QB Joe Burrow, LSU
After struggling to earn a starting job for Ohio State, Burrow made the jump to LSU in 2018. His play that season was below par, which led to a low completion rate (57.8) and only 16 passing TDs over 13 games. He finished with 2,894 yards passing with some value as a runner (128/399/7) while minimizing the damage in his mistakes throwing the ball (five Ints).
His rags to riches story in 2019 ended with a Heisman Trophy and a national title. Last year Burrow lit the college world on fire at the quarterback positions. His completion rate (76.3) was off the charts great, which led to 5,671 passing yards and an astounding 60 passing TDs and only six interceptions. Burrow chipped in 368 yards on the ground on 115 carries (3.2 yards per rush) and five more touchdowns.
The LSU passing game was helped dramatically by the emergence of WR Ja’Marr Chase (84/1780/20) and WR Justin Jefferson (111/1540/18).
Burrow brings to the table a deceiving arm while relying more on touch and feel over the short areas of the field. When asked to fire into tight quarters or add gas to his deep passes, his arm plays up. I get more of a Peyton Manning feel to his throws and reads while having the ability to make running plays off run/pass options.
His pre-snap reads gain an edge while showing the ability to look off the deep safety. If a play breaks down, Burrow keeps his head up with the talent to make big plays on the run.
At the next level, his passing window will shorten, and his desire to float balls into a crowded area will have less chance of success.
Burrow seemed to speed up his game as the level of his competition improved. His pocket presence graded well.
Draft Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals (Round 1, Pick 1)
QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Over the last decade, the Crimson Tide has been a powerhouse in college football after the arrival of head coach Nick Saban. Tagovailoa stepped into a great situation in a split role in his freshman season. He came off the bench in the National Championship game in 2017 to lead Alabama to the title. In that game, Tagovailoa went 14-for-24 for 166 yards and three TDs while more than doubling his previous passing opportunity in any game college.
In 2018, Saban handed him the keys to the starting quarterback job. Tagovailoa went 14-0 before losing to Clemson in the championship game. On the year, he passed for 3,996 yards with 43 passing TDs and six Ints while adding some value in the run game (57/190/5). His completion rate (69.0) was elite while gaining 11.2 yards per pass attempt.
Last year Tagovailoa was on a higher path after nine games (2,840 passing yards with 33 TDs and three Ints), but his season ended in mid-November with a significant hip injury and a broken nose. In Week 8 of the season, he passed for 418 yards with four TDs and one Int against LSU, but Joe Burrow (393/3) won the game 46-41.
Tagovailoa should be ready for training camp this summer while being drafted in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
His movements in the pocket under duress have a kamikaze feel at times, which may lead to some bad hits at the next level. Tagovailoa shows much more upside as a runner if asked to do so. When given a clean pocket and length to his passing window, his feel, accuracy, and velocity look top-notch. Tagovailoa makes good reads with the arm to stick a ball into tight coverage. He’ll be dangerous inside the ten-yard-line with his legs while being expected to extend drives in the run game. Tagovailoa throws the ball well on the move.
In the pros, he’ll need to work harder on scoring drives while not having the luxury of having the edge in offensive talent.
Draft Prediction: Miami Dolphins (Round 1, Pick 5)
QB Justin Herbert, Oregon
The Ducks gave Herbert playing time at QB in four different seasons. After taking over as the starting QB in 2016, he missed five games the following season with a broken collarbone. Over the last two seasons, Hebert started 27 games. His best year came in 2019 (3,471 passing yards and 36 combined TDs).
Over his first three seasons, Herbert showed more value as a runner (58/161/2, 44/183/5, and 71/166/2). Last year he gained only 50 yards on the ground on 58 carries, but he did score four TDs.
Overall, his arm is NFL ready. Herbert looks to drive the ball downfield with velocity and accuracy. His next step is growth in his touch in the red zone while improving his decision making against better zone defenses.
Herbert is a better runner than I first envisioned. He breaks pocket with acceleration and power, which will help score TDs in close and extend drives.
Over his final three games in his senior year, Herbert passed for fewer than 200 yards in each contest (174, 193, and 138) with one combined passing touchdown.
I don’t view him as a franchise QB out of the gate.
Draft Prediction: Los Angeles Chargers (Round 1, Pick 6)
QB Jordan Love, Utah State
Based on 2019, Love doesn’t belong in the top college QB conversation. He passed for 3,402 yards with 20 TDs, but 17 of his throws ended up in the hands of his opponents. Love also rushed for 175 yards on 81 carries while failing to score on the ground.
His stock was trending up after his sophomore season (3,567 passing yards and 39 combined TDs). Love saw his yards per pass attempt fall from 8.6 to 7.2 in 2019.
Love comes to the NFL with size (6’4” and 225 lbs.) and a strong arm. He’ll make easy deep throws with a flick of his wrist. At times, he has a looker feel as he waits for a player to break open. I expect him to have success if given time to throw and surrounded by talented receivers. His decision making and reads need improvement while owning some concern with his accuracy.
I don’t like the way he slides in the pocket on some rollout passes, leading to a longer transition time to unload the ball. Love will struggle to break free from a tight pocket under pressure while lacking the release to get the ball out quickly and on time.
Draft Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers (Round 3, Pick 38)
QB Jacob Eason, Washington
After a mediocre rookie campaign at Georgia (2,430 passing yards and 16 TDs over 13 games), Eason missed 2017 with a left injury in Week 1. He transferred to Washington in 2018, leading to a lost season.
In his first and only year behind center for Washington, he passed for 3,132 yards and 23 TDs.
Eason is a slow-footed pocket passer with questionable upside when under duress. His ticket to success is his right arm while needing to improve his drop back, reads, and decision making.
Defenses will attack him with the blitz, which closes his edge with his big arm. If given time to throw, Eason will challenge defenses at the second and third levels. He has no value with his legs.
Draft Prediction: Detroit Lions (Round 4, Pick 3)
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