It’s just about time to embark on college football bowl season. And if you’re a fan (or graduate) of a school whose team is leaving the cold in the dust for games in better climates, consider yourself lucky.
As for the rest of us, we’ll be watching to see what college players stand out and could possibly make sense as a fit for our favorite professional teams. And from a Bears perspective, our eyes will be fixated on the quarterbacks.
Thankfully, Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus has us covered with a guide to bowl season quarterbacking. Renner puts together a list of the 80 quarterbacks slated to participate in bowl games, ranking them by pro potential. It’s a comprehensive list, to be sure, and one that you should clear some time to check out. But for now, let’s focus on the draft-eligible signal callers who are bowl bound.
LSU’s Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow will be long gone when Chicago will be on the clock. As will Oregon’s Justin Herbert, who is a mortal lock to be taken in the first round and could land among the first 10 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft. HOWEVER, there are a handful of prospects who are high on PFF’s list and could conceivably be available in Round 2. These are the types of players we have focused our attention on for the sake of this post.
Alright, let’s get to it.
Jake Fromm, Georgia
Fromm is fifth-highest-ranked quarterback on this list and the third highest among the draft-eligible prospects. Renner calls Fromm a coach’s dream because of his decision-making, risk aversion, and command of the offense — something the quarterback has shown off since being a true freshman. That Fromm has made just six turnover-worthy plays by PFF’s count is something that a coach would easily fall for in the evaluation process. However, Fromm’s arm strength is described as limited and there is a belief that he will top out as a game manager as a pro. At face value, Fromm looks like the type of prospect who could use some seasoning behind an established starter, but not too much as to keep him from filling in for an injured player at a moment’s notice. Perhaps that is reason enough for the junior to go back to school for his senior year to tie up some loose ends in his game.
You can check out Fromm and the Bulldogs take on Baylor in the Sugar Bowl.
Jordan Love, Utah State
Love is right behind Fromm on the list as the sixth best quarterback bowl season has to offer. But unlike Fromm, Love boasts high-end athleticism and talent that shows itself in a top-5 ranking with 29 “big-time throws” according to PFF’s data. Also unlike Fromm, Love has a tendency to force the issue and make some head-scratching mistakes — evidenced by his top-5 ranking in turnover-worthy plays. The high-risk, high-reward profile reminds me of Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (but without the backing of a brand-name university or the off-field issues). Love announced he will enter the draft after the bowl game.
Based on his athleticism alone, Utah State’s game against Kent State in the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl.
Jacob Eason, Washington
Eason is draft eligible, but Renner cautions that he could return to Washington for his senior season. There is plenty of love for Eason’s arm talent, but a 36.4 passing grade when under pressure (compared to his 92.0 rating in a clean pocket) is alarming. Eason’s arm and athleticism would probably get a first-round grade, even if he appears to be rough around the edges.
Washington takes on Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl, and I can imagine Eason wants to send head coach Chris Peterson out with a win.
Jamie Newman, Wake Forest
Newman is a late-riser who we highlighted early in the year as someone to keep an eye on. His deep-ball passing skills have been lauded, as has his ability to throw into tight coverage. Newman’s 89.7 passing grade is impressive and evidence of a breakout season, but Renner notes that an offense that will unlock and properly use his running skills will be important to him finding success at the next level. Gosh, that sounds alarmingly familiar.
Newman and the Demon Deacons will play Michigan State in the Pinstripe Bowl, which will put the signal caller in what projects to be chilly winter conditions of New York City at Yankees Stadium.
Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
Hurts has been pegged as the anti-Trubisky because of his notable and lengthy track record of success at the college level. To go from trusted to start as a freshman for a championship-caliber Alabama squad under Nick Saban, to benched behind rising star Tua Tagovailoa, to a resurgence with the Crimson Tide, and a successful picking up of Lincoln Riley’s offense at Oklahoma is the type of journey that shows Hurts has the mettle to make it at the next level. But while Renner believes there’s a path for Hurts to be successful, the feeling is that he will need a run-heavy offense to make it happen because of his inconsistency with throwing downfield. Hence, he isn’t getting the first-round love the likes that Kyler Murray received last year.
There are 75 other quarterbacks Renner profiles for this piece. Among them are Class of 2021 standouts such as Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields. We’ll cross the bridge of diving into their profiles when the time comes in 2020. Though, if it was up to me, the Bears will find their long-term quarterback solution this coming offseason and don’t look back for another 20 years or so.
The Sooners play LSU in the Peach Bowl, which will mark another game on a big stage for Hurts and Riley’s high-octane offense.