Another crop of young quarterbacks is being indoctrinated into the NFL, albeit via links and apps and other technological innovations. The virtual offseason is in full swing. Independent learning is the only game in town.
It's less than ideal, especially for the most important position in all of team sports, but it is the reality and the only safe way forward right now, and perhaps for quite some time to come. It will undoubtedly impact the development process for many of these young passers, and presents unique challenges for players and teams alike. And it got me thinking about how I would stack the quarterbacks from the last three drafts, given the lack of any on-field time with teammates and coaches.
What if we went back and looked at all of the quarterbacks selected in the last three drafts -- how would I stack them? Given the situations they are in -- the casts around them and the infrastructure and viability of their staffs -- which do I have the most confidence in rising to overcome these hurdles? Which do I think will have difficulty making the best of these suboptimal times?
I'm thinking of it as a Quarterback Confidence ranking; not exactly a straight list of which QBs of note from the past three drafts I believe are the best, but close. I am also factoring in which are in the best positions to thrive, given their organizations and rosters and how much of the offense they already have a handle on. Taking all of that into consideration, which of this group of 17 QBs do I believe is being given the best chance of putting together a strong 2020 season and/or ascending in the coming years as the opportunity to play -- and need to perform -- grows. This list is comprised of players drafted from 2018-2020 who have either played in the regular season already or are projected to play significantly in 2020.
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2. Kyler Murray
Took some lumps as a rookie but also made major strides. Superb athlete and competitor with a coach who is all about the QB. He will take a leap in 2020 whether he gets a normal training camp or not.
3. Josh Allen
I have reservations about Allen ever being a top 10 QB in the typical manner in which we assess them. Accuracy and completion percentage will never be ideal. He has some warts. But he has already been to the playoffs, he has a strong cast on both sides of the ball, his legs are a tremendous asset and if he can just continue to tweak his decision making he will be a winning QB. I don't envision him as a top passer, but in totality he can be very effective.
Hear me out -- Miami will not rush him, he probably does not play until the second half of the season. The kid has never failed at anything and is ahead of schedule from the hip surgery. Ryan Fitzpatrick will help him in every way possible. Chan Gailey should be a perfect coaching fit for him. He doesn't have to carry a franchise from Day One. I believe he is going to prove a lot of skeptics wrong.
5. Joe Burrow
I have reservations about that offensive line, but the rest of this offense is ready to rock from Week 1. Loaded with weapons. Very QB-friendly head coach in Zac Taylor. Had one of the greatest seasons in the history of college football in what amounted to an NFL offense ... However, all eyes are on him all of the time and the scrutiny and expectations will be off the charts, which is why I slid him in here.
6. Sam Darnold
The schedule is brutal. His cast on offense leaves much to be desired (though they have made a concerted effort to improve the offensive line). But at least he already knows Adam Gase's offense and let's face it, people aren't exactly talking about the Jets in the postseason, and even a solid and confident season in 2020 puts him in position to be viewed as the QB of the present and future there.
As a sixth-round pick thrust into a starting role midway through Week 1, he somehow overcame a really bad Jags roster, with a toxic locker room that was filled with players who wanted out and highlighted by an ugly holdout from their best young player (Jalen Ramsey), standing at 4-4 at one point. He showed me something and while the Jags will not be good this season, either, this kid can establish himself as an NFL starter. He is super smart and constantly learning. Jay Gruden will be good for him.
Franchise legend Joe Thomas is basically calling this an all-or-nothing year for the polarizing QB. And after taking a big step back in Year 2, and with yet another new coaching staff around him, and zero time to practice that new offense, and with the Browns under a heavy spotlight to finally get back to the playoffs, you can't help but wonder how this goes down. Still a lot of big personalities there, many of the same ones who imploded a year ago. I suspect they run the ball a ton and will be fine, but this regime did not draft this QB and 2021 will be loaded with options.
Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels really like this kid and think he is a winner and, at worst, would have or should have been the third or fourth QB taken in the 2020 draft if he were in it. They love what he showed last offseason and preseason learning the offense. He needs better WR and TEs than New England has right now, but this staff believes they can make it work, and given their resume developing QBs, I wouldn't bet against them.
10. Drew Lock
John Elway pretty much used his draft to give his QB everything he could possibly ask for. I believe at the end of the day maxing out for Lock may be where Allen was in 2019 -- but with a stout defense, and you can get in an expanded playoff field that way. Elway's track record with young QBs gives me great pause, but Lock played better than I thought he would last season and Pat Shurmur will be great for him.
11. Daniel Jones
The turnovers bother me, a lot. I still have serious concerns about their ability to properly protect him, and the Giants defense is not going to be producing many stops, let alone three-and-outs. Jason Garrett is no QB whisperer and the Dallas attack finally took off when he got out of the way. That is not ideal. The spotlight in the Big Apple is a different thing and this coaching staff is full of novices.
12. Dwayne Haskins
This kid can't catch a break. Washington has on paper the worst offense in football. It's brutal. He has yet another new set of coaches and ideas, and they brought in a backup in Kyle Allen who knows that system inside out from his time in Carolina. I think Haskins can play, but the Skins have zero history of incubating a young QB properly.
13. Justin Herbert
He could redshirt all year, which would be the best thing for him and the Chargers. Tyrod Taylor will hold him off, I figure, and we'll see what 2021 brings. A lot of evaluators I know well and really trust were not big Herbert guys, although one GM with a strong track record on QBs believes he will be Matt Ryan.
14. Jordan Love
I suspect it is tough going for him in Green Bay. The Aaron Rodgers situation is going be a thing for as long as he remains there, but by 2022 Love will be the man. Tensions are high already and too many teams told me that taking Love in the first round was a huge stretch for me to discount them. This young coaching staff has quite the navigation job ahead.
15. Mason Rudolph
I would be shocked if he actually turns into the guy who replaces Big Ben, but the Steelers are still clinging to that idea. I don't see an NFL starter here.
16. Ryan Finley
Saw him live in the preseason and he looked really good. Then the Bengals regular season happened. As ugly as that was, he was playing on a terrible team way sooner than he should have.
17. Josh Rosen
Things continue to transpire against him since being selected 10th overall just over two years ago (kinda like Haskins). But he failed to show much when the Dolphins played him and the way that team took off when Fitzpatrick came back in was telling. That doesn't inspire confidence, and, well, this is a confidence list.