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GIF Horse - Is the 2020 QB Class Overrated?

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There is a lot of hype surrounding the 2020 quarterback class, but is it actually overrated? The tape doesn’t lie as they say.

Oregon v Washington State
Herbert would have been QB1 in 2019.
Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

For months now, I’ve strongly believed that Elway and the Broncos should pass on the 2019 quarterback class. Since my first watch through Drew Lock’s tape, I’ve been cooler on him than most. In response to that, I’ve heard three main arguments.

  1. Denver isn’t going to be bad enough to get a QB next year.
  2. The Broncos aren’t going anywhere without a QB, so take one ‘til you get one.
  3. The 2020 QB class is all hype anyways.

It’s interesting to see the three thrown around like gospel, because 1) nobody knows. Not even Elway. 2) This is a laughably poor use of resources in a league where the best teams year in and out are those that allocate them smarter than everyone else. 3) Maybe, perhaps I should take a look.

So first let me give a quick disclaimer. I did not have access to the All-22. I also did not start this to write up a full scouting report so much as to appease my curiosity about what’s to come. Mostly I looked over the tougher games, so no Northern Michigan or South Harmon Institute of Technology. Keep in mind that since all three have another year (at least) at the collegiate level, this is a work in progress. My grade is kind of the bar I’m setting, with the plan to reevaluate as I go. Guys can move up, or down. I can confidently say this though: If Denver does pass on a first round QB this year or someone like the Raiders grab Lock before Elway has the chance to?

I’ll be watching these three and a ton this Autumn.

Lastly, before we begin. Huge kudos to CaddytotheLama, who’s film has been instrumental in a ton of my film work this spring. Strongly advise you follow him on Twitter, he’s awesome.

Jake Fromm

At his best, Fromm’s accuracy is surgical.

Fromm was actually the player that started this harebrained idea in the first place. He was called “overrated” and a “borderline top 50 pick” in a couple of discussions I’ve had. Because I normally watch very little college football during the NFL season, I’ve seen little of him and decided to dive in. I was told to expect a Colt McCoy situation, where he’s benefited from the talent around him and will be dismissed once the NFL microscope falls on him.

When he’s on, Fromm’s ball placement is ridiculous.

I doubt that. Fromm certainly has room to grow this year, but I see an NFL quarterback when I’ve watched his tape. I only watched the National Title game from his Freshman year, so perhaps the manager type of label may have fit in 2017, but the growth he showed from the NC game to the 2018 SEC Title game against ‘Bama suggests there’s still a lot of potential in Fromm.

I did leave his tape with some big questions to answer though. Fromm is a pocket passer at heart, which is a blessing most of the time. But when he’s off, he doesn’t have his feet to bail him out. This should help him once he reaches the next level because he’s farther along with reading the defense than many of the more adept scramblers, but when he goes through slumps his tape feels a bit streaky. Sometimes he’ll miss a throw that leaves you confused. In a certain light, this reminds of me Brett Rypien, who goes through the same sort of lapse from time to time.

Additionally, pressure phases Fromm. He improved in this aspect in year 2 from the National title loss, but some of his worst throws are a response to duress.

This was... a bad throw.

Another thing that stands out to me about Fromm is when he’s on, he looks incredible. His 2018 games against Alabama, Missouri, and Florida really stand out this way. There are numerous instances of him making multiple reads from the pocket to find his target. He doesn’t posses the same rocket arm Lock does, but his highs can reach the same heights while the mechanics and decision-making are far more consistent.

Early Grade: B Tier

One thing that matters to me when studying quarterback is the results. Fromm’s stats speak for themselves. He’s completed 388/598 passes for 5376 yards, 54 touchdowns and 13 picks in his two years with the Bulldogs. He improved both his accuracy and depth of target from year 1 to 2. His yards per attempt numbers in both years are better than any season of Drew Lock’s career. Let me say that if this is the third best prospect for 2020, I’d take him over any member of the current class in a heartbeat.

There are enough concerns for me to withhold an A or S, though. I’d like to see him iron out some of the streaky play and for he and Georgia to perform better when Fromm feels heat. I wonder a bit about his functional athleticism. The talent question is a fair one as the Bulldogs are one of the more talented teams in the SEC and Fromm averaged roughly 100 less pass attempts a season than Lock did the last three years. His LSU game is a mess in spots.

I’m curious to see where NFL scouts land on him because public opinion is so split, but I see is a quarterback with a relatively high floor. Whether he’s “the guy” or not I’d bet he’ll have a long NFL career once he makes the jump.

Tua Tagovailoa

It’s fair to wonder how good every quarterback prospect would look surrounded by the Alabama supporting cast.

More than either of the other two, a big caveat hangs around Tua: the talent chasm between his team and many of their opponents.

Alabama is the kind of football factory that has no real parallel in modern times. The Tide have had at least one player drafted in the first round every single year since 2006. There were 4 in 2018. This year it is entirely possible for Quinnen and Jonah Williams, Deionte Thompson, Josh Jacobs, Irv Smith, and Mack Wilson to all wind up first day selections. That’s insane.

Then you look at his 2019 offense. Jerry Jeudy is arguably the best receiver left in college football. Henry Ruggs III is on the short list. The Tide’s slot receiver Devonta Smith also looks like an NFL player... you get the idea. This team is so talented it oozes out Big Al’s ears.

That leaves questions because there are so many times on tape where Tua’s just playing pitch and catch. The hype around him suggests he’s a generational prospect but it’s hard to tell because he’s in a situation that he’s unlikely to ever have in the NFL. That alone doesn’t hurt Tua, but it’s fair to wonder. Clemson was one of the very few teams that had the Jimmy and Joe’s on defense to withstand last year’s Tide. Georgia was the other. Is it a coincidence that these were also the two worst games of Tua’s season? Is he the generational talent he looks like, or a good player on an amazing team?

You need to be pretty decent to make this throw.

The other big question I had is one that 2019 should help answer: Can Tua stay healthy? Probably, but he had two lower body injuries he dealt with in his first full season as a starter. If he sustains another one this coming season the question becomes significant.

Tua’s pretty good. But how good?

Early Grade: A Tier

In case you missed the Alabama Pro day, Tagovailo recently measured in at 6’0 2/8 and 230 lbs. Baker Mayfield and now Kyler Murray suggests the NFL as a whole is ready to accept shorter quarterbacks, so I doubt it deters any interested team, but it should be notable for Broncos fans.

In an interview at the combine, John Elway said that he favors taller quarterbacks because he believes that height is a factor when a QB is under center. It was mocked by NFL Twitter, but could be a signal that even if Denver found themselves in position to grab the Tide’s star QB, it may not become a reality.

As far as my grade goes, my big question about supporting talent won’t truly be answered before Tagovailo reaches the NFL. The remaining questions are mostly minor things. Can he stay healthy? Can he grow from that disastrous showing against a Clemson defense that disguised coverages in order to turn a foundational strength of his against him? I suspect he will. As it stands, he displays the level of anticipation and arm talent you wish every quarterback did. Tua looks capable of making accurate throws under pressure and on the move and will enter the 2019 season as my QB1.

Justin Herbert

Herbert’s ability to throw on the move is one of his biggest strengths.

The more I watched Herbert, the less I liked his 2018 film. In fact, if I had to bet money on one of these three quarterbacks falling out of the first round in 2020, it’s the Oregon Duck. I’m glad I don’t, because a lot of his issues could improve with a quality offseason, but there’s a serious hole to his game.

I started my Herbert study with Stanford and moved to Cal. If I had started writing this review immediately afterwards, I’d be ready to sell the farm to get Denver’s next franchise quarterback. Herbert completed 76% of his passes for 571 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception in those two games. Beyond the stats, he looked very fluid on the move and displayed the kind of pinpoint accuracy Fromm did.

By the time I started the Washington tape, I was in love, but Herbert quickly left me wanting more. Initially, I couldn’t figure out why. The stats weren’t amazing but the strengths of Herbert’s game still flashed on the tape. Eventually, it hit me. Against the talented Husky defense he left a lot of throws on the field, failing to anticipate and read the coverage. He was rattled by phantom pressure and didn’t stick with receivers that would open up. It was bad enough I went to look back at the Cal and Stanford games to see if I missed it there. Learning to progress through reads remains a big question mark of his. It isn’t completely surprising. After all, it’s natural for a mobile quarterback to trust his legs more than his progressions, but some of the decisions were baffling.

What’s more the Oregon quarterback will routinely pass up throws in the middle of the field. He prefers to throw to the boundary and flats. When he does go to the middle, it’s usually easier reads like Mesh or shallow crossers. This is a stark difference between Fromm and Herbert, as the former has plenty of tape where he’s making throws to spots vacated by the safety.

Herbert scrambled here when he had a deep crosser available for a big gain.

What’s especially frustrating is that the Washington game was the first of 6 straight sub 60% completion games against D1 opponents, but I ran out of tape. In fact, the only other Herbert game that comes up after Washington is the Oregon State game he was knocked out of. Which brings me to another big question I have. Herbert has had multiple injury marred seasons in his collegiate career. Maybe it’s just bum luck, but I’d remiss if I didn’t ask “Can he stay healthy?”

Early Grade: Incomplete

One thing I noticed is the Duck has a bit of a mechanical glitch, a bit of a gather in some of his throws that he can hopefully iron out going forward.

In the games I watched he routinely showed a very natural accuracy on the move and the uncanny awareness to test a defense deep if he can force an offsides play. But also, he needs to become more comfortable making plays from the pocket and beyond his initial read if he’s to last for any length of time in the National Football League. It wouldn’t surprise me if Herbert is higher on Elway’s radar than Tagovailoa and Fromm. He has tantalizing ceiling, even if his floor appears to be lower than the other two QBs I watched: He’s 6’5, can make throws from multiple launch points, and has the kind of mobility that Fromm lacks. There’s a lot of potential, but also a lot to prove.

Herbert has the tools to grow into an elite player, but needs to grow into a better pocket passer.

So is the 2020 QB Class Overrated?

It depends on how you rate it. This far out, it looks like the “big 3” will all be 2+ year starters at major college programs. Two of whom will come from the SEC, the closet thing the NFL has to a true developmental league at present day.

But obviously a lot can change in the next year. Injuries, lackluster performance, or even another standout arrival could change everything. It seems like every offseason there’s a franchise QB prospect that arrives out of nowhere. Even now there’s some hype around Stanford’s K.J. Costello as another potential first round quarterback. The Draft Network was high on Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke at the beginning of the process last year. Things change fast.

So it’s hard to really pin down. Do I like this crop more than the 2018 QB class? Not yet, but it could grow on me. I think Tua Tagovailo could be really special, and Fromm’s accuracy is really impressive. Herbert’s arm on the move is really fun, and his potential is really exciting. They definitely look like safer prospects than this year’s signal callers.