Four Quarterbacks chasing NFL Draft first round status

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I thought that a little bit of different NFL Draft content would be nice. Something that is fresh, original, and informative. I thought it would be a great idea to ask around a bunch of scouts/experts and see what they think four quarterback prospects need to do for the rest of the season to be first round NFL Draft prospects.

We have seen plenty of quarterbacks become first round prospects that weren’t considered such before the start of a season. Kyler Murray wasn’t considered a draftable option before week one, and he went first overall. Baker Mayfield the year before Kyler, as well as players like Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, Lamar Jackson, Dwayne Haskins, and the list goes on.

With clear first round prospects in Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert, NFL teams are looking for other guys who would be worthy of being selected in that first round. So many teams will be looking for a quarterback come April that this position is very important.

That being said, let’s look at four quarterbacks chasing that first round status and trying to prove that they can be the face of a franchise.

Jacob Eason, Washington

Jacob Eason was a 5 star recruit from Washington just four years ago, committed to Georgia and playing as a true freshman. Eason looked as if he would be the next Matthew Stafford, showing elite traits and skills that made scouts drool. However, fate would have it’s hand as he lost the head coach who recruited him, Mark Richt, fell to an ankle injury early in the season opener, and lost his job to a new true freshman, Jake Fromm.

Eason transferred after the season back home to Washington and was forced to sit a season per NCAA rules. Now, as a redshirt-Junior prospect, Eason is tearing it up for the Washington Huskies.

What the NFL Draft scouts like

Eason has a cannon for an arm, possibly the best arm strength in the class of quarterbacks. One scout told me that his game against BYU last week “has been the best showing of arm talent from any quarterback all year.”

It’s really not a joke. Eason lit up the scoreboard against the Mormans from Utah, throwing for 290 yards, completing 85% of his passes and scoring 3 touchdowns. The first two throws of the game were absolute dimes, but all three showed impressive talent.

The video above the paragraph is his second strike of the day. This throw is remarkable because of the size of the window that Eason had to throw this ball through. There is the leaping linebacker underneath the route, the trailing cornerback and the converging safety by the end zone. Eason just makes it look easy, having the confidence to window that throw.

What they don’t like

First, it’s pretty obvious. Jacob didn’t play for two years, so there is a lack of tape available. Scouts definitely want to see a full season of playing at a very high level and see how he reacts to adversity in-game.

Maturity seems to be another issue. One scout told me that Eason “needs to grow up, realize (that) this is meant to be difficult, and truly embrace the finer details of the position.” Some scouts feel as though he lost Georgia head coach Kirby Smart’s interest because he relied on his physical traits instead of digging into the mental side of playing quarterback, something that Jake Fromm takes very seriously.

You can see a lot of that in this play. California’s defense got Eason out of rhythm and he shut down. Eason should have stepped up in the pocket and toward the defender ro deliver a good football. Instead, Eason puts up a touch throw off of his back foot for his tight end, well covered, and allows an additional defender, the safety, time to come down and break up the pass. Come on, dude, it’s second and goal. Don’t try to force it, and step into your throw.

Keep your head in the game, Jacob!

It appears that he can be cocky too, sometimes trying to force too much to happen on a play. Here, it appears that he thinks he is invincible, trying to fit this ball into a window that not even an NFL quarterback could complete.

What Jacob Eason needs to do

Eason’s numbers have been fine up to this point of the season. He’s got to calm it down a little bit with forcing the incredible throws, trying to make things happen all of the time. He needs to realize it’s okay to complete check-downs, take what the defense gives you and do these little things to keep himself in rhythm.

Pre-Draft interviews are going to be huge for Eason. If NFL teams think he’s too cocky or not interested in learning enough, his stock will drop. Eason can put a lot of concerns to rest with a good season and a good combine, and maybe work his way into mid-to-late first round conversation.

Jordan Love, Utah State

Jordan Love has come on as a legitimate NFL Draft prospect since early last season when Utah State almost upset Michigan State in East Lansing. A redshirt-sophomore at the time, people speculated whether Love would ultimately go pro or stay another year. I watched him a good bit in that time period in case he did declare, but wisely he didn’t.

So far, Love has looked pretty good in games against Wake Forest and San Diego State, all with a new head coach (Gary Anderson) and a new scheme.

What NFL Draft scouts like

Jordan Love has arm talent. Watching him throw a football is often a very beautiful sight, as the ball moves so perfectly and Love makes it look so effortlessly easy. One scout told me that Love has “a first round skill set and the need is too great in the league for him to slide.”

Love can make any throw that he is asked to make. Another scout told me that he believes that Love “is already a first round prospect thanks to elite physical traits and NFL type flashes.” He certainly fits the physical mold, standing at 6’4″ and 220 lbs. His athleticism is among the best in the class as well, but he doesn’t move to run. He moves to extend the play and throw the ball.

Love came out against Wake Forest to open the season and made some huge throws. This one here highlights his arm strength, placement and accuracy all in one throw.

What they don’t like

In my conversations with other experts and scouts, I kept hearing the same issues. Love has a few mechanical flaws that he needs to work on fixing. Most people would like to see Love step up with his footwork, and some of the other mechanical issues to the game.

As you can see on this play, Love’s feet go stone-cold, and he stands in the pocket. He delivers a great throw, but this is a bad habit to get into. If a quarterback’s feet aren’t active, the quarterback isn’t ready to move as needed in the pocket leaving him liable to take a sack. One scout told me Love needs to improve his “mechanics, polish, (and) proving it against top competition.” Another pointed out that Love has lost some of his best targets from last season but he “needs to overcome that.”

Some of the mental aspects to the game need improvement too, as this scout told me that he is “a big fan but (Love’s) much less effective when his first read’s taken from him.”

The last thing that scouts want to see is consistency. Love has been a roller coaster at times. One week, he throws for 322 yards and a school record 5 touchdowns, and the next week he attempts more passes, throws for 53 and an interception. Teams do want to see him play more consistently, especially in the big games. His game on the 5th of October in LSU will be huge.

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What we need to see

Love is already almost a first round pick. One scout told me he needs to “not get injured and declare for the draft” to be a first round prospect. Teams will want to see him put the work into his footwork (did I just see Jordan Palmer?) and polish his pocket-presence. Another scout said that Love “needs to master second reaction plays (and) he needs to play like Russell Wilson.”

With a good combine performance, interviews with NFL teams and a good performance on the whiteboard, Love’s stock is going to go through the roof . He could even end up going top 10.

Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts (1) carries the ball during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Houston Cougars at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. Oklahoma won 49-31. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]
Jalen Hurts was one of the most successful quarterbacks in Alabama program history. He won the starting job on the opening night of his true freshman season, and led Alabama to a 26-2 record as their starting quarterback. After going down 13-0 to Georgia in the National Championship during Hurts’ sophomore season, he was benched at halftime and replaced by true freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

The rest is history.

Jalen got his dues when Tagovailoa fell to injury in the SEC Championship game against Georgia the very next year. This time, Jalen led them back from a 21-14 deficit and led them to a 35-28 victory. After the season, Hurts transferred to Oklahoma and head coach Lincoln Riley, where the last two Heisman winners had transferred to and won the trophy.

Hurts has made huge strides since coming to Oklahoma, both as a passer and as a leader. Not only is he the frontrunner for the Heisman trophy, he has the respect and admiration of America behind him. He is the definition of a franchise guy in the locker room, a leader and a motivator.

What NFL Draft scouts like

Everyone agrees thus far that Hurts is having an amazing season. Since arriving in Oklahoma, Hurts has shown much improved passer mechanics, able to make throws consistently that we didn’t see at Alabama. His ability as a dual threat quarterback is Cam Newton-like, in the sense that he creates so much opportunity within the play with his legs.

Jalen has an arm, unlike what most people know or believe. He proved that at Alabama with a few throws he rifled into places. The thing that well-informed scouts wanted to see was Hurts make those throws consistently.

What they don’t like

Scouts don’t like the tape from his Alabama days. “His tools are exciting,” one scout told me, “but he has to continue making us forget about his erratic play at Alabama – not in the OU system.”

Jalen’s struggles at Alabama with his reads and progressions are what scouts are trying to comprehend. He has shown the ability to get to the second and third reads at Oklahoma, so why not at Alabama?

Either way, consistency is what scouts want to see this season, as well as smarts in the combine interviews. Another scout told me he needed to see Hurts score at least a 23 on the wonderlick, the NFL’s infamous IQ test that every quarterback takes.

Jake Fromm, Georgia

ATHENS, GEORGIA – SEPTEMBER 21: Jake Fromm #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs tires to outrun the tackle by Lewis Cine #8 of the Georgia Bulldogs during the second half at Sanford Stadium on September 21, 2019 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Jake Fromm is a guy who shines in the toughest moments. From leading a little league team from Georgia to the Little League World Series to leading the Georgia Bulldogs to a National Championship game, Fromm has always been a leader since the beginning of his sports days. Fromm appeared on QB1 on Netflix with a personality we all can relate to. He is infectious, an incredible locker room guy with great passion for the game of football. He has fought through adversity and came out stronger because of it.

Fromm is just a small town boy in a big town world. Athens, Georgia, is not exactly the biggest of cities. It’s close to home for Fromm, which is why he plays at Georgia.

Former head coach Mark Richt had no interest in recruiting Fromm, as he had just landed Jacob Eason from the west coast and has his quarterback situation squared away for the next four years. However, he was fired, and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was hired.

Fromm was actually committed to Alabama at the time, and Smart was familiar with the kid. He extended a scholarship offer to Fromm from Georgia, which Fromm immediately accepted. The first week of Fromm’s career, he was playing on the field for the Bulldogs.

What NFL Draft Scouts like

Fromm has proven to be the complete game manager. Running a pro style power run scheme, Fromm has effectively thrown the ball when he has needed to. In week four’s match-up against Notre Dame, Fromm came out slinging in the third quarter and led Georgia to a much needed touchdown by making incredible throws all over the field.

His back shoulder and deep out throws are always spot on, which tells us that Fromm’s anticipation is among the best in the country. Fromm works with his receivers very often and with his personality they form a strong chemistry. This is one of the many reasons why NFL Draft scouts are going to love Jake Fromm.

One scout assessed Fromm as “accurate, smart and fast with processing, and has some very crisp mechanics.” Then, he added, “I think he’s a first rounder if he doesn’t implode.”

Fromm is as consistent as they come. He very rarely has a bad game, and you know what you are going to get from him. Plus, he has always stepped up and played well in the biggest games.

What they don’t like

Fromm’s arm strength is a little lacking. Sometimes, he doesn’t appear to have the arm to drive in throws on big play opportunities down the field. Because of that concern, teams are also unsure if he can make NFL throws against press coverage, something being used more in the NFL every year.

Scouts also feel as though Fromm is limited outside of the structure of the play. When the play breaks down, and Fromm has to improvise, they feel as though he doesn’t do so well. If you look into the two games where he wasn’t himself, at Auburn as a freshman and at LSU as a sophomore, it was because the defense’s disrupted the offense and forced him to try and make plays on the fly. While he processes things quick, he wanted a script, and it wasn’t there.

The NFL Draft grind

All four of these quarterbacks will be drafted. They should hear their names called before the start of day three. They are all immensely talented and have made college football better in the last four years. I firmly believe all four of them could be stars in the NFL some day, all talented quarterbacks with a franchise building around them and believing in them.

This process is a grind. This work was in no way meant to slander on these quarterbacks, nor discourage them from the paths that they have chosen or the dreams that they are chasing. It was meant to be an enlightenment for people to understand what these young men are pursuing. They are chasing perfection, constantly working on their craft.

Football is more than just a game or a job.

It’s an art.

It’s a powerful individual statement made by the players, the coaches, and the teams every single day.

Football is a way of life.

Follow John on Twitter @johndavogel and get into the NFL Draft conversation! 

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