2020 NFL Draft quarterback rankings: Joe Burrow leads the way, but interesting sleepers projected for Day 3
We all know about Burrow and Tagovailoa, but which other prospects should you know as we head into draft season?
The 2020 NFL Draft is less than three months away, and with the Super Bowl now behind us, we're officially in the offseason. Yes, free agency is just around the corner, and that will change how some teams approach the draft, but for many, the plan remains unchanged: Find a young quarterback that can lead the franchise for the next decade. Typically, that doesn't happen in free agency; names like Philip Rivers, Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston and even Ryan Tannehill are short-term solutions. This means QB-needy teams are well into the evaluation process for names like Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Jordan Love, and Jacob Eason -- and that's just in the first round.
Unearthing those players others overlooked -- Gardner Minshew is the most recent example -- could be the difference between a coach and general manager getting fired or keeping their job for another season. With that in mind, here are our 2020 NFL Draft rankings for the quarterback position. The prospect rankings below are based on the CBS Sports composite rankings. Each prospect is listed with his overall rating, which roughly translates as follows: 90s are for players considered Round 1 locks, 80s should go in the first three rounds, 70s are expected to be drafted and 60s are on the draft bubble.
1. Joe Burrow, LSU, 95
There isn't much to say at this point. Burrow was special this season, from start to finish, and he was the best player in college football. He rightfully won the Heisman Trophy, and he'll rightfully be the first player selected in April unless the Bengals somehow find a way to mess it up.
The biggest question facing Burrow is where was this production prior to 2019? It's a fair question, but some players take longer to grow into their games than others. And there's no shame in losing a quarterback battle to Dwayne Haskins, which is what happened to Burrow in the spring of 2018, and it was why he left Ohio State for LSU. His first season at LSU was ... fine; he completed 57.8 percent of his throws with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. There was no talk about him leaving for the NFL after his junior season because he likely would have gone undrafted. So Burrow returned, and along with the addition of passing-game coordinator Joe Brady, blossomed into a franchise quarterback.
When people ask which game they should watch to get a sense of who Burrow is, our response is always, "Pick one. It doesn't matter." Burrow was that good, from start to finish -- and that's up to and including the bowl-playoff wins over Oklahoma and Clemson. In a season where he completed 78 percent of his throws, with 48 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, here's all Burrow did in those final two games against two of the best teams in the country: 60 of 88 for 956 yards, 12 passing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns, and zero interceptions.
2. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama, 94
Tagovailoa took his last snap for the Crimson Tide on Nov. 16, 2019, when he suffered a season-ending hip dislocation against Mississippi State. The injury was so serious that he required surgery days later and there were concerns at the time that his playing career may be over. In early January, Tagovailoa announced that he was leaving for the NFL, a decision that caught many people by surprise.
There is plenty left to be determined, however, starting with when Tagovailoa will be healthy enough to play football. During Super Bowl week he told CBS Sports HQ that he hopes to have a pro day before the draft in April. He also maintained that he's "on track to make a full recovery" but that he still has several milestones to clear from the doctors monitoring his rehab.
Heading into the season, Tagovailoa had all the attributes to be the No. 1 quarterback in the class (in fact, he'd still be the No. 1 QB if not for Burrow's emergence). It starts with his accuracy, where he's lethal at every level, even when pressured. Almost as important as the accuracy is his movement in the pocket, his ability to square his shoulders before throwing, and his uncanny knack to put the ball in the best position to allow his receiver to run after the catch. Of course, throwing to the likes of Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Jaylen Waddle, and DeVonta Smith certainly made things easier but that relationship is a two-way street. And even when Tagovailoa "struggled," there was a lot to like.
Tua is a franchise quarterback. No one disputes this. The issue is when will he be healthy enough to play, and then, can he stay healthy?
3. Justin Herbert, Oregon, 89
Here's the good news: Herbert's 2019 season was much-improved over 2018, where he completed just 59 percent of his throws. That number was up to 66.8 completion for his senior campaign, and he topped off his Ducks career with an efficient effort against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, where he finished 14 of 20 for 138 yards with three rushing scores and an interception. Still, plenty of questions remain about one of the most physically gifted players in this draft class. In a word, Herbert is an enigma. We've been talking about him now for more than a year, and repeating many of the same talking points: His arm strength is otherworldly, his measurables -- 6-foot-6, 237 pounds, insane athleticism and an ability to make plays with his feet -- check all the boxes. And for as much as we want to like him the reality is that he has yet to put it all together.
Questions about leadership have also plagued Herbert, and it was one of the first things he mentioned to us when we spoke to him at the Senior Bowl last month. He had a strong showing in Mobile -- culminating in MVP honors In watching those in-between moments, his Senior Bowl teammates appear to respond well to him, and while it's hard to discern any "leadership qualities" during practice sessions, Herbert's on-field demeanor is indistinguishable from the other five quarterbacks. Put another way: His physical tools are undeniable and given his strong showing this week, we're almost certain that he will find his way into the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
4. Jordan Love, Utah State, 88
At various points during the 2019 campaign we saw glimpses of what makes Love so intriguing, starting with his arm strength. The ball explodes out of his hand, and he shows the ability to let it go before the receiver is out of his break, something that will be imperative at the next level. But when Love doesn't get his feet set, or throws off-balance, his accuracy suffers. And this isn't to say Love can't throw on the run -- because he can -- but when he rushes, usually because he's under pressure, the results have been mixed.
The Utah State quarterback came off an uneven season that raised doubts about his first-round pedigree; he completed just 61.9 percent of his throws with 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions during a season in which he conceded to CBSSports.com that he took on too much at times.
It was a talking point late in the season and Chiefs rookie running back Darwin Thompson, who played alongside Love for the Aggies in 2018, confirmed as much during Super Bowl week. "I know exactly why he struggled this year," Thompson told CBSSports.com at Media Night. "A lot of things have changed. He lost his O-line. He had (running back) Gerold Bright, and we were a 1-2 punch when I was there. He lost his receivers. He had O-line leaving, the coaches leaving -- it was a whole different offense. They were trying to keep it the same, but it wasn't the same coaching techniques or whatever you want to call it."
Put another way: There's still so much to like.
"In the right system -- an Andy Reid system or a Bill Belichick system -- he could dominate the game," Thompson said. "Jordan Love is a baller. He can play football."
5. Jacob Eason, Washington, 88
First things first, Eason passes the eyeball test with flying colors. He looks like a franchise quarterback, and he'll undoubtedly draw comparisons to Carson Palmer and Matthew Stafford in the coming months. In related news, he can throw the ball out of the stadium. And while he hasn't played a lot of football in recent years, you wouldn't have known it to watch him against Eastern Washington in the Huskies season opener. And Eason was the best quarterback on the field when the Huskies hosted Justin Herbert and the Ducks on Oct. 19.
Not surprisingly, Eason struggled with consistency, particularly over the second half of the season. He had 10 touchdowns and two interceptions through the first four games. In the nine games since, he had 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. Over the first eight games, only once did Eason complete fewer than 60 percent of his throws and on four occasions he had a completion percentage north of 70 percent. In his last five games, he twice completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes and didn't eclipse the 70 percent mark once.
Because of the lack of experience we thought Eason might return to school. He didn't, of course, and now the question is if he can sneak into the first round.
6. Anthony Gordon, Washington State, 80
If Senior Bowl week was all about Justin Herbert and Jordan Love proving themselves to critics, Anthony Gordon was out to show that he was more than "just the latest guy from Mike Leach's Air Raid offense." In fact, Gordon made a good case for being the best player on the field at Ladd-Peebles Stadium for the Senior Bowl game. The knock on him coming into the week was that he didn't always make the best decisions with the ball at Washington State, as evidenced by his 16 interceptions. But as Gordon told CBSSports.com, his goal at the Senior Bowl was to prove that he could minimize those mistakes, and that's exactly what he did.
Gordon was often efficient and accurate during the three Senior Bowl practices, even if he didn't have the arm strength of the other QBs. But he showed during the game that arm strength is not everything. His savvy pocket presence served him well, and his footwork appeared improved from the 2019 season, when he would occasionally throw flat-footed, which led to off-the-mark passes that were sometimes intercepted.
Like Gardner Minshew before him, Gordon could be a pleasant surprise at the next level.
7. Jake Fromm, Georgia, 79
As we came to expect from the 2017 and 2018 seasons, in '19, Fromm's was almost always efficient from the pocket, regularly making the right reads and delivering short and intermediate passes accurately and on time. But questions about his arm strength and deep-ball accuracy persisted, even when the opponents were incapable of providing much in the way of competition.
Yes, he was the beneficiary of one of the country's best offensive lines and running games, and that will be hard to replicate at the next level unless he lands with a winning franchise, but it's not like Fromm hasn't had his moments. He looked like a young Drew Brees against Notre Dame, but at other times during the season, he looked like a quarterback destined to be a backup at the next level.
8. Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma, 78
Hurts completed 69.7 percent of his throws last season for Oklahoma, with 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions. And that's before we include the 1,298 rushing yards and 20 TDs. And while he's five inches shorter than Herbert and three inches shorter than Love, he's every bit the athlete. No, Hurts doesn't have their arm strength, but he can make every throw -- just as we saw in '19, and during Senior Bowl week.
The knock is that Hurts is still raw; when his first read isn't there, his eyes usually drop and he looks to run. That almost always works in Lincoln Riley's offense against overmatched opponents but is problematic in the NFL. Is Hurts the next Taysom Hill or can he be a legit starting quarterback? That's the question teams will have to answer in the coming weeks.
9. Bryce Perkins, Virginia, 67
Perkins completed 64.5 percent of his throws the last two seasons, though he threw three fewer touchdowns (22) and three more interceptions (12). Still, he led the Cavaliers to the ACC title game and leaves UVa with the single-season passing record and is No. 2 in career wins by a quarterback. Perkins was a surprising combine snub; still his athleticism and versatility could see an NFL team take a late-round flier on him.
10. Steven Montez, Colorado, 67
Montez has the size and arm strength to play at the next level but the lack of consistency is what plagued him throughout most of his college career. He showed glimpses of big-play ability during Senior Bowl practices but struggled in the game with poor decisions and a turnover. He'll need a strong showing in OTAs and training camp to earn a 53-man roster spot.
11. Nate Stanley, Iowa, 67
Stanley is a prototypical dropback passer, which was more valuable several years ago than it is now, with the proliferation of athletic QBs like Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, and Baker Mayfield. Stanley's lack of athleticism was obvious both inside and outside the pocket. He also never completed 60 percent of his throws during his three years as Iowa's starter, and he threw 10 fewer touchdowns (16) in 2019 than he did in 2018 or 2017.
12. Cole McDonald, Hawaii, 66
McDonald improved his completion percentage from 58.9 to 63.8 from 2018 to 2019, and he threw for 260 more yards over the course of the season. And while he has all the physical tools you would want in an NFL-level quarterback, his mechanics are suspect and he struggles with poor decisions.
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