The 2020 NFL Scouting Combine begins next week. As I have for the past decade-plus, I will travel to Indianapolis, Ind., for the festivities.
This is the biggest job interview these players will ever have in their lifetime. It’s a rigorous process where they work out for teams, get interviewed by almost every franchise and they undergo medical checks by interested teams.
The Combine is often called the “Underwear Olympics” by some in the media; many poke fun at the process. That’s a foolish outlook from the more ignorant minds.
While it’s not a huge part of a player’s grade – I say roughly one percent – the Combine does reveal a lot about a player coming into the league. Scouts and general managers can see how players respond to workouts, how they’ve prepared for this process, and how intelligent they are during interviews and work on the whiteboard. Film is the largest part of a player’s grade, but the Combine is not to be overlooked.
Here is my 2020 Combine preview for quarterbacks.
Four in Ten?
The 2020 NFL Draft is chock full of quarterback talent, especially up at the top. There may be as many as four quarterbacks to go off the board in the top 10 picks of the draft.
The first quarterback off the board is likely to be LSU’s Joe Burrow. He declined his invitation to the Senior Bowl earlier this year, but will be on the same stage as the other top prospects in this draft at the Combine. Burrow’s physical skill set is not the most impressive, as he doesn’t have a rocket arm like others. However, his intelligence and accuracy are off the charts. Burrow should interview well and a strong performance at the Combine could lock him into the No. 1 overall pick.
Oregon’s Justin Herbert had a very good week of practice at the Senior Bowl. He was the best quarterback at that game and is in the conversation for the No. 1 pick. Herbert has the physical traits that makes scouts drool. He is tall, has a rocket arm and can make throws into tight windows that others can’t. Herbert has questions about his maturity and the interview process during the Combine will be the biggest “tell” as to whether or not he’s a top-five pick or a top-10 pick.
Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa is arguably the best quarterback in this draft class. However, a major hip injury suffered last year will have to be looked at closely. Tagovailoa has athleticism and arm strength and plenty of great film to back up his first-round grade. His medical checks are going to be the deciding factor about where he lands in the draft. The Dolphins want him in a bad way at No.5 overall and they may have to move up in the draft if Tagovailoa checks out medically at the Combine.
There is a chance that Utah State’s Jordan Love winds up in the top 10 of the 2020 NFL Draft. Love was at the Senior Bowl and turned in a strong performance by being incredibly aggressive as a passer. He has drawn some comparisons to Patrick Mahomes due to his athleticism and ability to make crazy plays off scrambling. If Love is not selected in the top 10, I have heard that both the Raiders and Colts have interest – and they are picking No. 12 and No. 13, respectively. Love showed that he could hang with Herbert at the Senior Bowl, but now he’ll be on the stage with all the best in this class.
Mid-Rounders with Upside
Once the top quarterbacks are off the board, teams are looking for players who can give a team value as a mid-round pick. NFL teams would love to find a quarterback like Kirk Cousins in the mid rounds, even though Cousins took time to be a starter. Other teams want to find guys like Dak Prescott or Russell Wilson. Those players were mid-round picks who started as rookies (Wilson from day one) and give teams salary cap relief by playing at a high level on mid-round rookie contracts.
This year, one of the top mid-round quarterbacks could be Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts. A transfer from Alabama, Hurts has made progress as a passer during the course of his college career. He does a good job of making off-platform throws and can gash a defense with his legs. Hurts needs to work on going through his progressions, something that won’t be shown during the drills at the Combine. However, that is something he can show an understanding of during team interviews when put on a white board to break down plays. Hurts is best compared to former Jaguars starter David Garrard.
I don’t think he should be a mid-round guy, and don’t be surprised if he sneaks into the end of the first round, but Georgia’s Jake Fromm is a better-than-advertised passer. Fromm’s decision making as a passer is strong, although some just call him a game manager. He was asked to be conservative as a passer for the Bulldogs, but when he has to make quick decisions, Fromm can do that and make accurate throws. He does not have a strong arm and is almost zero threat as a rusher. Some team could find him as a Cousins-like prospect in the mid rounds if he falls that far in this quarterback-desperate league.
I believe NFL teams should select a quarterback every year in the draft – even if it’s a late-round prospect or undrafted free agent. This year, the quarterback class dries up pretty quickly. However, I do know of some late-round prospects that will be at the Combine that interest me, and should interest NFL teams in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft.
Steven Montez from the University of Colorado has the attention of the scouting community. He was at the Senior Bowl earlier this year and was arguably the third-best quarterback in attendance behind Herbert and Love. Montez has always been mechanically sound as a passer and he is athletic enough to use his legs to attack a defense. However, Montez has never played consistently or played up to his physical potential. With better coaching at the pro level, perhaps Montez reaches that level.
Kelly Bryant played college football first at Clemson before transferring to Missouri to finish his college career. At Clemson, Bryant was bounced due to superstar Trevor Lawrence. At Missouri, Bryant had the job of replacing Broncos 2019 second-round pick Drew Lock as the starter. He is a tough player who played through both hamstring and knee injuries in 2019 for the Tigers. I saw Bryant at the Shrine Bowl earlier this year and he showed off his trademark athleticism and ability to keep plays alive with his legs. However, his mechanics as a passer and pass placement need a lot of work. Perhaps some team will like what they see at the Combine and make Bryant a late-round developmental quarterback.