A Way-Too-Early Look at the Potential 2020 NFL Draft QB Class

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2019

A Way-Too-Early Look at the Potential 2020 NFL Draft QB Class

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    It's beginning to feel like Oklahoma's Kyler Murray is going to be the first quarterback off the board in the 2019 NFL draft. There are other quarterbacks who may be seen as franchise material—such as Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins and Missouri's Drew Lock—but is no sure thing in the group.

    Some quarterback-needy teams will undoubtedly choose to wait until the 2020 draft to target a signal-caller.

    There's no guarantee that next year's quarterback class will produce more NFL starters than this year's. With players such as Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon's Justin Herbert potentially headlining it, however, it is shaping up to be an attractive class.

    So which quarterbacks should you be following during the 2019 season? Let's dig into some of the top quarterbacks who will be draft-eligible in 2020. Just keep in mind that some potential top prospects can come out of nowhere—just like Murray did this past season.

    Players are listed in alphabetical order.

        

K.J. Costello, Stanford

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    John Hefti/Associated Press

    While quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Baker Mayfield are changing the way some NFL teams view prospects who play in more wide-open offenses, traditionalists will always prefer a signal-caller from a pro-style system.

    This is exactly what Stanford's K.J. Costello does. He's a pure pocket passer who thrived in offensive coordinator Tavita Pritchard's balanced offense in 2018. He threw for 3,540 yards—the second-most in school history—29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

    While Costello isn't as mobile as former Stanford standout Andrew Luck, he has nearly as much arm talent and accuracy. Listed at 6'5" and 217 pounds, Costello also has the archetypal frame some NFL teams prefer.

    With another full season as a starter under his belt, Costello should draw a lot of attention from teams looking for that traditional dropback passer.

Jacob Eason, Washington

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Like Costello, Washington's Jacob Eason is a quarterback in the pocket-passer mold. Unlike Costello, Eason doesn't have a strong 2018 season on his resume, because he transferred to Washington from Georgia after Jake Fromm took over as the starter there.

    Eason was forced to sit out the 2018 season, which means his 2019 campaign will be incredibly important for his draft stock.

    Based on his 2016 campaign, though, Eason does look to have NFL talent. The 6'6", 227-pound quarterback passed for 2,430 yards with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

    In fact, one unnamed scout suggested before the 2018 season that Fromm and Eason could be the first two quarterbacks taken in 2020.

    "That kid at Georgia (Jake Fromm) and the one that left (Jacob Eason) are legit dudes," the scout told Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller. "They could go 1-2 and they were at the same school! Those are the ones to watch."

    Eason looks a bit of a sleeper right now, but that could quickly change if he plays well.

Feleipe Franks, Florida

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Florida's Feleipe Franks is far from a polished produced. He has struggled with accuracy and consistency during his collegiate career, and the quarterback knows it.

    "It hasn't been like a lot of people's—like, it hasn't been straight success," Franks said, per Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times. "Mine has been kind of bumpy, but ultimately that's what makes me who I am."

    If Franks can refine his game throughout the 2019 season, he could rocket up draft boards. While accuracy is a bit of an issue, arm strength and athleticism are not.

    Franks, listed at 6'6" and 240 pounds, looks and plays a lot like Wyoming's Josh Allen did in college. Franks only completed 58.4 percent of his passes last season, but he amassed 2,457 passing yards, 350 rushing yards and 31 total touchdowns.

    Following Franks' progression in 2019 should be fun.

Jake Fromm, Georgia

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Fromm, the guy who took Eason's job in early 2017, could challenge the likes of Herbert and Tagovailova to be the first quarterback off the board. He'll be a three-year starter by the end of the 2019 season, and he's already put together a strong resume.

    Another pocket passer, Fromm has shown incredible accuracy in his first two seasons and has flashed smart decision-making. He completed 67.4 percent of his passes in 2018 and threw for 2,761 yards with 30 touchdowns and just six interceptions.

    Listed at 6'2" and 220 pounds, Fromm has more than enough size, even for more traditional decision-makers.

    Should Fromm put together another strong season in the defense-heavy SEC, he'll likely end up at or near the top of a lot of draft boards.

Justin Herbert, Oregon

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Herbert might have been the top quarterback in this year's draft class had he decided to declare. He has a rare combination of size (6'6", 233 lbs) arm strength and mobility. However, Herbert had an up-and-down campaign.

    Though Herbert threw for 3,151 yards with 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions, his accuracy dipped noticeably from 63.5 and 67.5 percent completion rates in 2016 and 2017, respectively, to just 59.4 percent in 2018.

    As ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. explained on NFL Live, returning for the 2019 season may ultimately have been the right move for Herbert.

    "He didn't play his best football this year, and I think by going back, with the offensive line and the skill talent around him, his brother coming in as a recruit at tight end, I think it's all set up," Kiper said.

    The 2019 season will determine whether Herbert strengthens his draft stock the way Stanford's Andrew Luck did by returning for the 2011 season or if he hurts it the way USC's Matt Barkley did a year later.

Shea Patterson, Michigan

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Michigan's Shea Patterson may not push himself into the first-round conversation by next year, but he does possess some intriguing qualities. He's athletic, can excel on the run or from the pocket, has adequate size (6'2", 205 lbs) and has flashed good accuracy at times—he completed 64.6 percent of his passes in 2018.

    Patterson is also an intelligent signal-caller, as Matt Miller explained.

    "I think, from an evaluation standpoint, he has enough tools and he's a smart enough quarterback and that could really help him. He could push up through the (draft) process," Miller told Nick Baumgardner of the Detroit Free Press in December, with Patterson mulling declaring for the 2018 draft. "You're going to test well, you're going to interview well. You could probably push yourself up throughout."

    However, Patterson isn't a high-volume quarterback—he had just 325 attempts and 2,600 yards in 2018; for comparison, Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins had 533 attempts—in Michigan's offense and isn't going to produce eye-popping numbers. He doesn't have any special traits either, which may lead teams to view him as a Case Keenum-, Cody Kessler- or Josh Dobbs-type prospect.

    Even if Patterson cannot convince teams that he can be a franchise signal-caller, a strong 2019 season should prove that Patterson has a place in the NFL.

Nate Stanley, Iowa

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Iowa's Nate Stanley is another prospect who may not work himself into the first-round conversation, but it isn't entirely out of the question.

    ESPN's Todd McShay listed the Hawkeyes quarterback at No. 26 in his preseason ranking for the 2019 draft in August.

    "With good size, tremendous arm strength and the ability to move well in the pocket, the 6' 4", 240-pounder emerged after being handed the keys last season," McShay wrote. "The accuracy outpaces the completion percentage, but ball placement and timing will need to improve. Stanley's spot here is a bet on ceiling."

    Stanley didn't exactly hit his ceiling—which is probably part of the reason he returned to college—but he did have a solid campaign. He completed 59.3 percent of his passes for 2,852 yards with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

    If Stanley can improve in 2019 without tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant—both potential 2019 first-rounders—teams will take notice.

Tua Tagovailova, Alabama

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    If the draft were right now, Alabama's Tagovailoa would probably be the first quarterback taken and probably the first player drafted overall. While he's a bit on the shorter side (6'1", 218 lbs), that isn't the concern it was even just a couple of years ago.

    As a player, Tagovailoa doesn't leave much to be desired. He's mobile, accurate, processes situations quickly and isn't mistake-prone. In 2018 alone, he passed for 3,966 yards with 43 touchdowns and just six interceptions—numbers made more impressive by the fact that Tagovailoa barely saw second-half playing time in blowout games.

    "I think the NFL's going to look at his skill set, and he does a lot of things that you can't coach—see the field, throw accurately, be athletic," Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy told Matt Zenitz of AL.com in November. "He's got a really unique package."

    Tagovailoa also has big-game experience, having played in two straight national title games. He looks like a near lock for the 2020 first round, which naturally means critics will spend the upcoming season trying to pick him apart.