Their styles may differ, but we’ve now seen second-year quarterbacks—Patrick Mahomes (2018) and Lamar Jackson (’19)—win league MVP honors in their first full seasons as starters. The most effective way to set up a franchise for success is getting the most important position in sports right, especially when the signal-caller is on a cap-friendly rookie contract.
Selecting and grooming a franchise quarterback may feel like a hit-or-miss endeavor, but the high reward that comes with getting that pick right often leads to quarterbacks being pushed up draft boards despite the associated risk. My latest mock draft had five quarterbacks selected in the first round. If that holds true, this year’s class would become only the second—along with the 2018 class—with a five-quarterback Round 1 since the turn of the century. Since 2000, there have been 247 quarterbacks drafted in total, an average of 12.35 per year.
Over the next two weeks, I will post my positional prospect rankings for the 2020 draft—offense this week and defense next week. To kick the series off, here are my draft-eligible quarterback prospect rankings:
1. Joe Burrow, LSU (rSR, 6'4", 216 pounds)
Leading LSU on a title run while facing seven top-10 opponents along the way, Burrow broke SEC passing records—5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns—and won the Heisman Trophy. Burrow’s precise accuracy and elite decision-making was on display all season as he completed more than 70% of his pass attempts in every game except against Clemson (521 total yards, six total TDs and no turnovers). Always composed under pressure, Broadway Jeaux manipulates the pocket well to elude the pass rush and uses his mobility to extend plays while always keeping his eyes downfield. Although Burrow will turn 24 as a rookie and possesses good (but not great) arm strength, his competitive drive and toughness (he once “begged” to be put on kickoff team), in addition to his accuracy and intelligence, make him a safe bet to be the first overall pick in the draft.
2. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama (JR, 6' 1", 218 pounds)
If Tagovailoa wasn’t rehabbing a dislocated hip, it’d be an interesting debate for the first overall pick. If not for the injury, ESPN’s Adam Schefter believes it would have been Tua at No. 1. Given ankle surgeries in each of the past two seasons as well, the medical evaluations will clearly be critical for Tua, who is expected to complete a throwing session for teams prior to the draft. On the field, Tua has a quick release and throws with elite accuracy, anticipation and touch to all levels of the field. His combination of on-field play and off-field intangibles and leadership means that Tua is a lock top-10 pick as long as he “wins his medical.”
3. Justin Herbert, Oregon (SR, 6'6", 227 pounds)
Herbert is a four-year starter with a prototypical frame. The ball really jumps out of his hand and his plus mobility adds another dimension to his game. His overall passing numbers—3,471 yards and 32 touchdowns—were career highs as a senior. While he has as much pure arm talent as any quarterback in this class and is highly intelligent (won the Campbell Trophy), he has had a propensity to lock onto his initial read(s) and hasn’t shown the consistency you’d like to see from a likely top-10 pick. The pre-draft process is off to a good start for Herbert, who was named Senior Bowl MVP and practice player of the week.
More NFL Draft:
* Prospect Rankings: Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends
* Kevin Hanson's Mock Draft 3.0: Who Will Trade Up for Tua?
4. Jordan Love, Utah State (rJR, 6'4", 223 pounds)
Despite high expectations after a strong 2018 campaign, Love threw nearly as many interceptions (17) as touchdowns (20) in 2019. Some of that regression can be attributed to the coaching change and supporting cast (Utah State had only two returning offensive starters in 2019, including Love), but he pressed at times and often made ill-advised throws. The epitome of a high-risk, high-reward prospect, Love has a cannon for a right arm with the movement skills to extend and make plays.
5. Jacob Eason, Washington (rJR, 6'6", 227 pounds)
Transferring from Georgia, Eason has two full seasons as a starter—2016 at Georgia and 2019 at Washington. With ideal size, Eason has the confidence to throw into tight windows and the ball flies off his hand when he lets it rip. At the same time, not every throw needs to be a fastball. While returning to school in 2020 would have made sense for continued development, there’s a reasonable chance that a team with a vertical passing attack takes a chance on Eason in the first round.
Here are the next 10:
6. Jake Fromm, Georgia (JR, 6'2", 220 pounds)
7. Anthony Gordon, Washington State (rSR, 6'2", 199 pounds)
8. Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma (SR, 6'1", 218 pounds)
9. James Morgan, FIU (rSR, 6'4", 223 pounds)
10. Steven Montez, Colorado (rSR, 6'4", 240 pounds)
11. Cole McDonald, Hawaii (rJR, 6'4", 220 pounds)
12. Nate Stanley, Iowa (SR, 6'4", 243 pounds)
13. Jake Luton, Oregon State (rSR, 6'7", 230 pounds)
14. Bryce Perkins, Virginia (rSR, 6'3", 215 pounds)
15. Brian Lewerke, Michigan State (6'3", 216 pounds)
Kevin Hanson joins SI for the 2020 NFL Draft season. His NFL Mock Drafts have graded as the most accurate over the past five years, per The Huddle Report. His 2015 NFL mock draft graded as the most accurate and his 2019 NFL mock draft was the second-most accurate out of 101 draft analysts.