Patriots

2020 NFL Draft player rankings: Top 10 quarterbacks in stacked group

2020 NFL Draft player rankings: Top 10 quarterbacks in stacked group

For the first time in two decades, the New England Patriots face uncertainty at quarterback.

Tom Brady has joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Patriots are now searching for a starter.

Luckily for them, the 2020 NFL Draft class is well-stocked at quarterback. The top seven players in this class all have the chance to become solid NFL starters rather quickly. And beyond them, there are several other intriguing developmental options.

The Patriots may opt to roll with Jarrett Stidham as their starter. Still, they could look to add some young depth to challenge him and/or develop behind him. And armed with many mid-round draft picks, they'll surely have an opportunity to target a passer if they want to.

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Here's a look at the top 10 quarterbacks in the draft, starting with the likely No. 1 overall pick. 

1. Joe Burrow

College: LSU
Class: Redshirt senior
2019 stats: 76.3 completion percentage, 5,761 passing yards, 60 passing TDs, six interceptions, 115 rushes, 368 rushing yards, five rushing TDs

Joe Burrow burst onto the scene for LSU in 2019. After being a solid but unspectacular starter the previous year, Burrow caught fire in Steve Ensminger and Joe Brady's offense. He put up massive numbers en route to a Heisman Trophy and National Championship. Burrow has excellent arm talent, a knack for finding open receivers, combined with good mobility. Barring a surprise, he'll be the No. 1 overall pick for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Projected Round: First (No. 1 overall pick) 

2. Tua Tagovailoa

College: Alabama
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 71.4 completion percentage, 2,840 passing yards, 33 passing TDs, three interceptions, two rushing TDs

It's amazing that Alabama and LSU, two traditionally run-based offenses, have the consensus top two QBs in the draft. Before Burrow emerged, people referred to the process of NFL teams losing last season as "Tanking for Tua". The junior was only a two-year starter at Alabama, but he was a highly accurate passer and made 'Bama's offense one of the most dangerous in the nation. Had it not been for a brutal hip injury, he could've challenged Burrow for the top spot. Tagovailoa is progressing well in his recovery and should have a chance at being a Russell Wilson-type playmaker in the NFL, provided that he can stay healthy.

Projected Round: First (Top 5 picks) 

3. Justin Herbert

College: Oregon
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 66.8 completion percentage, 3,471 passing yards, 32 passing TDs, six interceptions, four rushing TDs

Herbert has a solid 6-foot-6 frame and possesses one of the better arms in this draft. He fits the bill as a prototypical pocket passer who has enough mobility to scramble and make throws on the run as he demonstrated time and time again in his four years as a starter for the Ducks. He seems likely to be a top-10 pick but if he slips, the Patriots could consider making a move up to get him.

Projected Round: First (Top 10) 

4. Jordan Love

College: Utah State
Class: Redshirt Junior
2019 stats: 61.9 completion percentage, 3,402 passing yards, 20 passing TDs, 17 interceptions, 81 rushes, 175 rushing yards

Love is one of the more raw passers in this class, but he has a cannon of an arm. He can make any throw but has to get better at reading the field and avoiding turnovers; those were a major problem for him last season. Love may take time to develop in the NFL, but some team will fall in love with him (no pun intended) and try to groom him as its next franchise QB.

Projected Round: Late First/Early Second

5. Jake Fromm

College: Georgia
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 60.8 completion percentage, 2,806 passing yards, 24 passing TDs, five interceptions

Fromm is almost the inverse of Love as a prospect. He doesn't have a very strong arm, but he reads the field very well and rarely turns the ball over. He may not have the best mobility, but he managed games well at Georgia, became a starter as a true freshman, and led the Bulldogs to a 36-7 record in his time there. His intelligence and high character will make a team believe that he can be an NFL starter.

Projected Round: Second or Third

6. Jacob Eason

College: Washington
Class: Redshirt Junior
2019 stats: 64.2 completion percentage, 3,132 passing yards, 23 passing TDs, eight interceptions

Eason actually started his career at Georgia but was beaten out by Fromm for the starting job. And now, he's behind Fromm on this list. Go figure. Eason, son of former Notre Dame receiver Tony Eason, not the ex-Patriots QB, has a great 6-6 frame and an excellent arm that he showed off at the combine. However, he only has two total years of starting experience that came three years apart (2016 and 2019). So, he may need time to develop at the next level. In particular, he needs to learn to use more touch on his throws and not just fire the ball as hard as he can on every pass.

Projected Round: Second or Third

7. Jalen Hurts

College: Oklahoma
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 69.7 completion percentage, 3,851 passing yards, 32 passing TDs, eight interceptions, 233 carries, 1,298 rushing yards, 20 rushing TDs

Hurts is a true dual threat who made some serious progress as a passer during his lone year at Oklahoma. Before he joined Lincoln Riley and the Sooners, he played at Alabama and was a rare true freshman starter at quarterback for the Crimson Tide before Tagovailoa took over. Hurts enjoyed an excellent season in 2019 and finished second in the Heisman voting. He still needs to work on his passing skill set and confidence in the pocket, but while he does that, he could be a Taysom Hill-type playmaker for a team willing to spend a pick on him.

Projected Round: Third

8. James Morgan

College: Florida International
Class: Redshirt senior
2019 stats: 58 completion percentage, 2,585 passing yards, 14 passing TDs, five interceptions, two rushing TDs

A smaller-school prospect who impressed at the NFL Combine, Morgan has been on the rise during the scouting process. He took a step back as a passer in 2019 but perhaps with a better supporting cast in the NFL, he could find success. He should be a solid mid-round developmental project for the right team and it's worth noting that the Patriots have been linked to him.

Projected Round: Third or Fourth

9. Nate Stanley

College: Iowa
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 59.4 completion percentage, 2,951 passing yards, 16 passing TDs, seven interceptions

Stanley is the latest quarterback to come out of Iowa's pro-style offense which utilizes a run-heavy game plan. He'll need to work on his accuracy as a pro, but he reads the field well and has a good arm.

Projected Round: Fourth to Sixth

10. Steven Montez

College: Colorado
Class: Redshirt senior
2019 stats: 63 completion percentage, 2,808 passing yards, 17 passing TDs, 10 interceptions

Montez has the size (6-5, 230) and athletic ability that teams look for in a QB, but he'll need time to develop. The sky is the limit for him but after a middling performance at the Senior Bowl, it's clear that he'll need a year or two before he can really factor into a starting QB battle.

Projected Round: Fourth to Sixth

Next Pats Podcast: Matthew Slater reflects on social unrest within U.S. and NFL

Next Pats Podcast: Matthew Slater reflects on social unrest within U.S. and NFL

As much as we'd love to talk football, it has taken a back seat to the conversations that need to be had about George Floyd's murder and the racial injustices that remain prevalent in the United States.

The "Black Lives Matter" movement has spread across the country with protests advocating for justice and racial equality. It has impacted the world of sports, with countless athletes using their platforms to let their voices be heard. NFL players even sent a strong message to the league with a video stating what they wanted to hear it say regarding the oppression of African Americans.

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On a brand new episode of the Next Pats Podcast, New England Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater joined Phil Perry to discuss the state of the nation.

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Slater covered a variety of important topics in the episode. But one that particularly stood out was his explanation of how if the country operated like an NFL locker room, it would be a more inclusive place.

"It is a very unique place. A locker room setting -- you know, if our country operated and moved like a locker room, man it would be a beautiful thing," Slater said. "I'm not saying it's perfect, I'm not saying we've got it all figured out, but what a unique space where people from all different walks of life, different belief systems and things of that nature to work toward a common goal.

"And there's automatic respect that comes with the fact that you have a jersey and a helmet, and you're one of us. So I'm appreciative of that and I think now is a time for us to maybe forge those bonds even deeper. Guys that maybe hear personal stories and maybe experience this from their teammates have a different appreciation for why that guy is the way he is, why he does the things that he does. And I think ultimately that's going to lead to deeper and more fruitful relationships."

If anyone knows what a healthy, inclusive locker room environment looks like, it's Slater. The 34-year-old has been a captain for the Patriots for nearly a decade and has been an admirable leader throughout his stellar NFL career.

Slater also discussed how head coach Bill Belichick has been involved in the team's discussions about recent events, his experiences living as a black man in America, and much more.

Check out more of the Next Pats Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or watch on YouTube below:

Patriots Roster Reset: Rookie tight ends offer optimism after 2019 drought

Patriots Roster Reset: Rookie tight ends offer optimism after 2019 drought

What if? What if Rob Gronkowski had announced his retirement just a few days sooner, allowing the Patriots to make a legitimate play for free agent Jared Cook? 

By the time the man who is arguably the greatest tight end in NFL history decided to hang 'em up (briefly), Cook was already making plans to join the Saints. He ended up eighth among tight ends with 705 receiving yards and second with nine touchdowns.

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Meanwhile the Patriots were left to piece together that spot with the likes of Matt LaCosse, Ben Watson and Ryan Izzo.

Reluctant to invest in young players at the position since taking Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in 2010 — since then they'd only drafted Izzo (2018, seventh round), Lee Smith (2011, fifth round) and A.J. Derby (2015, sixth round) — the Patriots had arguably the least-productive tight end group in the NFL last season: 37 catches for 419 yards and two touchdowns.

They've attempted to remedy that situation. In this year's draft, they traded up to land two intriguing talents in the third round.

UCLA's Devin Asiasi is a do-it-all player with the size to move people on the line of scrimmage and the body control to draw comparisons to some of the game's elites at that position. Dalton Keene is an athletic option with experience playing out of the backfield at Virginia Tech who could be the key to unlocking snap-to-snap unpredictability for Josh McDaniels' personnel packages.

Do they enter the equation as the immediate No. 1 and 2 options there? Let's reset the depth chart.

LOCK ‘EM IN

Asiasi. Keene. That's it. Those are the locks. Given the output, it should come as no surprise that there's not a player from last year's roster who comes into this season guaranteed to have a regular-season role. 

ON THE BUBBLE

LaCosse makes sense here. He could potentially end up on the roster as a 2020 version of Alge Crumpler — a veteran who can help guide two promising rookies — because his experience level dwarfs that of others on the depth chart.

However, his experience level isn't exactly overwhelming (33 career games). If he can't stay healthy, as was the case last season, or can't win a job, he'd save the Patriots $1.3 million on the salary cap if released in camp.

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LONG SHOTS

Izzo will have to open eyes in camp or become a special teams staple in order to have a chance to make an impact. Though he showed flashes of being a capable receiver last season, that part of his game was lacking consistency. As a blocker? It was there that he was thought to be a potential contributor when drafted out of Florida State two years ago. But according to Pro Football Focus, his 44.9 run-blocking grade was second-lowest among all players at the position in 2019.

Undrafted rookies Jake Burt from Boston College and Rashod Berry from Ohio State also have to be considered in this category. Burt looks like an in-line option at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds. Berry actually played both on the defensive line and at tight end as a senior. He finished his career with 17 receptions. 

NEWCOMER TO WATCH

In what was considered a tight end class short on game-changing talent, Asiasi might've been the most gifted. Notre Dame's Cole Kmet was the first tight end taken in the draft, going off the board in the second round as the "safest" of this year's tight end crop, according to several evaluators. But when it comes to physical ability? Asiasi can "do it all," one tight ends coach told me.

Some questions about Asiasi's makeup lingered into draft weekend, helping him stay undrafted through almost three full rounds, but the Patriots may have found themselves a steal if Asiasi can make good on his on-the-field promise. Asiasi's trainer Dave Spitz, who has also worked with Browns tight end Austin Hooper and Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, spoke to NBC Sports Boston earlier this offseason.

"He has the catch radius of Austin," Spitz said. "He has the body control and awareness of Zach. And he, I think, has more bend, more wiggle, than both of them. He's a beautiful combination."

X-FACTOR

Asiasi might be the most talented addition the Patriots have made at this position in years, but Keene's versatility makes him an interesting queen-on-the-chess-board piece for Bill Belichick and McDaniels. He has enough size (6-foot-4, 253 pounds) to play in-line as a "Y" tight end. He has the movement skills to serve as more of an "F" option. He's played in the backfield before. He's served as a lead-blocker like a fullback. There are a variety of ways in which he can be deployed.

Why does that matter? Perhaps the Patriots want to use their 12-personnel package with one back and two tight ends. Perhaps, because tight ends are oftentimes glorified receivers these days, a defense will respond to that two-tight end set by matching it with an extra safety instead of a linebacker. If that's the case, Keene could flex in as a fullback and the Patriots could run a 21-personnel look at a lighter defense for an advantage. If the defense keeps linebackers on the field to check Asiasi and/or Keene, the Patriots could use them in the passing game where their athleticism should give them an advantage over a traditional second-level defender. Options.

That's what Keene provides, making him an X-factor in the truest sense if he can handle a wide range of alignments and responsibilities early in his career.