Although the NFL season technically isn’t over, that’s only the case for the 49ers and Chiefs, who play in the Super Bowl in just weeks. Therefore, 30 out of 32 teams, and their fanbases, are already looking ahead towards the offseason. Obviously, the draft is a critical part of that, as teams get to add players who can be cornerstones for the future. That’s true for all positions to a degree, but none greater than quarterback; selecting the right one can be the difference between having a lot of success and being stuck picking in the top ten every year. With so many teams in need for a quarterback, we could see as many as five quarterbacks come off the board in the first round, starting with a clear #1 overall pick. So, who are the best quarterbacks in this draft class? Let’s rank the 10 best players at the position, examining each player’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as analyzing their future outlook and their best NFL fits.
#1: Joe Burrow, LSU
Height: 6’4″ Weight: 216 lbs
Best Fits: CIN, CAR, LAC
Pro Comparison: More Talented Tony Romo
Overall Grade: 92.0375 (1st Overall)
When you break the record for the most touchdowns by a college football quarterback, the chances are you’re a pretty strong quarterback prospect. It’s safe to say that Joe Burrow fits that mold. The 23-year-old’s accuracy is off the charts, particularly in the quick game, and even better, his anticipation and pocket presence are extremely advanced; right away, he should be a high-end quarterback in the NFL. Plus, he makes terrific pre-snap reads, was excellent with run-pass options in LSU’s offense, and his poise in the pocket is as good as it gets. The icing on the cake is his playmaking ability, as his ability to extend plays outside of the pocket is Aaron Rodgers-esque.
Although Burrow doesn’t have a clear weakness, his arm strength is good, not great, and overall, he isn’t physically dominant. He also can sometimes bail out of the pocket too quickly, and at times is a tad bit too aggressive. Obviously, these are small criticisms, but when you’re analyzing as sound of a prospect as Burrow, it’s the best one can do.
Outside of his arm strength, which is still adequate, there’s not one area where Joe Burrow isn’t proficient in. Strangely enough, it’s hard to find a pro comparison for him, though his style is very similar to Tony Romo and Jimmy Garoppolo- he’s obviously a far superior prospect, however. He’ll fit well in any offense, and should be able to overcome some deficiencies with an offensive line based on his ability to get the ball out quickly and escape pressure. Considering he’s almost certainly going to be selected by the Bengals with the first overall pick, that’s extremely important. Though Andy Dalton has had some decent seasons with them, they’ve long needed a true franchise quarterback, and that’s what Burrow clearly is. With his leadership skills and well-rounded skill set, he’ll be a top-ten quarterback, regardless of his situation, for years to come.
#2: Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 218 lbs
Best Fits: IND, LV, TB
Pro Comparison: Dak Prescott
Overall Grade: 88.9625 (Top Ten)
Burrow’s accuracy would appear to be impossible to beat, but Tua Tagovailoa may be the most accurate quarterback in this class. His ball placement is fantastic at every level of the field, and it’s hard to find someone who throws a better deep ball than him. The 21-year-old, similar to Burrow, also possesses rare anticipation, great footwork, and also is known as a fantastic leader. It’s also hard to find a quarterback prospect who is better versus the blitz than he is, and when he needs to be, he’s also excellent making off-platform throws.
Unlike Burrow, Tagovailoa isn’t short of red flags. The main is his hip injury, as he dislocated it in this past season, and won’t be cleared to throw for NFL teams in April. Therefore, he probably won’t be ready to play from day one, and no matter what, won’t be very durable- he also doesn’t have the largest frame. The Alabama product also isn’t a sure-thing with his on-field play as well; his arm talent is similar to Burrow’s, he can hold onto his first read for too long, and can occasionally rush his reads and go off his back foot under pressure. There’s also the question of his upside, as he was in a perfect situation in Alabama, and will need to be behind a strong offensive line to succeed at the next level.
Tagovailoa isn’t the blue-chip quarterback prospect that many have made him out to be, but if he’s cleared medically, his accuracy, anticipation, and play extension give him a great chance to be successful at the next level. Similarly to Dak Prescott, he needs to have a sound supporting cast to make up for some of his limitations, but in either a spread or west-coast scheme, he can be a fringe top-ten quarterback. That’s certainly worthy of a top-ten pick, but if I were I team like the Dolphins or Chargers, I wouldn’t take the risk with him behind their respective offensive lines- teams like the Colts, Raiders, and Bucs have the surrounding talent that’ll be a better fit for Tagovailoa.
#3: Jake Fromm, Georgia
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 220 lbs
Best Fits: IND, MIN, NE
Pro Comparison: Derek Carr
Overall Grade: 85.4 (Late 1st)
Jake Fromm never had the statistical output in college that you’d hope for, but as a three-year starter at a terrific program in Georgia, he has the experience needed to transition to the next level. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he commands an offense really well, isn’t fazed by pressure or the blitz, and works well in a pro-style offense. He’s also excellent in the quick passing game, and as a result, limits turnovers. He has the potential to be much more than just a game manager, however, as his back-shoulder throws are fantastic, which allows him to thrive in the Red Zone. Even if he was a game manager though, his pocket presence, pre-snap reads, and ability to go through progressions give him a very high floor.
Though Fromm’s accuracy in the quick game is good, the 21-year-old’s ball placement farther down the field still could use some work, and his arm strength is definitely worse than Burrow’s and Tagovailoa’s- the ball can float at times. Plus, the Georgia product doesn’t offer much outside the pocket, always seems to be off with his receivers in terms of timing, and could use some work with his footwork. When you add it all together, you have a quarterback with clear limitations.
Jake Fromm may never be a quarterback capable of elevating the talent around him, but from day one, he figures to be a stable starting-caliber quarterback for the next 15 years, with the potential to be even more. His smarts and leadership on and off the field are very notable, and it’s not though he’s completely limited of all physical talent. Plus, in a run-first offense with inexperienced receivers at Georgia, there’s also a chance that Fromm was simply held back, and in a strong situation (Indianapolis), he could thrive. Given the need for reliable quarterbacks, that’s certainly worth a first-round pick in today’s game.
#4: Jordan Love, Utah State
Height: 6’4″ Weight: 225 lbs
Best Fits: IND, LAC, LV
Pro Comparison: Athletic Jameis Winston
Overall Grade: 83.5375 (Early 2nd)
Were you to watch these quarterbacks’ highlights, Jordan Love may stand out the most. His combination of arm talent and athleticism is extremely tantalizing, and is honestly Patrick Mahomes-esque. The 21-year-old’s ability to create big plays is fantastic, and because of that, he’ll always be able to keep his team in games. Plus, he’s relatively accurate, and also is able to avoid sacks surprisingly well. If you’re looking for the next Mahomes-type prospect who could be a star with proper development, the Utah State product is your guy- it’s also worth noting that he didn’t have much help at Utah State.
While Love will always be able to keep his team in games, he’ll also be the main reason why they lose. He commits turnovers at as high of a rate as you can imagine, as similarly to Jameis Winston and Josh Allen, he’s not afraid to throw “YOLO” balls into double or triple coverage. He’s also very skittish under pressure, doesn’t have adequate field vision, and perhaps most worrisome, struggles to read coverage and maintain proper mechanics.
Jordan Love is the definition of a boom-or-bust prospect- he could either be Patrick Mahomes or out of the NFL in a few years. Because he’s so polarizing, some teams may have him as a top-ten pick, while others may see him completely undraftable. It’ll take strong coaching and development to get the most out of him, which makes teams like the Colts, Saints, and Patriots ideal fits for him; he won’t be ready to play right away, but in a few years, has the chance to be a high-end player. No player may be more dependent on his landing spot than he is.
#5: Nate Stanley, Iowa
Height: 6’4″ Weight: 243 lbs
Best Fits: TEN, SF, MIN
Pro Comparison: Brian Hoyer
Overall Grade: 80.675 (3rd)
Similar to Fromm, Iowa’s Nate Stanley has experience playing in a pro-style offense, and because of that, displays good command of an offense and solid footwork. He’s calm and collected in the pocket, has NFL arm talent, and possesses all the intangibles necessary. The 22-year-old also is pretty accurate in the short to intermediate parts of the field, and is tremendous with play-action passes.
Even though Stanley is mostly accurate, his ball placement can be erratic, and he’s also working on identifying pressure- he takes some unnecessary sacks. His most fatal flaw is his lack of athleticism, however, as he doesn’t extend plays or throw well on the run; his deep ball accuracy is also lacking. As a result, he’ll always have his limitations, and many of his issues cannot be fixed.
Give Stanley’s lack of upside and inconsistency, I don’t see him as a future starter in the NFL. However, in a system that utilizes play-action, he figures to be a high-end backup, as he does all the little, but necessary details well, and has enough arm talent to make up for his athletic restraints. He’s not a flashy prospect, but I believe there are four potential starters in this class, so he’s the best of the next tier and is a relatively safe prospect.
#6: Justin Herbert, Oregon
Height: 6’6″ Weight: 225 lbs
Best Fits: IND, TB, TEN
Pro Comparison: Ryan Tannehill
Overall Grade: 78.45 (Late 3rd/Early 4th)
Similarly to Jordan Love, any team that takes a chance on Justin Herbert will be betting on his arm talent and athleticism, which are both top-notch. His arm strength gives him the ability to throw the ball into the tightest of windows, and is maximized by the excellent touch he displays down the field. Plus, he’s extremely mobile, and could be an absolute threat on designed quarterback runs, and since Oregon didn’t have a very talented offense in terms of receivers, there’s a chance that he was held back slightly.
Where do we begin with Herbert’s flaws? For someone who is so athletic, you’d expect him to be great escaping pressure and making plays on the run, but rather, he falls apart when he’s forced to go out of structure. Therefore, he stays in the pocket for far too long, and with a complete lack of pocket sense, has a major issue taking sacks and fumbling. Heck, even when his first read isn’t there, the 21-year-old simply freezes, and often times just takes off and runs. Oregon was able to overcome those deficiencies by using a screen-heavy offense with a lot of quick reads, but given that he’s not accurate in the short to intermediate range, I’m not sure he’d even work in that type of offense. Plus, he mentally doesn’t seem to have the situational awareness, and wouldn’t appear to be a great two-minute drill type of quarterback.
If a very stable organization with excellent coaching can get their hands on Herbert, perhaps they can turn him into a starter in the NFL. However, he appears to be a long-term project with several red flags, which will prevent him from ever reaching his potential. Sure, the Oregon product has some flashy tools, but we’ve seen countless amounts of toolsy quarterbacks fail to make the adjustment from college to the pros, and Herbert could very well be the next big draft bust were he to be drafted in the top ten. His best-case scenario is that of Mitchell Trubisky and Ryan Tannehill, and at this point, he’s worth a third-to-fourth-round flyer for a team like the Colts, Bucs, Titans, or Patriots.
#7: Jacob Eason, Washington
Height: 6’6″ Weight: 228 lbs
Best Fits: DET, TB, CAR
Pro Comparison: Mason Rudolph
Overall Grade: 78.325 (4th)
For the most part, Jacob Eason’s accuracy is strong, which is intriguing considering his elite arm talent- is ability zip the ball into the tightest of windows, especially over the middle of the field, is very similar to Josh Allen coming out of Wyoming. Although he needs to quicken his progressions, the 22-year-old’s decision making is adequate, and at 6’6″, possesses the elite frame that front offices desire.
Similarly to Herbert, Eason’s mechanics need some serious work, and even when the pocket is clean, he gets very antsy. When pressure does indeed come, the results are after disastrous, as he either takes a long sack or absolutely panics. He’s also a first-read player who isn’t great throwing to the short areas of the field, which will hurt his transition to the next level. However, unlike Herbert, Eason doesn’t offer much in the way of athleticism, and because of that, he is essentially a non-factor when it comes to making plays on the move or out of structure.
I’m very surprised that Jacob Eason decided to declare for the NFL draft. He missed a year of development after transferring from Georgia to Washington, and because of that, he has too many flaws to be drafted in the first two days of the draft. On day three, however, he represents an intriguing developmental project for teams in need of a backup.
#8: Mason Fine, North Texas
Height: 5’11” Weight: 190 lbs
Best Fits: CAR, NO, CLE
Pro Comparison: Case Keenum
Overall Grade: 78.2 (4th)
Heading to the season, I seriously believed that Mason Fine had the chance to sneak his way into the first two rounds of the draft. After all, he’s an absolute playmaker capable of making any off-platform throw, so he generates big plays at an extremely high rate. Plus, he’s a quick decision-maker, avoids sacks very well, and maneuvers around the pocket tremendously. On that of that, he’s also accurate and is a strong anticipatory thrower.
A major reason why Fine won’t be selected on the first two days of the draft is his regression in 2019, as he committed many more turnovers than expected and was inconsistent. He’s also a very small quarterback with a very light frame, and because of that, comes with durability concerns; he also has a lot of passes batted at the line and struggles versus interior pressure. Furthermore, his arm strength is adequate, but not spectacular, and he certainly isn’t helping matters by throwing off his back foot often with a loopy throwing motion.
Fine may be too flawed of a quarterback to ever be a high-end starter in the NFL, but similar to Case Keenum, he has the traits to be a terrific backup capable of filling in for a team when needed. His leadership and natural ability to create big plays is very enticing, and if a team had him as their QB5 in this draft class, I wouldn’t criticize them at all.
#9: Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 210 lbs
Best Fits: BAL, CAR, ARI
Pro Comparison: Tyrod Taylor
Overall Grade: 76.65 (5th)
It’s hard to find a quarterback prospect to root for more than Jalen Hurts, who is cited for having an amazing character and who is an excellent leader. Plus, he’s pretty accurate, is a playmaker on the run, and also shows running back qualities on designed runs.
Unfortunately for Hurts, his weaknesses far outweigh any of his strengths. His slow decision making and inability to go through progressions could lead to tragic results at the next level, as he practically invites pressure with his tendency to hold onto the ball too long. Even though he’s accurate, he doesn’t do a great job of leading his receivers, and makes matters worse by often trying to do too much. He essentially looks lost when his first read isn’t available, and now that he won’t be in a perfect situation, I don’t see him thriving at the next level.
While I can see the top 8 players on this list potentially starting in some capacity in the NFL, I can’t see Hurts ever being more than a decent backup. Even then, he needs to be an offense centered around him, and even then, may be a QB3 who mixes in the game with a few zone reads. As we’ve seen some offenses incorporate that into their offense, perhaps there is some value with taking Hurts in the 5th or 6th round, but nevertheless, his college success probably represents the peak of his football career.
#10: Steven Montez, Colorado
Height: 6’5″ Weight: 230 lbs
Best Fits: BUF, DEN, SEA
Pro Comparison: Nathan Peterman
Overall Grade: 76.125 (Late 5th/Early 6th)
Steven Montez has plenty of experience as a three-year starter at Colorado, but it’s his tools that will excite front offices. His arm strength is well above-average, even for NFL standards, and his athleticism allows him to make plays outside of the pocket that few can make. The 23-year-old also is a great leader and makes certain high-end plays that will grab your attention.
Montez may be the most erratic quarterback in this class, outside of Jordan Love, as his accuracy can sometimes be a positive trait for him, but often is well-below average. The Colorado product also makes very slow progressions, throws off balance against pressure or takes a sack, and simply can’t decipher coverages. His inability to read defenders leads to a lot of absurd interceptions, as he doesn’t manipulate defenders at all; when his first read isn’t there, he usually just takes off and scrambles.
In the right situation, Montez’s tools and upside could translate to a backup role in the next level. Yet, it’s hard to see him more than a QB3 in year one, and for the most part, he may be a player that a team will try to stash on their practice squad and develop. He offers more potential than the other quarterbacks ranked lower than him, but also has a very low floor.
Here are the other quarterbacks considered for this list, ranked with their overall grade:
11) James Morgan, FIU (76.125, Late 6th)
12) Jake Luton, Oregon State (75.7125, Early 7th)
13) Anthony Gordon, Washington State (75.325, Early 7th)
14) Bryce Perkins, Virginia (74.55, Late 7th/UDFA)
15) Cole McDonald, Hawaii (73.175, UDFA)
16) Tyler Huntley, Utah (72.9125, UDFA)
17) Shea Patterson, Michigan (71.15, UDFA)
18) Brian Lewerke, Michigan State (70.025, UDFA)
This isn’t the strongest quarterback class, but it’s definitely far from a weak class. Burrow has a chance to be a generational prospect with top-five quarterback ability, as he’s the type of quarterback that can change the outlook of any franchise. As for Tagovailoa (injury), Fromm (upside), and Love (turnovers), they all have certain red flags that necessitate them being in a strong situation, which means that teams such as the Dolphins, Chargers, and Jaguars should pass on selecting them. Stanley, Herbert, Eason, and Fine all represent some level of intrigue, but I doubt that any become more than strong backups, while Hurts and Montez are development projects. Given his tools, Herbet figures to be the biggest disappointment should he actually be selected in the top half of the draft, while Stanley and Fine look like the best value selections. It’s an interesting group of quarterbacks that all are very different then one another, and at the moment, it’s hard to see how this will all play out; there is going to be major quarterback movement this offseason.