2020 NFL Draft: Five QBs who won’t go in first round but should be on your radar, starting with Jalen Hurts

Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Jordan Love, Justin Herbert — these are the names that appear destined for the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Burrow will be the first-overall pick and Tagovailoa, Love and Herbert could all be off the board by the middle of the round. And there’s even a chance Jacob Eason finds his way into Round 1 too.

But what about those second-tier quarterbacks who won’t hear their name called on Day 1, and may even have to wait until later on Day 2 — or even Day 3? Who should we be watching for after the Burrows, Tagovailoas, Loves, Herberts and Easons are long gone?

Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma

How fast is Jalen Hurts? That’s what we wanted to know as we headed to Indianapolis last week for the combine. He didn’t disappoint, running a 4.59 40-yard time, which answered any lingering questions about his athleticism.

Hurts completed 69.7 percent of his throws last season for Oklahoma, with 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions. And that’s before we include the 1,298 rushing yards and 20 TDs. And while he’s five inches shorter than Herbert and three inches shorter than Love, he’s every bit the athlete. No, Hurts doesn’t have their arm strength, but he can make every throw — just as we saw in ’19, and during Senior Bowl week.

The knock is that Hurts is still raw; when his first read isn’t there, his eyes usually drop and he looks to run. That almost always works in Lincoln Riley’s offense against overmatched opponents but is problematic in the NFL. But there’s no reason to rush him onto the field at the next level; for us, Hurts is Taysom Hill but eight years younger and already a better passer. Put another way: There’s no reason to rush Hurts onto the field as a starting quarterback. Instead, have a package of plays for him — much like the Saints do for Hill — and ease him into the role of full-time QB.

He’s too good a player to waste away on the bench while he learns the intricacies of becoming an NFL passer, and it’s why we expect him go to in Round 3. But don’t be shocked if he slips into Round 2.

Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia

We wanted Jake Fromm to return to Georgia for his senior season. He chose to declare for the draft — as is certainly his right. But in the weeks since his announcement nothing has changed in our evaluation of him. At the combine, he ran a 5.01 40-yard dash — the slowest time among the 13 quarterbacks there — and his 30-inch vertical ranked ninth.

His lack of athleticism wasn’t a surprise — he wasn’t particularly athletic during his Georgia career — but it’s just a reminder that he needs to be in the perfect system to have sustained success at the next level. There is no questioning his football acumen but as the players around him get stronger and faster he’ll need more than a high IQ to win from one play to the next.

As we came to expect from the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Fromm in 2019 was almost always efficient from the pocket, regularly making the right reads and delivering short and intermediate passes accurately and on time. But questions about his arm strength and deep-ball accuracy persisted, even when the opponents were incapable of providing much in the way of competition.

Yes, he was the beneficiary of one of the country’s best offensive lines and running games, and that will be hard to replicate at the next level unless he lands with a winning franchise, but it’s not like Fromm hasn’t had his moments. He looked like a young Drew Brees against Notre Dame, but at other times during the season he looked like a quarterback destined to be a backup at the next level.

It’s reasonable to think Fromm could go in Round 3 but it wouldn’t surprise us if he lasted until Day 3.

Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State

Anthony Gordon is the latest prolific passer to come out of Washington State, but his game in many ways doesn’t resemble that of his predecessor, Gardner Minshew. At the combine, Gordon didn’t run the 40 but he more than held his own in the throwing drills and continued to make the case that he has one of the quickest releases in this draft class. We first saw that in person in Mobile, Ala., back in January when Gordon shined at the Senior Bowl.

And if Senior Bowl week was all about Justin Herbert and Jordan Love proving themselves to critics, Gordon was out to show that he was more than “just another guy from Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense.” In fact, Gordon made a good case for being the best player on the field at Ladd-Peebles Stadium for the Senior Bowl game. The knock on him coming into the week was that he didn’t always make the best decisions with the ball at Washington State, as evidenced by his 16 interceptions. But as Gordon told CBS Sports, his goal at the Senior Bowl was to prove that he could minimize those mistakes, and that’s exactly what he did.

Gordon was often efficient and accurate during the three Senior Bowl practices, even if he didn’t have the arm strength of the other QBs. But he showed during the game that arm strength is not everything. His savvy pocket presence served him well, and his footwork appeared improved from the 2019 season, when he would occasionally throw flat-footed, which led to off-the-mark passes that were sometimes intercepted.

Like Minshew before him, Gordon could be a pleasant surprise at the next level.

Steven Montez, Colorado

Steven Montez looks the part. And the combine did nothing to change that. Montez ran a 4.68 40-yard time, and had a vertical of 33 inches. That, along with his physical tools makes him — on paper, anyway — an attractive prospect.

“I think I have the biggest arm in the draft, point-blank, period,” Montez said at his combine press conference.

He might be right, but Montez struggled to put it all together at Colorado, which is why his first-round arm might not get him drafted until sometime on Day 3. He showed glimpses of big-play ability during Senior Bowl practices back in January but struggled in the game with poor decisions and a turnover. And that outing mirrored a lot of what we saw from him under center for Colorado in ’19.

Cole McDonald, Hawaii

Cole McDonald threw 33 touchdowns last season for Hawaii, and threw 36 the season before. The problem was that he also threw 24 interceptions over that same span. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, he’s not big by NFL quarterback standards, but there’s no denying his arm strength and athleticism. And that athleticism was on full display at the combine where McDonald blazed a 4.58 40-yard time and a 36-inch vertical — both tops among the quarterbacks in attendance.

But McDonald can sometimes make poor decisions, and his mechanics will need some fine-tuning at the next level. His deep-ball accuracy also needs improvement, though his athletic ability could make him an intriguing Day 3 prospect for some NFL teams.

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