The rookie quarterbacks entering the league from the 2020 NFL Draft class all have intriguing futures. During their rookie seasons, there were highs and lows for each individual. However, there is a clear hierarchy among the group.
Stacking Up the 2020 Draft Class of Rookie Quarterbacks After One Season
After one full season of watching this year’s rookie class of passers, the 2020 class seems to have yielded a good crop. With highlighted by top-ten picks Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, and Justin Herbert and complimented by still-early picks in Jordan Love and Jalen Hurts, there was plenty of intrigue about the bunch before they ever took their first snaps. Fans still haven’t seen Love for the Green Bay Packers, but the remainder provided a good sample of games.
What’s so intriguing about the bunch is the potential for all to be competent NFL starters. They all have strong skillsets that, on paper, equate well to NFL success. However, all the passers in the class have diversified skillsets, which makes comparing them a sort of apples-to-oranges conundrum. This is what makes them such an intriguing bunch. While some look like clear long-term starters, all have the potential to make their franchises very happy in the years ahead. All might not be able to carry teams to the Super Bowl, but all look like guys who can win games.
Certainly, one season isn’t enough to judge a passer. Truly any rookie needs a few seasons to adjust to the speed of the NFL. Often times, it takes until a quarterback’s second season to really see their professional ceiling. Sometimes, it takes even three or four seasons of pro football. Take Buffalo Bills rising star quarterback, Josh Allen, for example. He struggled for his first two seasons only to take his team to the AFC Championship in year three. The book is still out on all of the passers, but there’s enough to separate them from each other.
#4 – Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
While there needs to be more on tape before making conclusions on Tua, his rookie year wasn’t great for the Miami Dolphins. There’s a reason the Deshaun Watson to Miami rumors aren’t completely insane. Things didn’t start off for Tua the way that many had hoped. While many experts still think he has the highest ceiling, he needs to grow into his role. In his rookie year, he started in nine and played in ten games. He completed 64.1% of his passes for 1,814 yards, 11 touchdowns, and three interceptions. However, his 6.3 yards per attempt is an indicator of the bad for Tagovailoa. He was benched on several occasions for not getting the job done.
For much of the season, the Miami Dolphins leaned on 38-year-old journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. Now, the team around Tagovailoa seems to favor Fitzpatrick’s presence to his own. According to The Miami Herald, one of his teammates said, “We always think next man up no matter what, but I saw Tua as the next man up because Fitz was better.” Seemingly, the players agree on his mental make-up but aren’t seeing elite passing talent. That’s a big red flag for their quarterback from this 2020 Draft Class.
#3 – Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
While Jalen Hurts didn’t have a splashy rookie season, he did enough to make him an intriguing option for the future. Though the Philadelphia Eagles are reinvesting efforts into Carson Wentz for now, Hurts seems like a promising solution if things go south. The dual-threat nature of Hurts makes him a dangerous threat in the NFL. Still, through four starts, he’s not lighting it up as a passer. He completed 52% of his passes for 1,061 yards, six touchdowns, and four interceptions. His 7.2 yards per attempt is encouraging, but the accuracy is still an issue.
Hurts doesn’t have the same ceiling as his 2020 Draft Class contemporaries but certainly has future starting passer potential. Though, it’s worth noting that his arrival in Philadelphia greatly shook the core of key organizational figures. For one, Wentz was a shell of himself after the arrival of Hurts. Then, after benching Hurts in the last game of the regular season for Nate Sudfeld, coach Doug Pederson was fired. Maybe a more normal season in 2021 will benefit both Hurts and the Eagles.
#2 – Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
Perhaps the early-draft passer with the most question marks going into the draft, Justin Herbert looks like a home run pick for the Los Angeles Chargers after one season. Truly, he possesses the arm talent and moxie to win big games at this level. During the 2020 season, he completed 66.6% of his passes for 4,336 yards, 31 touchdowns, and ten interceptions. He also led the Chargers to six of their seven wins.
Still, year two will be crucial for Herbert. He’ll play in the second system in as many seasons, with the team shuffling coaches. Anthony Lynn was fired after coaching the Chargers to a 7-9 record. This team still has a roster that can compete for the playoffs. Shane Steichen could still return with new head coach Brandon Staley, but that seems somewhat unlikely. Year two also requires Herbert to integrate a little more ball protection into his game. To reach his ceiling, he needs to stop throwing so many 50-50 balls. Still, he looks like the real deal for the Chargers, who needed a new face-of-the-franchise quarterback.
#1 – Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
During his rookie season, though limited to 10 games, Burrow was everything the Cincinnati Bengals could dream. Of course, he’ll be returning next season after suffering a torn ACL, but that underscores the incredible season from Burrow. The marquee man from the 2020 Draft Class looks like the next big-deal quarterback for the league. Completing 65.3% of his passes for 2,688 yards, 13 touchdowns, and five interceptions, Burrow was solid. He did absorb 32 sacks in 10 games, which is still the ninth-most in the entire NFL. Improving the offensive line around him will greatly benefit the young passer, something the Bengals are poised to do this offseason.
An argument can certainly be made that Herbert should top this list. His numbers were better due to his full season and the arm talent is obvious. With that said, Burrow seemingly has the brightest future of any rookie passer from the bunch. It’s his poise, confidence, and intelligence that win the day for the 23-year-old passer from Athens, OH. With weapons like Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins on the team for the long haul, he’s going to be a huge threat for years to come.
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