The quarterback class for the 2020 NFL draft has the potential to be loaded. There’s still much to learn about the signal-callers, however, and questions remain about whether at least a few might still return to school for another season.
Heisman-winning LSU quarterback Joe Burrow leads the group and could be the No. 1 pick in April’s draft, according to ESPN NFL draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, recovering from a season-ending hip injury, is a special talent. Oregon’s Justin Herbert has all the size and arm strength that you could ask for. NFL teams on the hunt for a quarterback will have plenty of options in Round 1.
We’ve identified seven quarterbacks to watch for the 2020 draft and outlined everything you need to know about them. We’ll include how you can watch them in their respective bowl games, their rankings from Kiper and McShay, strengths and weaknesses from McShay and input from NFL evaluators as told to ESPN’s Dan Graziano.
Year: Fifth-year senior | Age: 23 | Career starts: 26
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 216
Bowl game: College Football Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Saturday, Dec. 28 (4 p.m. ET, ESPN)
What more can we say about Burrow? A fringe draft prospect just a few months ago, he obliterated college football en route to an undefeated 2019 season, SEC records in passing yards and touchdowns and a Heisman Trophy. Now, not only is he a legitimate NFL prospect, but also a potential No. 1 overall pick (he is the first selection in McShay’s first mock draft).
An Ohio native, Burrow’s collegiate career began at Ohio State, where he threw 39 passes and two touchdowns during the 2016-17 seasons as J.T. Barrett’s backup. And after losing a quarterback battle with Dwayne Haskins in 2018, Burrow jumped on an opportunity to be a graduate transfer at LSU. Year 1 in Death Valley produced so-so results (57.8% completion percentage and a 16-5 TD-INT ratio), but when former New Orleans Saints assistant Joe Brady took over the passing game coordinator position with LSU in 2019, Burrow thrived. He is on pace to set the FBS record for completion percentage (77.9%) and is second to Tagovailoa in Total QBR (93.7).
Burrow’s standout traits include his precise accuracy and pocket awareness. He has displayed complete control of the Tigers’ offense all season, earning marquee wins over Auburn, Alabama and Georgia on his way to an SEC title and the College Football Playoff.
2019 stats: 4,715 passing yards, 48 TDs, 6 INTs
Rankings: Kiper’s QB1 (No. 2) | McShay’s QB1 (No. 2)
Burrow’s strength: Pocket presence, toughness and high-end accuracy
Burrow’s weakness: A solid but not elite arm
NFL evaluator on Burrow: “Amazing story. Really wasn’t on the radar at the beginning of this year as an early-round guy, but he’s got some skills, and he’s answered every question. Looks like the kind of guy you want as a franchise-type guy. The pre-draft process will dig into it more, but he’s got NFL throws. He seems like he’s got the right stuff inside of him.” — NFL personnel executive, as told to ESPN’s Dan Graziano
Take a look at the best highlights from Joe Burrow’s senior season, which saw him win the Heisman Trophy and lead LSU to a No. 1 ranking.
What’s next for Burrow: First up in the CFP for No. 1 seed LSU is Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl. Win that, and it’s on to the Jan. 13 title game in … New Orleans. Burrow is the fifth Heisman-winning quarterback in the CFP era, but the previous four haven’t won the title (Kyler Murray, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson and Marcus Mariota). Burrow also has an invite to the Senior Bowl, but it’s unclear whether he will accept. If not, NFL teams will wait until the LSU pro day and/or the combine to see him throw again ahead of the April draft.
Learn more about Burrow: Burrow electrifies LSU — and all of college football … Burrow’s meteoric rise to potential No. 1 NFL draft pick
Year: Senior | Age: 21 | Career starts: 41
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 219
Bowl game: College Football Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Saturday, Dec. 28 (4 p.m. ET, ESPN)
After three seasons at Alabama, Hurts lit up scoreboards in his senior campaign after graduating and transferring to Oklahoma. And if not for Burrow’s incredible campaign, Hurts likely would have been the third straight Sooners QB to win the Heisman. Instead, he’ll have to settle for an opportunity to win his second national championship.
Recruited out of Houston by the Crimson Tide, Hurts is a former competitive powerlifter, squatting 570 pounds as a high school junior. But his more impressive feats have come on the gridiron. As a freshman in Tuscaloosa, Hurts passed for 2,780 yards and ran for another 954, leading the Crimson Tide to a national title. In Year 2, he amassed a 17-1 TD-INT ratio and led the Tide to another title game — but was benched in the second half for Tagovailoa, who eventually led Bama all the way back to a second straight win. Hurts was Tagovailoa’s backup in 2018, but in a reversal of fortunes replaced Tagovailoa in the SEC title game, leading the Tide to a comeback win that took them to the CFP, before Tagovailoa returned.
Hurts left as a graduate transfer for Norman for the 2019 season, and he threw for 3,634 yards and added 1,255 on the ground, scoring 51 total touchdowns. His 11.8 yards per attempt this season is the highest in FBS history. Even so, accuracy continues to be a concern for NFL scouts, despite a jump in completion percentage to 71.8%. Hurts has an above-average arm and solid athleticism, but how much of his improvement can be attributed to playing for Lincoln Riley’s QB-friendly offense? That’s a question NFL teams will try to answer before April’s draft.
2019 stats: 3,634 passing yards, 32 TDs, 7 INTs
Rankings: Kiper’s QB8 | McShay’s QB9 (No. 99)
Hurts’ strength: Competitiveness and mobility
Hurts’ weakness: Accuracy
What’s next for Hurts: Despite a decorated collegiate career and a Heisman runner-up, Hurts is likely a midround prospect. But with at least one more game on the schedule — a CFP semifinal against LSU — as well as an invite to the Senior Bowl and workouts at both the combine and Sooners’ pro day on the docket, he has plenty of time to rise. Considering the successful years from mobile QBs such as Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen, teams might be more interested in taking a flier on Hurts, who has rushed for 3,231 yards over four college seasons, and trying to develop him.
Jalen Hurts does it all, as he runs in for a 28-yard touchdown, hauls in a 4-yard TD and throws a 3-yard score as the Sooners win Bedlam.
Learn more about Hurts: Hurts’ storybook ending comes just in time for Alabama … Is Hurts a legit NFL prospect? Kiper & McShay debate …Inside Hurts’ unprecedented spring at Oklahoma … How the Hurts experiment was conducted successfully at Bama
Year: Junior | Age: 21 | Career starts: 24
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 218
Bowl game: Vrbo Citrus Bowl, Wednesday, Jan. 1 (1 p.m. ET, ABC)
On talent alone, Tagovailoa would be the top-ranked quarterback in this draft class, even above Burrow, according to McShay. His 94.6 Total QBR is No. 1 in the nation, he displays elite accuracy — especially downfield — and is advanced in getting through his progressions. But of course, it’s about much more than just talent. The lefty suffered a significant hip injury in mid-November, adding a level of cloudiness to his draft projections, and he won’t be playing in the Crimson Tide’s bowl game.
The highly recruited Tagovailoa entered the scene during the national title game two years ago, replacing Hurts and leading the Crimson Tide to a come-from-behind victory over Clemson. He’d remain the starter, throwing for 43 touchdown passes during the 2018 season. And he was once again posting fantastic numbers in 2019 before the injury. He had at least four TD passes in six of his nine starts, and he left two of the other three early with injuries.
2019 stats: 2,840 passing yards, 33 TDs, 3 INTs
Rankings: Kiper’s QB2 (No. 3) | McShay’s QB2 (No. 12)
Tagovailoa’s strength: Natural instincts and deep accuracy
Tagovailoa’s weakness: Durability
NFL evaluator on Tagovailoa: “You love the talent and what he’s accomplished, but there were health concerns. What will the combine medicals show? You’re going to want your own doctors to get a look at him. He comes with a lot of questions right now just because you don’t know when you’ll have him.” — NFL personnel executive, as told to ESPN’s Dan Graziano
What’s next for Tagovailoa: A right hip dislocation and posterior wall fracture leaves Tagovailoa unable to play in Alabama’s bowl game, and unable to do much of anything else over the next few months as he recovers. NFL scouts will have to really monitor and evaluate how he progresses from the injury. And don’t count out a return to Alabama just yet. He could throw a curveball by opting to return to Tuscaloosa if he doesn’t declare for the draft before the Jan. 20 deadline.
Todd McShay praises Tua Tagovailoa’s abilities as a quarterback, but explains how his hip injury is causing uncertainty among NFL teams ahead of the draft.
Learn more about Tagovailoa: Tagovailoa injury timeline … Tagovailoa: Tough to pass on draft if top 10-15 pick … How Tagovailoa changed Alabama football forever
Year: Senior | Age: 21 | Career starts: 41
Height: 6-6 | Weight: 237
Bowl game: Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual, Wednesday, Jan. 1 (5 p.m. ET, ESPN)
If you want your quarterback to have size and a rocket arm, Herbert is your guy. A homegrown Eugene, Oregon, flamethrower who was a Ducks fan from an young age, he stepped into the starting gig early. And even as a freshman, Herbert managed 19 touchdown passes and threw only four interceptions. Herbert was one of the top names for the 2019 NFL draft class before opting to return to school.
This season, Herbert posted his best numbers to date, completing 66.7% of his passes with 32 touchdowns and five picks. Perhaps by no coincidence, it’s also his first season with the same head coach and same offensive scheme from the prior campaign. Herbert first had Mark Helfrich as the Ducks’ coach in 2016, then Willie Taggart in 2017. Now he is standing out in Mario Cristobal’s second season on the sideline.
In addition to the big arm, Herbert has mobility for his size, but he’s not a dual threat like Tagovailoa, Burrow and Hurts. And while Herbert’s decision-making has improved, he is still inconsistent as a passer. He has four games with at least four passing touchdowns but also five games with one or none.
2019 stats: 3,333 passing yards, 32 TDs, 5 INTs
Rankings: Kiper’s QB3 (No. 7) | McShay’s QB3 (No. 17)
Herbert’s strength: Arm/size combination with mobility
Herbert’s weakness: Inconsistency
NFL evaluator on Herbert: “An immensely talented and athletic quarterback and an even better person. He’s shown he’s a winner. If you were building a video-game quarterback, it would look like this. The height, the arm, the athleticism all jump out at you. He showed he actually was a leader and had presence this year. You look at the way his teammates look at him and talk about him, and it says everything.” — NFL scout, as told to ESPN’s Dan Graziano
Justin Herbert goes off for 333 yards and four touchdown passes as Oregon steamrolls Arizona 34-6.
What’s next for Herbert: Will we get a look at Herbert at the Senior Bowl? We’ll likely need to wait until after the Ducks’ Rose Bowl showdown with Wisconsin and its No. 16 pass defense to find out if he’ll accept his invite. Either way, be prepared to see the arm strength during the Oregon pro day and the combine testing.
Learn more about Herbert: If you haven’t seen Herbert yet, you’re missing out
Year: Junior | Age: 21 | Career starts: 41
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 220
Bowl game: Allstate Sugar Bowl, Wednesday, Jan. 1 (8:45 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Before he was the quarterback whose talent pushed Eason and potential 2021 prospect Justin Fields to transfer from Georgia, Fromm was a Little League star for his hometown Warner Robins team that fell just one win shy of the U.S. title game, hitting three homers and striking out 11 batters on the mound. As a freshman at Georgia, Fromm entered when Eason was injured and took similar command, playing so well that he kept the job when Eason ultimately returned.
Fromm might not match up with some of the others on this list in terms of physical attributes or arm strength, but he is a smart quarterback, timing his throws well, knowing when to take his shots and finding ways to win. His three seasons have seen no fewer than 22 passing touchdowns and no more than seven interceptions. Statistically, no campaign was better than his sophomore year, when he averaged 9.0 yards per attempt and threw 30 touchdowns and six picks.
2019 stats: 2,610 passing yards, 22 TDs, 5 INTs
Rankings: Kiper’s QB5 | McShay’s QB4 (No. 27)
Fromm’s strength: Football intelligence and competitiveness
Fromm’s weakness: Deep accuracy
Jake Fromm’s arm was on display as he threw four touchdowns to help Georgia beat Georgia Tech 45-21 and improve to 11-1.
What’s next for Fromm: Fromm is a name to watch as far as players returning to school. Just a junior, there’s a chance Fromm opts to play 2020 in Athens. But before we get to the Jan. 20 declaration deadline, Fromm first has to take care of business in the Sugar Bowl against Baylor, which is tied for third in the country in interceptions (17).
Learn more about Fromm: Fromm still isn’t afraid of the big moment
Year: Fourth-year junior | Age: 21 | Career starts: 32
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 225
Bowl game: 30-of-39 passing for 317 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in a 51-41 loss to Kent State in the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl
A California native, Love burst onto the scene in 2018 as a sophomore, throwing 32 touchdown passes and just six interceptions. He was the MVP of the 2018 New Mexico Bowl after dominating to the tune of 359 yards and four scores. With stellar 6-foot-4 frame and NFL-ready arm strength, scouts took notice. But a loss of playmakers from the Aggies’ offense led to a subpar 17-16 touchdown-interception ratio in the regular season. And after rushing for seven touchdowns in 2018, Love failed to score even one in 2019, though he rushed 28 more times. In a potential showcase game against LSU in October, Love went 15-for-30 with no touchdowns and three picks.
Love was just a two-star prospect when he was recruited by the Aggies, but he is now primed to be the first Utah State quarterback drafted in 30 years (Brent Snyder, seventh round in 1989), joining the likes of Carson Wentz and Josh Allen as Group of 5 quarterbacks to be selected in recent drafts.
2019 regular-season stats: 3,085 passing yards, 17 TDs, 16 INTs
Rankings: Kiper’s QB6 | McShay’s QB6 (No. 46)
Love’s strength: Raw tools, including good size, a strong arm and mobility
Love’s weakness: Ball security
Jordan Love and Siaosi Mariner connect on back-to-back passes, with the second having Mariner battle through contact for a 25-yard touchdown.
What’s next for Love: Love declared for the NFL draft on Dec. 10, forgoing his senior season at Utah State. A week later, however, he was charged with possession of a controlled substance, along with two teammates.
After finishing his career in Utah State’s bowl game loss to Kent State, Love will get a chance to talk to scouts and compete against elite talent at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, in January, and then will be one of the key quarterbacks to watch at the combine in Indianapolis in late February. There is still some mystery around Love’s true ceiling, but he has the potential to be a top-50 pick.
Year: Fourth-year junior | Age: 22 | Career starts: 25
Height: 6-6 | Weight: 227
Bowl game: 22-of-32 passing for 210 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions in a 38-7 win against Boise State in the Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl
On natural physical ability alone, Eason is an elite quarterback prospect. He’s big, strong and mobile, and he has a rocket arm. But he could still use a little more game experience.
Eason started his college career at Georgia, playing in 13 games for the Bulldogs back in 2016. But after just three passes in the 2017 opener, he was injured and turned the reins over to Jake Fromm. Fromm remained the starter for the rest of the season, leading Eason to transfer after the season and sit out the 2018 campaign as a result.
The son of a former Notre Dame receiver, Eason returned to his home state to play for the Huskies, starting the 2019 season with a four-touchdown performance in the opener. In fact, he recorded five games with at least three passing scores this season. Eason had an up-and-down season for the Huskies, however, leading McShay to call him the wild card of the 2020 class and suggest that he “would benefit from another full season of college reps.”
2019 stats: 2,922 passing yards, 22 TDs, 8 INTs
Rankings: Kiper’s QB4 | McShay’s QB5 (No. 28)
Eason’s strength: Arm strength
Eason’s weakness: Flexibility and short-area agility
NFL evaluator on Eason: “He’s an interesting one because he’s got such limited tape. Hardly played at Georgia, then transferred and had to sit out. He’s tall, athletic and has big-time arm talent. But with him there’s a lot of inexperience, and it’s hard to evaluate quarterbacks if you don’t see them go through situations more than once. If he comes out, there will be a limited amount of tape to evaluate him. But you can feel the arm strength and the athleticism.” — NFL scout, as told to ESPN’s Dan Graziano
Jacob Eason find Andre Baccellia on a short pass, who then makes it through four Boise State players on the way to the end zone for a Washington touchdown.
What’s next for Eason: All eyes turn to Jan. 20, the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2020 draft. Will Eason enter this year’s class? Or will he tack on some more game experience with another season at Washington?
Best of the rest
These quarterbacks are all thought to be likely Day 3 picks but could move up before the draft:
Nate Stanley, Iowa: A 6-foot-4 senior, Stanley has a good arm but comes with accuracy and decision-making concerns. After back-to-back seasons with 26 touchdowns, he threw just 14 this season. Stanley will look to improve on the final two months of his season, in which he threw more interceptions than TDs, in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 26 against USC.
Anthony Gordon, Washington State: A junior college transfer, Gordon had to wait until his redshirt senior season to get a shot, backing up Gardner Minshew II in 2018. But it’s paid off for the 6-foot-3 passer. Gordon was among the nation’s leaders in most categories, including 5,228 passing yards (first) and 45 touchdowns (second). He had a 600-yard game and nine 400-yard games. He had a nine-touchdown game. Gordon’s plus-arm and great field vision will be on display at the Cheez-It Bowl against Air Force on Dec. 27. Gordon has also accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl.
Steven Montez, Colorado: Montez piled on 2,808 yards, 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in his 2019 season, and he will also show his talents at the Senior Bowl in January. Montez’s father, Alfred, played for one season with the Oakland Raiders in the 1990s.