2020 Quarterback Class Set Up For Success in 2021

2020 quarterback class

The 2020 NFL Draft class was a class surprisingly not headlined by the quarterback position. Going into most drafts, the most important position in football is usually the highest priority for most teams. However, 2020 was dubbed the ‘Wide Receiver Draft’ due to the lush group of pass-catchers set to be selected. Seven receivers were drafted in the first round and nine more were drafted in the next two rounds.

The Quarterbacks may not have dominated the predraft talk but are now set to write headlines during the 2021 season. Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, and Justin Herbert were the first three quarterbacks taken in the 2020 draft and have each already began to make their mark in the NFL. The trio all showed flashes of top-10 talent last season but all have more to prove going into next season.

While the top-three quarterbacks taken in 2020 were the stars of last season, each Jalen Hurts and Jordan Love could be looking at breakout seasons of their own. They were the only two quarterbacks taken outside of the top-10 to be drafted before the fourth round.

Projecting any of these quarterbacks to win an MVP is tough but it should be noted that a second-year quarterback won the NFL MVP two of the previous three seasons — Patrick Mahomes in 2018 and Lamar Jackson in 2019. Carson Wentz was the front runner in his second year prior to getting hurt Week 14 of 2017. The 2020 class of quarterbacks are an exciting group and are ready to make their mark on the league in 2021.

2020 Quarterback Class Set Up For Success in 2021

The Blue Chip: Justin Herbert (6th-overall) – Los Angeles Chargers

While many pundits were low on Herbert coming into the draft, he was widely considered the most physically gifted quarterback in his class. His mix of mobility and arm strength at 6’6″ is hard to teach and he is already putting everything together at the NFL level. Herbert had the most successful rookie season amongst the first-year quarterbacks in 2021. In his first NFL season, he set the rookie records for most touchdown passes, total touchdowns, 300-yard passing games, and completions. His stellar play led to him being named Offensive Rookie of the Year. Beyond comparing his numbers to his fellow rookies, Herbert finished the season with the sixth-most passing yards in the NFL, 10th-most touchdown passes, and the 12th-highest passer rating.

Now in 2021, Herbert could establish himself as a full-blown superstar. The Chargers have been a historically disappointing team over the past decade but Herbert has made the transition from Philip Rivers a very smooth one. Combining Herbert’s production with a heavily upgraded offensive line could set up the Chargers well in the long run. Los Angeles has not made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since the 2008 and 2009 seasons. Herbert overperformed his draft stock in 2020 and is set to take another leap forward in 2021.

The Comeback Kid: Joe Burrow (1st-overall) – Cincinnati Bengals

There are always large expectations connected to being the first overall pick. Burrow saw a meteoric rise in his draft stock as he quarterbacked LSU to maybe the greatest single season in college football history and the idea that he could carry that momentum into the NFL was never realistic. The Bengals were a heavily flawed team in 2019 and carried many of those problems into 2020 — mainly on the offensive line. Burrow was hammered as a rookie, taking 32 sacks and 47 quarterback hits in just 10 games. All the pressure eventually came to a head as Burrow was removed from the Bengals Week 11 game against the Washington Football Team after a gruesome knee injury.

The Bengals may not have done a ton to upgrade their offensive line this past off-season but Burrow’s situation is looking a lot more comfortable in 2021 than it was in 2020. According to OLBG’s Football punters, Burrow has the second-highest odds to win NFL Comeback Player of the Year and should have every opportunity to put up points with his improved receiving corps. Cincinnati added Burrow’s favorite target at LSU, wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, with the fifth-overall pick in this past draft and are hoping for a potential breakout season from 2020 second-round pick Tee Higgins. If Burrow can get just average play out of his offensive line, he, Chase, and Higgins could form one of the most exciting young passing attacks in football.

The Unkown: Tua Tagovailoa (5th-overall) – Miami Dolphins

Prior to the 2020 draft, Tagovailoa was one of the most perplexing prospects in the entire class. He was coming off of a major hip injury that ended his college season in 2019 but had shown flashes of brilliance leading to the ‘Tank for Tua’ mantra before the start of the season. Many suggested essentially redshirting him as a rookie simply because the status of his injury was so unknown. However, Tagovailoa saw parts of 10 different games last season. Adjusting to the NFL was always going to be tough for a Tagovailoa but the position the Dolphins put him in was equally tough to succeed in. Miami had one of the worst offensive lines in football, no definite lead running back, and a fairly sparse group of wide receivers.

2021 is a chance to reset for Tagovailoa. His stats were relatively pedestrian as a rookie but the Dolphins offense has made a number of key additions to help aid the growth of their young quarterback. The additions of Will Fuller and rookie Jaylen Waddle should help Tagovailoa stretch the field while Myles Gaskin could begin to anchor the run game if he is able to stay relatively healthy. Miami will also be looking to Austin Jackson, Solomon Kinley, and Robert Hunt to step up their games after disappointing rookie seasons on the offensive line. There are a lot of moving parts in Miami’s offense but if they can just straighten a few out, Tagovailoa should improve on his 6-3 record from 2020.

The Underdog: Jalen Hurts (53rd-overall) – Philadelphia Eagles

When the Eagles selected Hurts in the second round of the 2020 draft, questions arose about how it affected Carson Wentz. The then-current Eagles quarterback was coming off of a solid 2019 season but had an extensive injury history. Wentz then struggled out of the gate in 2020 and never quite found his footing all year. He was benched Week 13 against the Green Bay Packers and Hurts got his first NFL start the following week. Hurts came out hot in his first two starts, throwing for a total of 505 yards and rushing for an additional 169 on the ground. However, his form dipped the following two games as Hurts turned the ball over four times on just 123 offensive snaps.

Hurts does not have a perfect situation going into next season. The entirety of the Eagles have dealt with injuries over the past few seasons but look to finally be embracing a rebuild. Up to seven of the eleven starters on Philadelphia’s offense will be under rookie contracts at the start of the 2021 season. However, just because they’re young, doesn’t mean they’re not capable of big things. Adding DeVonta Smith to the receiver room should give the Eagles the true number-one receiver they’ve been searching for. Smith’s presence should also open up 2020 first-round pick Jalen Reagor down the field. Hurts’ path to success is a little rockier than his classmates but he has the potential to surprise some people next season.

The Project: Jordan Love (26th-overall) – Green Bay Packers

In a perfect world, Love would not be starting for the Packers in 2021. He was a project quarterback coming out of Utah State and is yet to even dress for an NFL game. According to their general manager Brian Gutekunst “He’s got a long way to go” and the Packers likely don’t want to rush his development. The only problem is that they might not have a choice. It has been widely documented that Aaron Rodgers is unhappy in Green Bay and may never play for the team again. Therefore, the Packers may not have any choice but to rush their first-round pick from 2020 into action.

If Love were to step in for the Packers in 2021, he could not find a much better situation. Re-signing Aaron Jones gives the Packers a reliable three-down running back and DeVante Adams still remains one of the NFL’s best route runners. The Packers offensive line also ranked top-six in both pass and run protection in 2020 per Football Outsiders. Love may not be in the position the Packers want but he has the infrastructure to succeed if called upon this season.

Which Quarterback of the Class Will Take the Biggest Leap in 2021?

Each of the five quarterbacks listed above could step up their game next season but Tagovailoa looks poised to improve the most. He was asked to play behind a porous offensive line coming off of a potentially career-ending injury and was still able to put together a handful of solid games. Tagovailoa now has a year of NFL experience under his belt but is also blessed with a quality coaching staff and defense. The Dolphins should make a lot of noise next season if Tagovailoa shows the form that made him the Heisman runner-up in 2018. There is so much potential Tagovailoa is yet to show as a pro.

Main photo:
Embed from Getty Images