Ross Williams profiles the top quarterbacks in this year's NFL Draft and picks out their possible landing spots in the NFL.
The most eagerly-anticipated Zoom call of all time is almost upon us. On Thursday, NFL fans in the United States – and the world over – will stop in unison and bask in the glow of some much-needed sporting normality.
Although not quite the pre-planned Las Vegas strip, the sight of Roger Goodell’s basement on our screens will provide all the joy of the Bellagio on Thursday evening and, as ever, the excitement will be palpable as the Commissioner introduces us to the annual event we call the NFL Draft.
As ever, it’s the quarterbacks hogging the spotlight this year, with a third-straight signal-caller set to be taken first overall, and a decision between two of his counterparts causing headaches league-wide.
Let’s take a look at the passers aiming to make the leap into the big leagues this week.
Joe Burrow – LSU
Rises to superstardom don’t come much steeper than the trajectory Joe Burrow has been on in the past 18 months. The 6’4” passer was deemed a back-up at his native Ohio State University, playing second fiddle to J.T. Barrett during most of his Buckeyes career. When Dwayne Haskins emerged, it became evident that Burrow would likely see out the rest of his college days without the starting job, so he made a change.
In the spring of 2018, Burrow completed a transfer to LSU and soon began his first –and penultimate – season as a starting quarterback. His stats were solid, if not spectacular, making him something of an outside shot to eventually make the NFL when his eligibility came around.
Then, the 2019 season happened. Out of seemingly nowhere, Burrow took the Tigers all the way to a National Championship, while putting together one of the greatest single-season performances of all time.
60 touchdowns, just six interceptions, 5,671 yards through the air. The numbers were truly staggering, and made his Heisman Trophy win an inevitability.
Once an outsider to even be drafted at all, Joe Burrow now stands on the very brink of immortality. With quarterback-needy Cincinnati in possession of this year’s first overall selection, a return home to Ohio is perhaps the only 2020 draft selection that is unanimously agreed upon.
Likely Destination: Cincinnati Bengals
Tua Tagovailoa - Alabama
Born and raised in Hawaii, Tua Tagovailoa was seemingly destined for this. From an early age, his athletic talent was eye-catching, and his family made every effort to ensure his route into professional sport.
Tua’s biggest quirk is the fact that he throws left-handed – a rare ability in the NFL - and even this is by design. The 6’1” QB is naturally right-handed, but he was made to practise with his left as a youngster, in order to give him an edge over his counterparts.
Unquestionably, he is one of the most gifted college passers of the last decade. Two straight National Championships with Alabama catapulted Tua’s stock into the stratosphere during his time in Tuscaloosa and, if things had gone to plan, Joe Burrow’s position as the number one quarterback in this draft class would be far from a foregone conclusion.
In fact, even as recently as September, the Miami Dolphins’ poor start to the 2019 season was viewed as a deliberate effort to ‘tank for Tua’ by securing the first overall selection.
However, things did not go to plan. Tagovailoa was playing exceptionally during the 2019 season when he was on the field, but two separate injuries meant that he didn’t play nearly enough, casting serious doubt over the 22 year-old’s resilience and ability to hold up against NFL defences long-term.
Tua was medically cleared around the time of last month’s NFL Combine, but with the Covid-19 outbreak not allowing for individual teams to examine the star quarterback personally, health fears remain a dark cloud over his otherwise excellent draft stock.
Miami remains the likeliest landing spot for Tagovailoa, with the Dolphins still keen to secure the long-term future at the quarterback position. However, if health fears scare the Florida franchise away, the Los Angeles Chargers are almost certainly ready to pounce.
The Chargers need a Philip Rivers replacement with a blockbuster name to fill seats at their new LA stadium, and a healthy Tagovailoa absolutely fits that bill.
Possible Destinations: Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Chargers
Team to draft Tagovailoa: Dolphins 10/11 | Chargers 6/4
Justin Herbert – Oregon
If Tua Tagovailoa isn’t the second quarterback off the board on Thursday night, then this man almost certainly will be.
Whereas Tagovailoa is the stereotypical high risk, high reward selection, Justin Herbert is the flip side of the coin.
Simply put, Herbert doesn’t seem to provide the almost unlimited upside of Burrow and Tagovailoa, but the tall, gifted Oregon quarterback looks set to provide a team with results from day one.
At 6’6”, Herbert has the size to stand in the pocket and make plays over the top of his offensive line, but don’t be fooled into thinking he is a one-dimensional slinger.
He shows remarkable speed for a big man and isn’t afraid to make plays with his legs, taking on defenders on the outside. It’s doubtful he’ll be able to quite replicate his rushing stats in the NFL, but it’s an extra wrinkle to his game that will have scouts excited across the league.
In the last week, there has been a lot of chatter surrounding Miami’s interest in the Oregon native, but ultimately it’s a move down the Pacific coast to Los Angeles that makes the most sense for Justin Herbert.
Either way, it seems almost certain that he will be off the draft board by the time Carolina begin thinking about the Draft’s 7th selection.
Possible Destinations: Los Angeles Chargers, Miami Dolphins
Team to draft Herbert: Dolphins 8/11 | Chargers 7/4 | Panthers 9/1
Best of the rest..
Jordan Love, Utah State
A quarterback with a tonne of potential and the attributes to get him a long way in the NFL. However, a down year in his final college season at Utah State has hampered his draft stock with teams not quite sure what they’ll be getting if they go ahead and select Jordan Love.
At times during the NFL Draft period, analysts have earmarked him to be selected as high as the top 10, but hype has quietened in recent weeks. Love is not a day one NFL starting quarterback, but he could well become a very good passer if blooded into the right system and given the chance to learn.
Possible Destinations: Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts
Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
For two NFL Drafts in a row, an Oklahoma quarterback has been the first man selected. Will Jalen Hurts make it a hat-trick?
To put it in polite terms, no, he won’t. However, there is a very strong chance that he is picked up by a team in the opening two days of the Draft, and he remains one of the most intriguing prospects in the entire class of 2020.
Jalen Hurts is a winner (he left college with an impressive 38-4 record as a starter) and draws comparisons to some of the great college quarterbacks of recent times. When you think of Hurts, think of Florida great Tim Tebow – but a better runner, and with a more accurate arm.
Tebow didn’t stick the landing when he made the jump from college legend to the professional game, but times have changed in the years since. Lamar Jackson has opened the floodgates for dual-threat quarterbacks, and there’s no question that this will have teams up and down the league seriously considering the possibility of bringing in one of their own.
Possible Destinations: Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers
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