2020 NFL Draft QB Stock Watch: Tua's season is over, Justin Herbert stays hot, Joe Burrow still top passer
Oregon's Justin Herbert is making a late push to be one of the best draft-eligible QBs in the 2020 class
The college football regular season has just a few weeks left and two things are certain at this point: LSU's Joe Burrow is the best quarterback in the country and Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa's NFL Draft and his performance against Ole Miss on Saturday did nothing to change that. Tagovailoa, meanwhile, was brilliant for the first 26:59 of the Crimson Tide's game against Mississippi State but . And while he's expected to make a full recovery, we don't have a timetable on when that will be.after suffering a hip injury. Burrow has a chance to be the first player selected in the 2020
Which means Oregon's Justin Herbert has a chance to prove critics (us included) wrong -- and he's off to a great start. And Utah State's Jordan Love, who might be the most physically gifted draft-eligible passer in this class, can improve his stock, but only if he plays with more consistency over the Aggies' final two games.
Twenty-seven days after ankle surgery and a week removed from a gritty performance in the loss to LSU that saw him limp through most of the second half, there was speculation that Tagovailoa might not start vs. Mississippi State on Saturday. But there he was, taking the field with the rest of the offense on the game's first series. And there he remained right up until the moment he was "screaming in pain," as ESPN's Molly McGrath described it at the time, as the training staff helped him onto the cart and off the field for the last time this season.
The play -- a scramble to his left and being dragged down from behind by two Bulldogs defenders -- was the last of the day for Tagovailoa, who was brilliant for the first 26:59, helping the Crimson Tide to a 35-7 lead. He finished the afternoon 14 of 18 for 256 yards with 2 touchdowns and no turnovers.
A wild Week 11 is almost in the books and there's a lot to go over. Fortunately Will Brinson, John Breech, Ryan Wilson and Sean Wagner-McGough are here to break everything down on the Pick Six Podcast. Listen below and be sure to subscribe right here for daily NFL goodness fired into your eardrums.
Tagovailoa spent much of the first half working from the pocket, no doubt by design; offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian presumably wanted to limit Tagovailoa's exposure to big hits, and the best way to do that was by leaning on the running game, and getting the ball out of his quarterback's hand as quickly as possible.
On the third play of the game, facing third-and-10, Tagovailoa looked comfortable in his drop, started his progression on the right side of the formation, came back left, and dropped a dime to Jerry Jeudy between three defenders.
Tagovailoa has a knack for making these tough throws insanely easy. Case in point: On Alabama's next drive, Tagovailoa lofted a perfectly weighted pass to Najee Harris for a walk-in touchdown -- it was the same play they ran against LSU last week, with the same results.
On Drive No. 3, Tagovailoa climbed the pocket on third-and-9, scanned the field from right to left and hit a wide-open Jeudy on a crossing route to move the sticks. A play later, the RPO froze the linebackers, he hit Jeudy on a slant, and Jeudy took it 40 yards for a touchdown that came back because Jeudy was flagged for a facemask penalty just before he crossed the goal line. The penalty doesn't take away from the execution and offered further evidence of just how good Tagovailoa is at delivering the ball accurately and on time virtually every time.
Another drive, another dime, this time to Jaylen Waddle. Tua looked left, right, then left again, before finding Waddle for an easy touchdown. How did he get so wide open? The out route was well covered but there were no answer when Waddle turned upfield.
Again: Alabama receivers are, to quote Bruce Arians, routinely wide-ass open, but most of Tua's throws would be completions vs. tight coverage.
By late in the first half, the Crimson Tide had five drives that resulted in five touchdowns. Before the sixth, fateful drive, it looked as if Tua may have talked his way back onto the field. Either way, facing a third-and-4, he rolled left and should have thrown the ball away a beat or two before he eventually did. Instead, he kept rolling left, and when he finally launched the ball into the bench area, two Mississippi State defenders tackled him from behind and dragged him to the turf.
It was vintage Tua, but now Alabama will be without him for the rest of the season.
Joe Burrow, LSU
Joe Burrow was our No. 1 quarterback coming into the week and he'll remain there now that Tagovailoa's season is over. Against Ole Miss on Saturday night, Burrow reaffirmed a lot of what we already knew -- he's efficient, accurate, composed and really, really tough -- and we also learned that he is, in fact, human. Burrow tossed two interceptions -- both in the fourth quarter, his first fourth-quarter picks of the season -- and both were bad decisions.
The first was intended for Ja'Marr Chase and instead found an Ole Miss defender. The second was an off-balance arm punt in the face of pressure that never, ever had a chance. Burrow was almost intercepted by linebacker Luke Knox (that's Dawson Knox's brother!) but that doesn't mean there wasn't a lot to love. Burrow finished 32 of 42 for a career-best 489 yards. He also tossed five touchdowns, which would be a record for most people, but Burrow tossed six against Vanderbilt earlier this season.
It started on the first drive. Just watch Burrow navigate the pocket. He gets blitzed, uses his athleticism to avoid it, and while he could've run for first down, Burrow instead keeps eyes downfield, he sees Chase streaking down the sidelines hits him for an easy score. It's been like this all season. Seriously, look at that footwork!
One of Burrow's best attributes is that he'll happily take what defenses give him. You'd think short and intermediate routes are his favorites because he can rely on them consistently -- and his accuracy on these routes are insane -- only to see him dial up a on-the-money deep ball. Oh my word, would you look at that!
At one point Burrow completed 14 straight -- a career best, and one better than the 13 in a row he completed to start of the Alabama game last week and with 3:30 left in the first half he was a tidy 20 of 22 for 301 yards, 3 touchdowns and no turnovers. Burrow did have the two picks in the second half but he tossed two more touchdowns, too. The first, a quick slant to Justin Jefferson and the another quick strike to Chase who did most of heavy lifting on the 61-yard score.
Burrow's 10 games into his senior campaign and he's done nothing to change our opinion of him. He's completing 78.6 percent of his throws this season, and he's doing it while playing at a high level and against some of the best teams in the country. We're not sure what left he has to prove.
Justin Herbert, Oregon
We've made no secret of the fact that Justin Herbert, while possessing all the physical tools you could dream up for an NFL quarterback, he has been underwhelming for most of the 2019 season. That changed two weeks ago against USC. After a rocky first quarter, Herbert was clinical over the final 45 minutes and he picked up where he left off against Arizona on Saturday.
There were few instances of the unforced errors we had seen at times this fall and more of the throws that NFL teams want to see more consistently. Herbert delivered on his very first throw. In the face of pressure, he delivered a strike down the sideline to a wide open Johnny Johnson.
Yes, Johnson is WIDE OPEN but it's instructive to note that Herbert's ball placement is so good that Johnson makes that play against tight coverage. And then there was this tracer down the left sidelines that is hard to explain with just Newtonian physics:
If the Herbert we've seen in November was the same Herbert we watched the previous 16 months, he'd be a top-5 pick. It wasn't all perfect though. Herbert slightly overthrows Mycah Pittman in the middle of the field:
Herbert has time in the pocket, and there's no one around Pittman and Herbert is lucky the ball isn't intercepted. Was it catchable? Absolutely but Herbert has to be better there because if he puts that on Pittman it's not just a catch at the sticks for a first down, it's a chunk play as Pittman gains an addition 10-15 yards. But again, Herbert has been really good his last two games and we hope it continues because he's way too talented to be as inconsistent as he was earlier in the year.
Herbert also tossed an interception, only his third of the season. Facing fourth-and-10 late in the third quarter and from a clean pocket Herbert steps into the throw. He's looking for Johnny Johnson on post route in between four defenders but the underneath defender deflects the ball and it's picked off. It wasn't a great decision -- the window just wasn't there, even with his arm strength -- but given the circumstances (4th down, deep in Arizona territory) it wasn't terrible. (Of course, this assumes that the Wildcats defender is tackled near the 20-yard line -- he ultimately returned it to midfield).
And on that note, we'll leave you with, in Jon Gruden's words, this turkey-hole throw to the sidelines vs. Cover 2. Notice both the arm strength and accuracy:
Jordan Love, Utah State
First things first: Jordan Love attempted just 29 passes on Saturday against Wyoming because he left late in the third quarter with an undisclosed injury. He did have 18 completions for 282 yards and two touchdowns but his afternoon got off to a rocky start, which has typified his uneven season to date.
On the first drive, a screen pass was batted and then intercepted. A drive later, Love fumbled (and recovered) on an attempted RPO; we mention that because earlier in the season he struggled from the shotgun to catch the snap and it's these eminently fixable things that go unfixed that will drive coaches crazy -- and in the NFL, could cost them their job. Then, two drives after that and deep in his own territory, Love forces a throw in the middle of the field that his tight had absolutely no chance of making. The result: A pick-six.
But from there, Love looked a lot like he did the week before against Fresno State, which was easily his best effort of the season. There was this throw, which only a handful of NFL quarterbacks can make:
And a series later, this NFL-caliber touch pass.
Yes, no one is near running back Gerold Bright, but Love put the ball right on the money, and just like Justin Herbert above, even if Bright was in tight coverage that's a completion.
Later in the game Love again shows off arm strength with a field-side seed to his tight end. A play later, he rolls right and throws another seed to the sticks. Very few people on the planet are making this throw with this accuracy and this velocity. Love is at his best when the ball comes out on time and he has clear pre-snap reads. But as we've written for much of this season, he struggles when his first read isn't there and he has to move through his progressions. Love's internal clock needs to be a quicker, both to avoid the pass rush and to take advantage of downfield windows before they close. But it's important to remember that Love is still raw and inexperienced, and whichever NFL team drafts him will have to be patient.
That said, it's incredibly difficult to exercise that patience when throws like this.
I mean, come on -- and this was an incompletion!
Pick Six Newsletter
Get the day's big stories + fun stuff you love like mock drafts, picks and power rankings.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox for the latest sports news.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Tagovailoa's hip injury is apparently a thing of the past
The Redskins shake things up at the top
Love is currently the third-highest ranked quarterback in CBS Sports' prospect rankings
The Eagles get aggressive to add a dynamic wideout, while the Colts look to the future with...
It's time to tackle some of the NFL Draft's biggest questions
Moss is CBS Sports' sixth-ranked running back in the draft