The buzz surrounding this year’s quarterbacks is growing at a rate I wasn’t expecting.
In a recent Senior Bowl round-up, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller spoke with an anonymous NFL personnel executive who believes five quarterbacks will be taken within the first 15 picks of the 2020 NFL Draft. Five. Cinco. Cinq. Cinque. Not just five in the first round … five (!!!!!) in the top-15. That’s pretty bonkers, so let’s talk about it for a moment.
Here are the teams picking in the top-15:
OK, but how do we get five quarterbacks going in this part of the draft? It’s a great question, one which comes with an answer that leads you down a winding path.
Let’s start with the three quarterbacks appear to have locked down first-round grades. LSU’s Joe Burrow torched every top tier defense thrown in front of him in one of the greatest college football seasons ever. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa was a pre-season lock to be the first quarterback off the board before injuries (and Burrow’s breakout) bumped him down a few slots. Oregon’s Justin Herbert was long viewed as the top draft-eligible quarterback in last year’s class before he returned to school and Kyler Murray committed his full attention to football.
Through that lens, it is easy to envision Burrow, Tagovailoa, and Herbert going in the top-10. Heck, it is easy to see those three end up as top-6 picks. That leaves us with two quarterbacks to go within nine spots. But how do we get there? Follow more for a little longer.
You can essentially cross Washington, the Giants, Cardinals, Browns, and Jets off the list of teams that would select a quarterback — especially since each of these teams has used a first-round selection on a signal caller in one of the last two drafts. This leaves us with the Lions, Panthers, Jaguars, Raiders, Colts, Buccaneers, and Broncos as possibilities. Now we’re talking about finding two quarterback fits and seven remaining teams.
Maybe we’ll cut it to six because Denver seems high on Drew Lock, a second-round pick in the 2019 draft. Perhaps we’ll exclude Jacksonville as well, which might have secured lightning in a bottle with Gardner Minshew II. For the sake of this post, we are now down to two quarterbacks for five teams. This is where it gets tricky.
The Lions, Panthers, Raiders, and Colts have veteran quarterbacks under contract for the 2020 NFL season. But Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton are coming off seasons in which they were banged up. It is conceivable that either (or both?) of those franchises would be interested in drafting an heir apparent. Derek Carr is the face of a franchise moving from Oakland to Las Vegas, which I’m not sure if that works for or against him. In either case, it doesn’t take much of an imagination to see Jon Gruden wanting a new toy for his new team in its new digs.
Meanwhile, the Colts are in a position to take a swing at a quarterback prospect who might take a year to develop behind Jacoby Brissett and Brian Hoyer, then surround that player with waves of big-money free agents while a hypothetical quarterback prospect operates on a rookie-scale deal. And because the Buccaneers could easily jettison Jameis Winston to the free agent market and bring in a new signal caller for Bruce Arians to mold as a head coach, Tampa’s squad is on the list, too.
Now that we have identified which teams could take quarterbacks, an even bigger challenge is to to find two more quarterbacks who could conceivably be drafted in the top-15.
The general feeling all along has been that there could be as many as five QBs taken within the first 50 picks, but perhaps that feeling is changing. As we noted last week, NFL Draft insider Daniel Jeremiah had six quarterbacks on his top-50 big board. Both he and BR’s Matt Miller have Utah State’s Jordan Love checking in among their top-20 prospects. Jeremiah has Love at 20th, while Miller ranks him 16th. Jumping from the top-20 to the top-15 isn’t much of a stretch. But in the end, I simply can’t wrap my mind around Jake Fromm (Georgia) or Jacob Eason (Washington) crashing into the top-15. Not right now, at least. But that doesn’t mean things can’t change down the line.
One of my favorite tidbits about the 2017 NFL Draft is that Mel Kiper Jr.’s first mock at ESPN didn’t feature Patrick Mahomes as a projected first-round pick. And there were some mock drafts that had North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky as the only quarterback predicted to go in the first round. The idea of three quarterbacks going off the board in the first round didn’t gain steam until March or April. Heck, it wasn’t until April when the Bears were viewed as a team that would be willing to draft a first-round quarterback.
So much can (and will) change between now and draft weekend. But one thing that is certain is that the quarterback noise isn’t going away any time soon.