If you don't have a quarterback, you don't have a chance.
That's why every year, there's a separate draft for quarterbacks happening within the NFL Draft.
For the seventh year in a row, I’ve spent months evaluating the quarterback class and have compiled my rankings. Before we get to the rankings, I’ll share my usual disclaimer: I put a lot of time into watching the film and talking to sources I trust. I purposely wait until the week of the draft to release the rankings, soaking in as much info as possible. Instead of projecting where I think these players will be drafted, I note where I think they should be drafted. Quarterbacks are almost always over-drafted, so it’s very normal for them to be drafted higher than where I would personally select them.
This year's class is interesting because I believe there are at least 10 quarterbacks worthy of being drafted, but only two that I love. Let's get to the rankings:
1. Joe Burrow, LSU (6-3 1/2, 221)
What isn’t there to love about Joe Burrow? A highly competitive yet poised quarterback, Burrow never gets rattled and rarely makes poor decisions. He’s incredibly gifted at reading coverages, using his outstanding vision to hit open receivers. He extends plays with his feet and can tuck-and-run for big yardage if he sees defenders with their backs towards him. Picture Mitchell Trubisky, but without all the negatives. That’s Joe Burrow. He reads the full field, has great footwork in the pocket and delivers the ball on time. Plus, he’s durable. Burrow never missed a start in college or high school due to injury.
Where I would draft him: No. 1 overall. There’s no reason for the Bengals to overthink this. They have their franchise quarterback sitting there with his bags packed for Cincinnati.
2. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama (6-0, 217)
Tua is a lot like Burrow in the way he reads defenses, anticipates throws and delivers the ball with accuracy. In fact, his ability to hit receivers in stride and allow them to catch-and-run is even better than Burrow’s. How do you stop a quarterback that is highly instinctive, deadly accurate and can read the full field? That’s Tagovailoa. He may even be more developed than Burrow because he didn’t rely on sideline checks as much and he played in a pro-style offense that used a blend of RPOs and true play-action. Tagovailoa is particularly good before the snap when it comes to sliding protections. He’s just as elusive and deadly on the run as Burrow. The big difference is size and durability. I’m not going to pretend to have all the details on Tua’s hip, but it is a major concern.
Where I would draft him: Top 5. Tua is just as talented as Burrow, but it would be negligent to take him ahead of the LSU quarterback because of the medical concerns. If he can stay healthy, Tagovailoa is going to be a great NFL quarterback.
3. Jordan Love, Utah State (6-3 3/4, 224)
Probably the biggest boom-or-bust quarterback prospect in this year’s draft, Love has the talent to be an All-Pro, but he also has enough question marks to get you fired. He throws the ball effortlessly and can wow you with throws that remind you of Patrick Mahomes, but his decision-making and instincts leave you frustrated when you watch the tape. Love had an amazing 2018 season, but his play dipped in 2019 after losing innovative head coach Matt Wells to Texas Tech. Utah State also lost nine offensive starters in 2019, which didn’t help. Love led the FBS in interceptions with 17 in 2019 and struggled against the better competition he faced in college.
Where I would draft him: Late first round/early second round. Love has top 10 talent, but he won’t be successful if he lands on a team that needs to play him right away. Comparing him to Mahomes now isn’t fair, but comparing him to Mahomes at Texas Tech in 2017 makes sense. There are similarities. I ultimately gave Mahomes a second-round grade, which was too low, but a big reason why he became successful was because he landed in a great situation in Kansas City and sat for a year behind Alex Smith. Two fits I love for Love? New Orleans and Green Bay.
4. Justin Herbert, Oregon (6-6 1/4, 236)
Herbert is the complete package when it comes to physical gifts. He has outstanding arm strength, a quick release, good athleticism/mobility and somehow maintains it all with a huge 6-foot-6 frame to see over his offensive line. If you were creating a quarterback in a video game, he’d probably look a lot like Herbert. But here’s what gives me pause: with all those strengths, why didn’t he completely dominate college football to the level of Burrow and Tagovailoa? When I watched Oregon games, I saw a good quarterback, but not one as electric at the top two guys on this list. Herbert is more of a calculated, deliberate quarterback, rather than one that will freelance and make plays with his instincts. Inconsistent reads leave you wanting more. He’s a highly intelligent quarterback that will be successful throwing the ball when his first or second reads are open and he can beat you with his legs (see: 2020 Rose Bowl), but I worry about his ability to make plays with his arm when things break down and the windows close faster at the next level.
Where I would draft him: Late first round/early second round. Herbert is a safer pick than Jordan Love and there’s a floor here I like, but to me, his ceiling is a slightly better version of Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
5. Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma (6-1, 222)
When you watch the film, it’s easy to understand why Nick Saban benched Hurts in favor of Tagovailoa at Alabama. Hurts doesn’t throw with the same anticipation or go through his progressions as smoothly or as quickly as Tua. But what I love about Hurts is that he still finds ways to move the ball downfield and run an explosive offense, which he proved at Oklahoma in 2019 when he accounted for 52 total touchdowns. He handled the situation at Alabama with professionalism and even led the Crimson Tide to a win in the 2018 SEC Championship Game when Tua got hurt. Hurts’ composure and competitiveness are top-notch, and I love his make-up as a quarterback. He makes the players around him better and he proved that at two different blue-blood college football programs.
Where I would draft him: Late second round/early third round. Hurts would benefit from sitting and developing behind a proven starter. I don’t know that he’ll ever be able to read through the full field quickly, but he can be a starting NFL quarterback that you win with and occasionally because of.
6. Jake Fromm, Georgia (6-1 7/8, 219)
Fromm would be a safer pick than Hurts and he has a lot of the same winning intangibles. I love how Fromm held off competition on the Georgia roster. Jacob Eason (Washington) and Justin Fields (Ohio State) both transferred because Fromm wasn’t giving up his death grip on the starting job. His ability to read the field and go through his progressions are positive traits that could result in him landing a starting job in the NFL. That said, Fromm’s arm strength is below average and he lacks the type of athleticism and mobility to overcome his smaller stature in the NFL.
Where I would draft him: Third round. Fromm’s competitive nature leaves you wanting him to prove you wrong. And he may. More than likely, he’ll be a valuable member of a quarterback room and a reliable backup who can win games when he needs to play. That will keep him in the NFL for many years.
7. Jacob Eason, Washington (6-5 7/8, 231)
Eason, a former baseball player, is kind of like that hard-throwing reliever that always struggles with his control and never develops a reliable second out-pitch. He has great arm strength but lacks the touch necessary to be a consistent downfield passing threat. After starting as a true freshman at Georgia, Eason suffered a knee injury and lost his job to Fromm. I don’t question Eason’s decision to transfer to Washington because he’s from the Seattle area, but it’s also obvious that he doesn’t quite have the same competitive obsession that Fromm possesses. Eason’s footwork is inconsistent and he’s not accurate when moved off his spot. He’s not very elusive and doesn’t extend plays with his feet. If there’s any kind of pressure, Eason rarely creates a positive play.
Where I would draft him: Fourth round. You love the size and arm. Eason essentially missed two years before a decent season at Washington in 2019. I would have loved to see him stay in school to get a better evaluation, but there’s enough here to try to develop.
8. Anthony Gordon, Washington State (6-2 3/8, 205)
Gordon is almost certainly getting a boost from Gardner Minshew’s rookie season, but I actually like Gordon more as a quarterback. He has an outstanding release and puts nice touch on his throws. He has good enough size, good enough arm strength and good enough accuracy. There’s a free-wheeling style to his game comparable to Minshew (and even Mahomes) that comes from the style of offense he plays in, but there are drawbacks. Gordon takes too many chances and doesn’t have the arm strength to fit the ball into some of the miniscule windows he sees. He also has a slender frame, which is worrisome at the next level.
Where I would draft him: Fifth round. Only a one-year starter, there’s a lack of experience here that is hard to trust, but it also makes me wonder if the decision-making can improve if Gordon is reigned in a little bit. He’s not a bad mid-to-late round choice.
9. James Morgan, Florida International (6-4, 229)
Morgan has good size and a great arm, which makes you wonder why he only had MAC offers coming out of Green Bay, even getting overlooked by QB-needy Wisconsin. He landed at Bowling Green and eventually transferred to Florida International, where he started all 24 games in two years. Morgan’s size, arm and intelligence (he graduated pre-law at Bowling Green) should get him drafted, but he lacks touch on his throws and his deep-ball accuracy is poor.
Where I would draft him: Sixth round. Morgan checks enough boxes to be brought into a quarterback room to be developed as a backup. I’d be surprised if he goes undrafted because you’d think the Packers would have the upper-hand in signing the Green Bay native as a free agent.
10. Steven Montez, Colorado (6-4, 231)
Three years ago, I thought Montez could have been a first round pick. With NFL size and an outstanding arm, he had superstar written all over him. But he never got better. His mechanics are all over the place and his accuracy is wildly inconsistent. He’s late to see routes open up and the internal clock is apparently broken. Still, Montez has traits to work with. He’s athletic and durable, starting 36 straight games in his final three years.
Where I would draft him: Seventh round. There are whispers that immaturity held Montez back at Colorado. Perhaps with better coaching in the pros, there’s still some untapped potential. I’d take a flier on him late in the draft.