Chase Young or QB? What the NFL's Bottom-Feeders Should Do with 2020 No. 1 Pick
As fans, we've become accustomed to NFL teams taking quarterbacks at the top of the draft. Signal-callers have gone No. 1 overall in seven of the past 10 drafts, and that's not surprising. Quarterback is the most important position on the field and typically the centerpiece of a franchise.
There's a reason teams are willing to tank for quarterbacks and not for interior offensive linemen.
However, this doesn't mean that quarterback is the right fit for a team selecting No. 1—or even the right choice when quarterback is an obvious need. There was a healthy debate last year whether the Arizona Cardinals should take a quarterback or pass-rusher Nick Bosa. Two years ago, it was quarterback, pass-rusher or star running back Saquon Barkley for the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns passed on a quarterback for Myles Garrett in the 2017 draft, a decision that looks silly with the ascension of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Of course, Garrett is an All-Pro-type talent and Mitchell Trubisky was actually the first quarterback off the board that year.
This year, the debate will likely be whether a team should take a signal-caller like Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa or standout Ohio State pass-rusher Chase Young. Like Bosa before him, Young—who already has 13.5 sacks—should be an instant difference-maker.
As we approach the midpoint of the 2019 season, five teams have one or zero wins and are in prime position to secure the No. 1 pick in 2020. A sixth has two wins but may now be on the tanking train. We'll examine each of these teams and determine whether a quarterback, Young or a different player would make the most sense at No. 1.
The Miami Dolphins have made no secret of the fact that they are tanking this season. They've traded away key players, such as Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Kenyan Drake. Those moves have left Miami with a plethora of future draft picks—the Dolphins have three first-rounders in 2020.
What if this isn't a one-year tank job for Miami, though? After a 1-15 season, the Browns passed on a quarterback in the 2017 draft to take Garrett, and they didn't take a quarterback until the next draft (Baker Mayfield). Given the uncertainty surrounding this year's top signal-callers, this is what Miami could—and arguably should—do.
Tagovailoa has just about everything a team could want in a quarterback. He has adequate size (6'1", 218 lbs), he has arm talent and he's mobile. This season, he's passed for 2,211 yards with 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
The problem with Tagovailoa is injury concerns. He recently underwent ankle surgery for the second time in as many years, and that's likely to worry NFL decision-makers. No one wants to be known as the person who drafted the next Sam Bradford.
LSU's Joe Burrow is another enticing option, thanks to his breakout 2019 campaign—he has 2,805 passing yards with 30 touchdowns and four picks through eight games. Of course, there's also the risk of him being a one-year wonder.
Burrow's numbers last season—2,894 yards, 16 touchdowns and five interceptions in 13 games—did not suggest a future No. 1 candidate.
If the Dolphins are committed to a long-term rebuild, the best course of action may be to scoop up Young and try for a quarterback like Clemson's Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State's Justin Fields in 2021. It won't be fun for Dolphins fans, but Miami can stumble through another season with Ryan Fitzpatrick and/or Josh Rosen under center.
The Pick: Edge Chase Young
The Cincinnati Bengals hired Zac Taylor in the offseason to revitalize their stagnant offense. Through eight games, the former Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach has failed to do so. Cincinnati ranks 29th in scoring (15.5 points per game), 25th in total yards (317.2 per game) and dead last in rushing yards (59.5).
Though Cincinnati ranks 12th in passing (257.8 yards per game), quarterback Andy Dalton has been benched in favor of rookie fourth-round pick Ryan Finley.
Dalton and his eight interceptions have certainly been part of Cincinnati's struggles this season. However, he is not the biggest reason the Bengals remain winless. The change at quarterback likely has less to do with his performance and more to do with the franchise's desire to find out what it has in Finley.
Make no mistake, though: This is probably Dalton's last season in Cincinnati. He is under contract through 2020, but the Bengals can release him with no dead money remaining on his contract.
Unless Finley surprises and plays like a high-end franchise quarterback over the last eight games, Cincinnati probably will target a signal-caller with its first pick. If that pick is at No. 1—Cincinnati plays the Dolphins in Week 16—the choice will likely come down to Tagovailoa or Burrow.
Despite the injury concern, Tagovailoa is the higher-profile player with more on his resume. Cincinnati has looked past injury concerns in the recent past (John Ross) and could do so again to land the more accomplished quarterback.
Burrow may be the safer pick at quarterback, but Tagovailoa is the choice that may best energize the fanbase and the team.
The Pick: QB Tua Tagovailoa
New York Jets
The New York Jets are 1-6. Like the Bengals, their offensive head coach isn't paying dividends. The Jets brought in Adam Gase to help elevate second-year quarterback Sam Darnold, and the results have left much to be desired.
Darnold missed three games with mononucleosis, and that skews the picture a bit. However, he hasn't been consistent or reliable when he has played—he has nine turnovers in four games—and the offense overall has been a disaster.
New York ranks 31st in points (11.1 per game), 32nd in total offense (209.6 yards per game) and 32nd in passing (145.7 yards).
The Jets have a chance to get out of the mix for No. 1 overall this week against the Dolphins. They also play the Dolphins again and the Bengals later in the season. Still, there is a chance this team is bad enough to earn the top pick.
Should New York find itself at No. 1 next spring, don't be surprised if the Jets throw a curveball into the proceedings. They're unlikely to give up on Darnold after just two seasons, and while Young would certainly be a boon to the defense, adding a player to help Darnold may be the better option.
The Jets could be tempted to trade down with a quarterback-needy team and instead take Georgia's Andrew Thomas. Doing so would bring draft capital for the ongoing rebuild while also providing an anchor for the Jets offensive line.
Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller listed Thomas as the most NFL-ready tackle in the 2020 class and the one with the most potential in his early October big board. On the Journey to the Draft podcast with Fran Duffy, Pro Football Network's Tony Pauline recently said Thomas, a junior, has already decided to declare for the NFL.
Thomas may seem like a surprising pick, but if he can help keep Darnold upright and open holes for Le'Veon Bell, he could be the right choice.
The Pick: OT Andrew Thomas
The fact that the Atlanta Falcons have just one win is a bit surprising, given all the offensive talent they boast. They have premier pass-catchers in Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Austin Hooper, and they have a perennial Pro Bowler in quarterback Matt Ryan.
In fact, Ryan was playing at a very high level before an ankle injury forced him out of action. Ryan's eight interceptions are an issue, but the former league MVP has also passed for 2,170 yards and 15 touchdowns through seven games.
Ryan is not the biggest problem for Atlanta. A defense that has allowed an average of 31.2 points per game is.
This makes Young the obvious choice should the Falcons find themselves picking at No. 1. Ryan is 34 years old, but his play has shown no signs of falling off a cliff. While protecting Ryan should be a priority, Atlanta also used first-round picks on guard Chris Lindstrom and tackle Kaleb McGary in last year's draft.
Adding Young would instantly improve a pass rush that has generated just seven sacks this season.
"He has been nothing short of dominant this season, head and shoulders above the rest of the edge-rushers in the class," ESPN's Todd McShay wrote of Young, his No. 1 prospect.
Young is powerful enough to play defensive end and athletic enough to play outside linebacker, and his versatility could be huge for the Falcons. It appears that time is running out on head coach Dan Quinn, and there's no telling what scheme the Falcons' next head coach will use.
The Pick: Young
Several factors will play into the Washington Redskins' decision at No. 1, should they get the pick. The first is that they're going to have a new head coach. Jay Gruden has already been replaced by interim coach Bill Callahan, and it's unlikely Callahan will be given the job on a permanent basis.
So there's a chance that the new head coach will want to bring in his own quarterback. While the Cardinals used the No. 1 pick on Murray a year after using a first-round pick on Rosen, that scenario isn't likely to play out in Washington.
Drafting Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins in the first round this past April wasn't a coach's decision.
ESPN's Dianna Russini reported before the draft that owner Dan Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen wanted Haskins. They ultimately got their wish, and Snyder isn't likely to pull the plug on his personal choice after one year.
The Redskins also have to determine the future of seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams. Williams recently ended his holdout but failed his physical and won't rejoin the team in the near future. Assuming Williams' time in Washington is over, the Redskins could consider taking an offensive tackle to protect Haskins, especially if they could trade down and still get their top-rated OT.
The impact potential of Young may be too hard for Snyder to pass up, though. He would be the flashy choice, and from a certain perspective, it would make sense.
Partnering Young with Jonathan Allen, Montez Sweat and Matt Ioannidis would give the Redskins a fearsome young defensive front—much like the one paving the way for the San Francisco 49ers this season.
The Pick: Young
The lone two-win team on this list, the Denver Broncos are here for a reason. They've lost starting quarterback Joe Flacco for the season—according to ESPN's Adam Schefter—and they may already have turned their focus toward tanking.
The Broncos traded No. 1 wideout Emmanuel Sanders just before the deadline. They also listened to offers for standout cornerback Chris Harris Jr.
Even if the primary goal for the Broncos isn't to secure the No. 1 pick, they may end up there. They have a tough remaining schedule that includes games against the Minnesota Vikings, Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs.
If the Broncos do end up at No. 1, they'll almost certainly take a quarterback. They drafted Drew Lock in Round 2 in April, but that shouldn't prevent them from taking a top signal-caller this year. Denver already has a pair of premier pass-rushers in Bradley Chubb and Von Miller.
And quarterback is a position that general manager John Elway must get right. He's swung and missed on Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch, Case Keenum and Flacco. This need to not miss is why passing on the injury risk of Tagovailoa and going with Barrow is the right decision for Denver.
While Burrow has just a partial season of elite performance on his resume, he also possesses the tools needed to be the new face of the Broncos.
"Burrow is a gunslinger who takes chances without turning the ball over and has the natural leadership and charisma everyone loves at the position," Matt Miller wrote.
Lock may get his chance to show what he can do at some point this season. However, with Elway declaring him not ready, Denver could also move on to the Burrow era without ever getting an extended look at him.
The Pick: QB Joe Burrow