The "The Triple Take" now moves to the quarterbacks. In our seventh installment of this draft prospect preview by position, the Steelers Radio Network trio of Matt Williamson, Bruce Gradkowski and Mike Prisuta give their takes on the top prospects at the quarterback position. If you want to hear the audio version of "The Triple Take" click here.
Bruce's Take ...
Bruce Gradkowski: Picking your franchise QB isn't an easy task. So many teams go through it each and every year. There's no perfect science as we saw Trubisky go before Mahomes. I believe in this draft after Burrow and Tua it's a crapshoot. Let's take a look at my top guys.
#5 - Jake Fromm, Georgia (6-2, 219 lbs.) - Fromm is a guy you just want to love. He's the perfect teammate and locker room guy. He has incredible experience running a pro style offense and has had a ton of success since his true freshman year at Georgia. He understands footwork and timing because he has to. He doesn't have the biggest arm, so he must win with anticipation and timing. At times his delivery can get low because he drops his elbow. He can operate an NFL offense from day one and with the right system he can be successful. Fromm will play a long time in the NFL.
#4 - Jordan Love, Utah State (6-3, 224 lbs.) - Love took a step back in 2019, but had also lost his coaching staff from the previous year. Along with that he lost 9 offensive starters from 2018. Love shows the big play ability as he threw a PFF grade of 31 Big time throws only behind Burrow's 43 BTT. The spectacular plays are great, but he can be very inconsistent at times as we saw his PFF grade of 26 turnover worthy plays this year. If everything surrounding him is right, and he has playmakers and in the right system, he can be successful. I'm not confident he will elevate the play of his teammates. I do like his footwork and natural ability as a passer. He can create plays with his legs and has the ability to drop some dimes on the run. His game can transition very well to an NFL offense. A stat that alarms me is his uncatchable inaccurate throws of 10-19 yds while he's in rhythm and the receiver is open.
#3 - Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma (6-1, 222 lbs.) - My number three QB may come as a surprise, but it's unusual for a QB to excel in two different college systems in his career with two different teams. Russel Wilson has been one of these. Though Jalen Hurts isn't the natural thrower of the football Wilson is, they do have similarities. A team can build a unique offense around Hurts with the run game and pass game utilizing his skill set. He's a winner and a team player. He has impressed me every step of the way after the season. From the senior bowl (where he continued to improve every day), to the combine, and his pro day. He has shown he can learn the timing and rhythm of an NFL offense with his feet. He doesn't have the biggest arm but he can make all the necessary throws. He lacks anticipation and he's a "see it throw it" type of QB. I love his mindset and winning mentality. The most impressive PFF stat from Hurts was he was second behind Burrow in throwing the least amount of uncatchable inaccurate throws (in rhythm and at a depth of 10-19 yds).
#2 - Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama (6-0, 217 lbs.) - Tua is one of the most interesting QB's in this class. He has the ability to be a phenomenal player, as we have seen in college. The big question will not be about his hip rather than if he will be injury prone in the NFL. Tua has great athleticism to create plays and has footwork that will transition well to the NFL. While he does lack a little arm strength, he can make all the throws and is a good decision maker. A key PFF stat with Tua is that he only had 24 Turnover worthy plays in his entire college career- a stat that in 2019 alone 4 college QB'S suffered.
#1 - Joe Burrow, LSU (6-3, 221 lbs.) - His game will transition very well to the NFL. He's a smooth operator with great poise and composure. He has great feet, timing, and rhythm. Has the athleticism to make some plays with his legs and I love the fact he was an all-state basketball player in high school. It proves he has good instincts and can see the field. Burrow's stats this year have been mind blowing. Burrow doesn't miss many throws- especially in rhythm and throwing the ball 10-19 yards downfield (PFF grade 99.9). In my opinion, he always has control of where he wants to put the football. The most important factor he brings to the locker room is that he's a temperature changer- he has the ability to control the pulse of the team.
Matt's Take ...
Matt Williamson: This is an interesting quarterback class. There is star power at the very top, but also some serious questions, especially with the current state of the world in which we are living, about some quarterback prospects that are slated to be early picks. Without player visits and the like, will teams be as confident about handing the keys to the palace over to a young player that they haven't spent as much time with or have as much information about as in other years? It will be very interesting how that all plays out.
#5 - Jake Fromm, Georgia (6-2, 219 lbs.) - Neither Jacob Eason or Justin Fields could beat out Fromm at Georgia and then they transferred to Washington and Ohio State respectively. There is a misconception that Fromm doesn't have enough arm strength to succeed in the NFL. While his arm isn't great, if he lands in the right system, he can generate the velocity necessary to get the job done. His overall athleticism and physicality for the position are concerns though. Fromm has an excellent head for the game and is a very quick processor. You match that with well above average accuracy and it isn't difficult to envision Fromm going on to have a long productive NFL career if he lands in the right system for his skillset.
#4 - Jordan Love, Utah State (6-3, 224 lbs.) - Love has a ton of natural ability. He makes throwing the ball look easy and does it from all sorts of platforms. Love can be very elusive in the pocket and does a great job of escaping pressure, but also can play quite frenetic in this regard. He is a very good athlete and without question, is entering the league at the right time as all NFL teams are in hot pursuit of "The next Patrick Mahomes". But unlike Mahomes, Love makes the same mistakes over and over. He regressed drastically from 2018 to this past year, but almost his entire supporting cast and offensive system were different. That is somewhat understandable but continuing to make the same type of mistakes over and over is a bit maddening. Love has a very high ceiling and needs time to sit and learn, but he also has a very low floor.
#3 - Justin Herbert, Oregon (6-6, 236 lbs.) - All the physical traits are there for Herbert. He certainly looks the part, has a huge arm and is a very good athlete. In fact, Herbert probably has the best arm in this class. But his skills from the pocket and accuracy don't compare with Burrow's or Tagovailoa's. And has he really improved all that much since arriving at Oregon? His college offense didn't throw deep nearly as often as you would expect considering Herbert's skillset. One real area of concern with Herbert is how he deals with pressure. Still, there is a lot to work with here.
#2 - Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama (6-0, 217 lbs.) - This one of course is all about injuries and that is difficult to speak intelligently about right now. That was "injuries" plural. Tagovailoa has had numerous durability concerns since arriving at Alabama and it is only going to get more difficult on his body going forward. Okay, putting the medical aside, there is a ton to love about Tagovailoa. He was ridiculously productive at the college level and consistently demonstrated fantastic ball placement. He is a twitchy athlete with light feet which he uses more within the pocket rather than as a runner. He reads and manipulates the field extremely well. Tagovailoa diced up the best defenses he faced at the college level.
#1 - Joe Burrow, LSU (6-3, 221 lbs.) - Burrow just came off what was likely the best year any college quarterback has ever produced. His accuracy and ball placement are uncanny. His pocket presence is simply elite. Burrow plays with extreme confidence and swagger that he backs up snap after snap. Few college quarterbacks have shown Burrow's command of the position. Burrow does look very much as close to a sure bet as you will find, but there are a few concerns. He is an older prospect, only has one year of top production at the college level and has a very average arm, which is worry considering that Burrow is likely to be playing quite a few late season games in non-ideal weather conditions as a member of the Bengals. Still, Burrow is an elite prospect and few have entered the league better from the neck up.
Mike's Take ...
Mike Prisuta: The game is changing and quarterbacks such as Pat Mahomes are changing it, as are those capable of playing Mahomes' game.
"I was always taught accuracy, poise, decision-making, those were the three qualities," former NFL scout and current NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah maintained regarding how quarterbacks should be evaluated first and foremost. "As we've seen the game change a little bit, play-making is almost that fourth quality."
It's not that play-making has ever been discouraged among quarterbacks.
But they're more and more being asked to make more plays in different ways because of the demands of the game.
"Ultimately, their job is to score points," Saints head coach Sean Payton told the NFL Network during coverage of the NFL Scouting Combine. "How does that happen? I think we've always had value on agility and mobility. Listening to (former 49ers head coach) Bill Walsh talk about the West Coast offense, he put a premium on the quarterback's ability to move.
"Now, whether he was going to be someone that could run for a lot of yards, that's a different story. But we play in an imperfect game. The pass rush is difficult. When things become a little murky in the pocket, to have somebody that can work his way out of problems and make good things happen is certainly a plus."
The premium on having that somebody is such that, "I think the third quarterback in this class is going to end up being a Top 10 pick," Jeremiah predicted during the Combine.
The mock draft Jeremiah posted on NFL.com on April 7 had three quarterbacks being selected in the Top 6.
Here's one look at how the best of this year's candidates at football's most critical position stack up:
#5 - Jordan Love, Utah State (6-3, 224 lbs.) - He looks the part. "I asked one talent evaluator about him and he said, 'I can see the idea that he's a poor man's Mahomes,'" the NFL Network's Kim Jones reported from the Combine. "He saw the look on my face and he said 'poor man's,' but that is an incredible compliment." Love plays a Mahomes-like game, except for throwing 17 interceptions in 2019 (the most in FBS, to go along with 3,402 passing yards and 20 touchdown throws). Many have emphasized Utah State losing nine of 11 offensive starters and a coaching staff change as a factor. Love's physical skill set is intoxicating. "He's a first-round quarterback all day long," Jeremiah said at the Combine. "He's a redshirt for me, with the big payoff down the line." It worked out that way for Mahomes.
#4 - Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma (6-1, 222 lbs.) - He earned much respect and admiration for handling a difficult situation with Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama before eventually moving on to Oklahoma. Hurst also went a combined 38-4 as a starter at both schools. "This guy wins football games," NFL Network analyst Charles Davis emphasized. "The comparison early, and I think it's going to continue to hold up, Dak Prescott." Jeremiah: "I thought Dak was a little bit further along as a passer. The best thing about Jalen is competitiveness, and that shows up with him as a runner. It shows up with him in big moments in the big games."
#3 - Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama (6-0, 217 lbs.) - The only knock is his injury history, but it's significant, and maybe a bigger deal than any other year due to the evaluation limitations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. But otherwise, he's that guy. The one who's instinctive and improvisational and can play off schedule and throw the ball down the field with tantalizing accuracy. Consider this from Nick Saban: "Tua has probably had as much of an impact on our program as any player we have ever had." What else could you want, other than a clean bill of health?
#2 - Justin Herbert, Oregon (6-6, 236 lbs.) - He started showing the on-the-move skills in the Rose Bowl and again in the Senior Bowl, in part because the Oregon staff didn't want to risk him in the regular season. The passing aspect of Herbert's game and his physical skill set have been apparent since last season. NFL Network analyst Peter Schrager said Herbert "has arguably the best body, might have the best arm and could be the smartest," in this year's quarterback class. Jeremiah wants to see more anticipation. "A lot of times he likes to see it before he'll release it," Jeremiah said. "That's something he's gotta work on."
#1 - Joe Burrow, LSU (6-3, 221 lbs.) - Let the numbers sink in again: 5,671 passing yards, 60 touchdowns and six interceptions passing, and 368 yards and five touchdowns rushing. Better still, Jeremiah said over 85 percent of Burrow's passes were from an empty backfield. Coaches don't do that with a quarterback that doesn't get it. "We talk about the ceiling, with Joe Burrow the floor is so high," Jeremiah said. "There's very little risk, he checks every box save for just having a huge arm. But I'm not just saying just checks the boxes, athleticism, poise, touch, accuracy, decision-making, all that stuff's off the charts. In terms of a productive football season I've never seen one like Joe Burrow had."