still a place for guys like him and I would rather take a flyer on him on day three than a bunch of other prospects, but I don’t always love what I see.
Just missed the cut:
Lake Luton, Oregon State
Due to playing for a small high school in Washington that ran the Wing-T, Luton was only a two-star recruit and received just one Division 1 offer from Idaho all the way back in 2014. He barely saw the field for the Vals and decided to transfer to a junior college, where he set school-records with over 3500 passing yards and 40 touchdowns. As a top-50 JUCO recruit, he finally got the opportunity to start, but four games into his career with the Beavers, he was carted off the field with a scary-looking spine injury. Luton returned in the later parts of the 2018 season (1660 passing yards, 10 TDs vs. four INTs in five starts) and started 11 games last year, when he completed 62 percent of his passes for 2714 yards and 28 touchdowns compared to only three interceptions, making him an honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection.
This guy has prototype measurements at 6’6”, 225 pounds with 10 ½-inch hands. Luton excels at throwing the ball with timing and anticipation with very smooth drops. Hitting quick hitches and out-routes is almost automatic for the Oregon State QB. However, he also certainly has the arm strength to push the ball 50+ yards downfield as well as complete deep curls on the field side with some fire behind it, plus he has enough confidence to put the ball in-between two defenders on the intermediate level. Not only can he throw those tear-drops on vertical routes, where he puts it towards spots where his receivers have plenty of room to adjust to it, but he also displays the kind of touch necessary to get the ball over the top of the underneath coverage on deep crossers. Overall the former Beaver completed 26 of 51 deep balls (20+ air yards) last season and half of them finished in the end-zone, resulting in a passer rating of 136.2 towards that area of the field.
Luton showcases rapid turns of the shoulders and the ability to re-set his feet as he moves from one side to the other when working through progressions. I really like the way he sets up throws with little shoulder fakes and bring his hips around when targeting receivers at either sideline. When he feels pressure off the edge, he does a great job of reducing the shoulder and stepping up into the pocket to establish a clean platform. Luton is a very mature decision-maker, who keeps two hands on the ball inside the pocket and rarely puts it up for grabs. He didn’t fumble once in all of 2019 and had only nine turnover-worthy plays altogether on the season, despite his success in the vertical passing game and the scoring output.
However, his feet get a little antsy when he feels any pressure and he has a strong tendency of trying to escape to the right – 34 scrambles that way compared to only six to the left. I would like to see him beat the rush by getting the ball out from his spot, instead of trying to run away from it with average athleticism at best. Luton rushes the process a little bit at times and misses his backs for easy check-downs, as he tries to speed up his release. He puts everything into a lot of throws that don’t really need it and allows defensive linemen to bat the ball down by putting it on a flat line. Luton doesn’t offer much off script, without the kind of special arm talent to create opportunities for secondary routes outside the structure of the original play.
Luton is one of those guys I was really encouraged when watching the tape among a quarterback class that lacks depth beyond the top seven or eight names. He has to work on doing a better job staying calm and dealing with pressure, but I like his decision-making, utilization of the entire body as he works his way through reads and the way he can operate in a timing-based scheme. While I wouldn’t rule out that he could compete for a starting job at some point, he should absolutely be a quality backup, who will take care of the ball.
Bryce Perkins, Virginia
A three-star recruit from the state of Arizona, Perkins originally joined the nearby Sundevils and after redshirting his first year on campus he missed all of 2016 with a broken neck. He was forced to move on to Arizona Western Community College, but after flashing that skill-set as a dual-threat signal-caller there again, the Cavaliers decided to bring him in. Once he arrived in Richmond, Perkins immediately took over under center and put up a school-record 3603 yards of total offenses to go with 34 combined touchdowns. In 2019 he broke UVA’s passing yardage record (3530) and came up just one TD short of his own record, earning second-team All-ACC honors. His father, uncle and brother (Giants running back Paul Perkins) have all played in the NFL before.
This 6’3”, 215-pound dual-threat quarterback throws a very catchable pass and works the entire field. He is at his best when he can put plenty of air under the ball and put it to a spot, where the receiver can track it away from his defender, but he can also put enough velocity on the ball to expose windows between the corner and safety. There are a lot of throws right into an area, just as the receiver sets up his break. Perkins displays a quick release in the underneath areas and uses some side-arm deliveries to get the ball to his guys in the flats, when his front-shoulder is pointed down the middle of the field, without losing much accuracy. He can deliver over the middle with a rusher right in his face and his feet parallel to each other or get the ball to somebody sneaking out while backing off.
Perkins does a nice job negotiating the pocket and moving any direction to avoid the rush, while having the strength to break out of the reach of defenders and elusiveness to make something happen off script. You see him make free runners miss with an abrupt dip of the shoulder, then set back, escape through the front door and either find somebody downfield or take off. Plays get extended so much further because of the way he can start and stop, making approaching defenders fall to the turf routinely, and the Virginia QB delivers effectively on the run. He really exploits cracks in the defense as a runner and kind of slither through lanes. In the open field he is sudden with head-fakes and a shifty style of running, plus he can almost accelerate through cuts, making several defenders look bad. There was this two-point conversion at the end of the Florida State game last year, where he seemed to be dead to rights multiple times, but he made everybody miss and scampered into the end-zone. Perkins was as important to his offense as any other quarterback in the country these last few years and he always showed up in the Cavaliers’ biggest games. He broke the streak of 15 straight to rivals Virginia Tech with an impressive win as a senior, in which Perkins hurt the Hokies with his feet on several third-and-long situations. He also really shined against Notre Dame last season, when the Cavs were double-digit underdogs in that game.
On the flipside, his footwork is very up-and-down and he needs to find more consistency. He has a pretty hectic and kind of sloppy game overall, which can make you a little nervous when you watch the normal broadcast. Perkins tends to fall away and throw off his back-foot too many times, when he actually has room to step into the throw or follow through normally. As effective as he has been making something out of nothing, Perkins takes his eyes down on the rush and has to re-track his receivers once he can somewhat set up for the pass again. He also puts the ball in the air for an eternity at times it feels like and allows defenders to attack it. There is a little hitch to his throws and he limits himself with following through on the rotation, leading to throws to an area, rather than putting the ball right on the money usually. Squaring the shoulders more when throwing on the run would help as well. At this point, he does not work through his progressions too much and can get locked in on his primary read. 13 fumbles over the last two years is a little concerning as well.
I never feel like I see a true prototypical passer with Perkins and there are some ugly snaps on tape, but he always made plays for UVA over his two years there and he is just a gamer. He has a unique style of play that can drive you crazy, but also results in some amazing plays. I would like to see him make things look easy more often, but you can’t argue with the results for the most parts. Now the question is – Can that translate to the next level?
Cole McDonald, Hawaii
Just a two-star recruit out of California, Hawaii was the only FBS school to offer McDonald a scholarship coming out of high school, While he only attempted nine passes his freshman season. He has started all but one of the 27 games these last two years and produced at a high rate for for the Rainbow Warriors. Over that stretch, he has combined for just over 8000 passing yards and 69 touchdowns compared to 24 interceptions, while reaching the end-zone another eleven times with his legs. McDonald was the team’s Offensive MVP in 2018 and a second-team All-Mountain West selection last season.
Bombs away! This guy is 6’3”, 215 pounds with a Howitzer of an arm. McDonald has the mindset of pushing the ball downfield and has the body-language of being ready to throw a rocket at any point. If you are running free down the field, he will lay it out there for you. McDonald averaged a ridiculous 12.4 yards depth of target and made 31 big-time throws last season, according to PFF. 17(!) of the 31 completions on passes that went for 20+ air yards went for touchdowns. There are several perfect throws right over the top of a defender and into the outstretched arms of the receiver when you put on the tape. However, while that may suggest that Hawaii was built on throwing the ball down the field all the time, McDonald actually also worked the underneath areas a whole lot as part of the run-and-shoot, where he displays quick footwork to set up throws and good accuracy for the most part if he could work in rhythm. McDonald can put different speeds on the ball and has shown the ability to make pin-point throws to any area of the field. His completion percentage improved from 58.9 to 63.8 percent going from 2018 to ’19.
McDonald had tremendous athletic testing at the combine. That included the fastest 40-yard dash (4.58), the top number among quarterbacks in the vertical jump (36 inches) and he finished top five in both the broad and three-cone drill. McDonald can gain yardage in a hurry when he decides to keep the ball on zone-read plays and he has the mass to bounce off tacklers and fall forward consistently. That made him very effective on sneak plays, where he made it happen on a lot of secondary efforts. More importantly, he has the arm talent to scramble one way and then put the ball in the air towards the deep middle across his body, where his receiver can run underneath it, or just throw a piss-missile to the sideline. As much of a concern as the reckless play is for the most part, you almost have to marvel at the fearless and ability to just come out with blazing guns after just throwing a pick on the previous possession. And a lot of times when you had to hold your breath watching the Hawaii offense, it was because the ball came off the hands of a receiver and was batted up in the air.
If somebody who has never watched McDonald asked me to describe him, I would say he was kind of the Jameis Winston of college football last season. In the first week, he carved up Arizona defense early on, but then still got himself benched for being careless with giving the ball to the opposing team, having thrown four touchdowns at that point but also tossed the equal amount of picks. Overall he committed 29 turnover-worthy plays in 2019 and was benched in a couple of other games as well. He attempts some completely impossible throws into windows that simply aren’t there or just puts the ball up for grabs. McDonald stares down some of his receivers and leads defenders there, not showing much anticipation at this point. While he been become consistent, there is still a bunch of times, where he puts the ball behind some receivers, right into a hit, or just misses a wide open back just a couple of yards away. The former Hawaii QB has unique throwing mechanics to say the least – he has that kind of three-quarter sideway release, where his arm-angle breaks and the elbow drops way below the shoulder. Because of that he sees the ball sail high on him at times. He also only played in that one system, where they literally had four receivers on the field on every single play and basically only went under center for sneaks.
The final game of Cole McDonald’s time with Hawaii was kind of a microcosm of his entire collegiate career. He held on to the ball too long at times and made some stupid throws into traffic, but also fired several perfect bombs downfield and came through with a big touchdown with about a minute left in the game. I’m happy he finally cut off those horrible blonde dreads after the 2019 season, because if he leaves some of reckless decisions behind him with those, he certainly has the talent to develop into a player at the next level who can make the starter nervous by what he shows in practice. He’s definitely worth a shot on day three, but needs plenty of work.
James Morgan, FIU
This young man grew up right by Lambeau Field and even wore Brett Favre’s number four jersey in high school. However, as a three-star recruit coming out of high school, he began his collegiate career in the MAC with Bowling Green. Morgan started seven games as a freshman, but in year two he was benched and decided to transfer down South the following offseason. He was named Conference USA’s Newcomer of the Year in with the Panther in 2018, completing 65.4 percent of his passes for 2727 yards and a school-record 26 touchdowns compared to just seven INTs. Morgan took a bit of a step backwards last season, but was still an honorable mention All-C-USA with 2585 yards and 14 TDs compared to five picks.
Morgan has nice measurements at 6’4”, 240 pounds with plenty of arm talent and a big frame to hang in the pocket. He can put some zip on the ball to hit windows before they close and put the ball in-between multiple defenders to where his guy can cradle it and nobody else quite reaches it. There are some absolute bullets on tape when throwing post or dig routes and I love him on those honey-hole shots versus cover-two. Morgan also throws a great, high-arching deep ball to give his receiver a lot of time to adjust to it and have a chance to separate late. The FIU signal-caller doesn’t miss a lot of receivers streaking free downfield and has the cannon to at least give them a chance, while fully loading up on those. You see him really tilt his shoulder for the vertical game, but then quickly come down and hit a shallow crosser if the deep coverage is in good position.
The former Panther finds ways to get the ball out of his hands with rushers approaching and only took 12 sacks last season. He also has the arm talent to make some impressive throws without a clean platform and both feet off the ground at times. His receivers didn’t do him too many favors either, because even though they came with a bunch of those balls in tight spaces, they also dropped 9.8 percent of his passes last season. Morgan was by far the best quarterback at the East-West Shrine game, where he showed impressive poise and touch from the pocket with the appropriate football IQ to progress through concepts. He also kind of surprised me at the combine, running sub 4.7 in the 40, after mainly doing damage on a couple of zone-reads when the end-man crashed way too hard and nobody seemed to account for the quarterback.
On the flipside, Morgan had more turnover-worthy than big-time throws in each of the last two years, according to PFF. Especially on the deep level he was very shaky, completing only 15 of his 55 attempts on passes that travelled 20+ yards, with five touchdowns compared to four picks. Morgan fades away too much when throwing the ball and doesn’t consistently transfer the weight forward enough. You also see him never actually point that shoulder North, when he plans on throwing the ball to the outside, allowing defender to zero in on those patterns. He just kind of whips it out there on swing routes, where the back actually has to reach behind to even attempt the catch. Morgan needs to learn when to take some heat off the ball and he is way too careless with long throws across the field when he can’t even set his feet properly. There are some plays, where he is falling away and still tries to force the ball into triple-coverage, instead of just living for another down, and he fumbled seven times in 2017.
Morgan is very talented passer, who lacks no confidence whatsoever to attempt tough throws into tight windows, which he can also fall victim to. I would describe his accuracy more as general rather than pin-point and he needs some coaching up, but there is definitely something to work with. He is the type of guy, who has the arm strength and body you want to work with at the next level.
Right behind them:
Tyler Huntley (Utah), Steven Montez (Colorado), Kevin Davidson (Princeton), Josh Love (San Jose State)