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We're deep into draft season, so we thought we'd get some of our college football and NFL writers together to discuss some of the classes top players; position-by-position.
First up, the quarterbacks.
If Tua Tagovailoa stays healthy all season, how close is the battle between Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow to be the first quarterback selected?
Christopher Crawford: This involves an awful lot of hindsight, so let's keep that in mind. That being said, I think it'd be pretty close -- but maybe not as close as I thought when I first asked the question (note: I came up with these questions). Burrow had a historic season, and as good as Tagovailoa has been in his three years with Alabama, he didn't do THAT. As accurate as Tua is, I think Burrow's skillset and success in that offensive system would be too much for the Bengals to pass on.
John Daigle: Close, but not for the reasons imagined. The No. 1 overall pick should (and likely will be) Athens, Ohio’s own Burrow, but draftniks can’t guarantee it if only because it’s Bengals owner Mike Brown, who has done nothing but historically taint his own organization time and time again, wielding the first selection. Truth be told, both Burrow (offensive conductor with maniacal processing skills) and Tua (insane 40-of-55 on 3rd/4th down in his Junior year prior to injury) offer similar strengths at the top of the draft if handed an even playing field.
Eric Froton: Burrow absolutely eviscerated the SEC like no other QB in history. Burrow posted a 78% completion percentage while throwing 60 touchdown passes en route to winning just about every post season award he qualified for. Throw in the fact that Burrow has a bona fide football pedigree as his dad is Ohio HC Frank Solich's longtime defensive coordinator, and you've got 2020's first overall selection in the NFL Draft. Tua was never going to challenge Burrow even if healthy.
Derrik Klassen: Even a healthy Tua does not land in the same tier as Burrow, for me. Strictly on the field, I do not believe Tua to be in the same tier as Burrow, let alone the hip issues. Burrow is as accurate a quarterback as we've ever seen and I believe Burrow's pocket presence and processing to be better than Tua's. Tua is still a quality prospect, don't get me wrong, but Burrow is in a class of his own.
Mark Lindquist: Tua stays healthy all season it's a difficult question, because that's two years of Heisman-level play. At the very least the gap is narrowed between him and Joe Burrow considerably. Tua would be my QB1 if there were no health concerns. I trust him more than I trust Joe Burrow's one good year.
Hayden Winks: Extremely close. Tua's overall college profile would have blown Burrow's out, but even Tua probably wouldn't have competed with Burrow's 2019 season. I think Burrow ultimately would've been the No. 1 pick with Tua getting locked into the top three.
How many QBs go on Day 1, and who?
Crawford: I would have gone with four, but I do think Tom Brady leaving the Patriots changes it to five. Burrow, Tagovailoa, Herbert are locks; Jordan Love sure seems likely to go, and I'll say a team falls in love with either Jacob Eason or Jalen Hurts in the back of the first-round.
Daigle: Free agency’s quarterback carousel arguably kept clear of any significant movement affecting the first round of April’s draft. At least four of the Bengals, Dolphins, Chargers, Raiders, Patriots, and Colts will undoubtedly walk away with Burrow, Tagovailoa, Herbert, and Love, not necessarily in that order.
(Quick aside: why is it always a carousel? Have quarterbacks ever rode a Ferris wheel or bumper cars?)
Froton: Four. Burrow/Tagovailoa/Herbert/Love.
Klassen: Burrow, Tagovailoa, Herbert, and Love go Day 1. Love is the only one that feels a little bit iffy, but it seems more and more like someone is going to take the gamble even if they shouldn't.
Lindquist: Four. Burrow, Tua, Herbert, Love. I could see Fromm or Hurts sneaking in late.
Winks: 4. Burrow, Tagovailoa, Herbert, and Love. Maybe Eason, Hurts, or Fromm sneak in, but I'm betting against that happening.
What current NFL quarterback does Justin Herbert remind you of?
Crawford: A much, much, much faster Nick Foles. It's worth pointing out that I'm much lower than the industry on Herbert, but that's who I see.
Daigle: A big-bodied (6’6/236) athlete with wheels (4.68 40) and questionable decisiveness — both which jump off the tape at times — Herbert reminds of what the Jaguars hoped they were getting in taking Blaine Gabbert No. 10 overall in 2011. Time will tell if the 22-year-old’s career arc is similar.
Froton: Carson Wentz
Klassen: The closest approximation for Herbert is Ryan Tannehill. Even in awful conditions in Miami, Tannehill has long been a competent, yet not great, NFL quarterback who resides somewhere in the 14-20 range in any given year. With the right pieces and a dash of luck, that caliber of quarterback can bring a team to the playoffs and make some noise, but probably won't be a consistent force that elevates a team.
Lindquist: Oh he's Josh Allen. He has the arm, the size and athleticism, as well the accuracy issues. I like him more than Allen on the whole, though.
Winks: Ryan Tannehill with more arm strength, which is pretty big complement if you ask me.
If Jordan Love was in last year's draft, where does he go?
Crawford: Again, this involved some hindsight, but remember that Love was considerably better in his redshirt sophomore season. I think he goes before Drew Lock, and I think the Broncos might have popped Love with that 20th selection.
Daigle: Love’s cannon and loose Patrick Mahomes-like flashes of brilliance off the cuff would’ve netted him a home in Denver as the fourth signal-caller taken ahead of Drew Lock. His irrelevant talking points — finishing as Utah State’s second-winningest quarterback in school history (21-11), for example — is exactly the kind of fluff Broncos GM John Elway yearns for.
Froton: I would have ranked Love as the fifth-best QB in the 2019 class, so I'll say early-mid second round.
Klassen: Love goes after Murray, Jones, and Haskins last year. The real over/under for Love in the 2019 class is Lock (mid-2nd round). I thought Lock was a better prospect at the time, so I will let that guide me and say that Love would have been drafted after Lock.
Winks: I'd assume GM Dave Gettleman would've loved him and taken him as high as possible. He just can't say no to unproductive college QBs. If you're looking for a serious answer, then between Dwayne Haskins (15th overall) and Drew Lock (42nd overall).
What quarterback in this class gives you the most trouble evaluating?
Crawford: Jalen Hurts. And it's not so much that he's difficult to evaluate, it's that it's just hard to judge what kind of ceiling and floor the former Alabama and Oklahoma signal-caller possesses. He looked so much better as a passer with the Sooners than he did with the Crimson Tide, but there are still moments that give you pause.
Daigle: Washington State’s Anthony Gordon, if only because it’s impossible to appropriately evaluate his transition as a one-year starter in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense to the NFL. Reminder Gordon lost the Cougars’ quarterback battle to now-Jags starter Gardner Minshew, who hit the ground running as a nonchalant sixth-round pick in his rookie season, the year prior.
Froton: Love. He looked amazing when operating former HC Matt Wells' dominant 51 PPG offense as a junior, but hit the skids last season after Wells left for Texas Tech and new HC Gary Andersen took over. Which Jordan Love are we going to get?
Klassen: Gordon is the weirdest evaluation in this year's class. In terms of accuracy and natural mechanics, only Burrow has him beat. However, a fifth-year senior with only one year of starting experience in a Mike Leach offense in which Gordon did not show exceptional processing ability gives me pause on how much Gordon can actually develop from here.
Lindquist: Hurts gives me headaches. You have to tailor your offense to him more than any other quarterback on the board and that's risky. But I think if a team does tailor their offense to Hurts' skill set he's super-intriguing as a runner and developing passer.
Winks: Gordon. He was more productive and efficient than Gardner Minshew in the same Washington State offense, is quite accurate, and was great before the snap, but his arm strength is below average. Is his physical profile so bad that he can't be a backup? I'm not sure.
What team is the best fit for Jacob Eason?
Crawford: How about the Bucs? I don't think Tampa Bay is going to be willing to take a quarterback high enough, but assuming Brady is willing to play the mentor role, what better signal-caller to learn under? Eason is obviously a flawed prospect, but Bruce Arians and Brady working with him? Can't help but be intrigued.
Daigle: Whatever team forces him to ride the pine in his first year. The Colts, perhaps.
Froton: Indianapolis at pick 44.
Klassen: The best fit for Eason, who has zero filter for his aggression over the middle of the field, is either with the 49ers or Rams. Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay, respectively, are excellent at opening up the middle of the field, so they may be able to get the most out of his hyper-aggression in that area.
Lindquist: Would love to see Bill Belichick react to some of Jacob Eason's throws for better and for worse. In all seriousness he needs to be drafted to a very, very patient coaching staff.
Winks: A team with a third or fourth round pick who is looking to replace their backup quarterback. Maybe the Atlanta Falcons can replace 39-year-old Matt Schaub as their QB2.
Who is the most underrated and overrated signal caller in this class?
Crawford: I will go against everyone else in this roundtable with this, I'm sure, but I think Eason's talent is being underrated. The decision making was abhorrent, but there are throws that make you say wow. Just put him in a situation where he doesn't have to play right away, please and thank you. And again, not the consensus, but i find the Herbert hype a bit baffling. Not a question of talent, but I just didn't see enough downfield to believe he's worth a Top 10 pick, and he's assuredly going to be one.
Daigle: The postseason was the most recent example of teams not standing a chance if their quarterback lacked the ability to extend plays, and Jacob Eason’s cringeworthy decision-making under pressure overrates him out the gates. Gordon is underrated given Minshew’s immediate success out of the Air Raid ( and in particular, Mike Leach’s offensive) scheme.
Froton: I do not believe Eason's skills will translate well at the next level and will not return production commensurate with his draft position. I think Hurts can develop into a solid NFL starting quarterback in the right situation.
Klassen: Overrated: Tagovailoa. Fine prospect, but the Tank For Tua campaign was always too rich for me and nothing that happened in 2019 made me change my stance there. Underrated: Tyler Huntley. Huntley will and should be a UDFA, but he proved himself exceptional at protecting the ball and throwing with baseline accuracy over his past couple of seasons at Utah. He may very well be one of the best backup candidates this class has to offer and will almost certainly be had as a free agent.
Lindquist: Will I be banished if I call Burrow overrated? I love me some Joe Burrow but I am trepidatious that his brilliant season at LSU was a confluence of circumstance in many ways. Elite offensive line, elite receiving corps, liquid metal running back and a completely new offensive system and hey, sometimes it just all works at once. Burrow played beautifully in this confluence, but I'm not above worry that he could struggle outside of that setting.
Most underrated in this class is Fromm. He has obvious limitations, but an obvious floor, too. He's not a project like Love and he's more advanced in his passing processor than Hurts. Watch Fromm stick around the next decade holding a clipboard in the NFL.
Winks: If Jalen Hurts is going to be drafted in the late second or third round, then he's definitely the most underrated. He was recruited by two of the best coaches in the nation, had elite passing and rushing production, and will only be 21 years old. That's the type of profile I'll bet on nine times out of 10. Relative to overall draft rankings, it's hard to be overrated as a quarterback because the position is by far the most valuable, but I'd be nervous to draft Jordan Love in the first half of the first round. He'd be a statistical outlier if he were to be an above-average starter in the NFL.