The Senior Bowl tends to have a big impact on where players are drafted, given that NFL general managers are getting a close look at these prospects for the first time. This is especially magnified for quarterbacks. Philip Rivers, Daniel Jones, Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Joe Flacco and E.J. Manuel all enjoyed outstanding Senior Bowl performances in the past and had improved their draft stock as a result.
There are at least three quarterbacks projected to be first-round picks this year. One wasn't eligible - Tua Tagovailoa, who is injured anyway - but the other two, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, were able to participate. Burrow understandably sat out because he's locked into the top pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. Thus, all eyes were on Herbert. Utah State's Jordan Love, meanwhile, has been generating some buzz as a potential second-day prospect as well.
I do this every year: I'm going to take a look at how each of the signal-callers performed in the Senior Bowl and what each of their draft range is. This will be followed by a poll at the bottom of the article.
Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Justin Herbert was named MVP of the Senior Bowl. I personally would've given the award to Utah edge rusher Bradlee Anae, but Herbert was certainly one of the other top candidates, as he dominated the South defense in the opening quarter.
Herbert went 9-of-12 for 83 yards and a touchdown in exactly one quarter of action. His score came on a screen to Lamical Perine, who made a great effort to dive into the end zone.
Herbert was accurate for the most part. He made a nice completion on a bootleg, though the pass was a bit low and almost dropped as a consequence. This was part of a nice consecutive completion streak to start the game. His initial misfire occurred when he barely missed a receiver on a timing route. Another incompletion transpired on a bad drop on a throw across his body while escaping pressure.
Herbert was the best passer at the Senior Bowl, but there are questions regarding his leadership and ability to play well in big moments. He couldn't answer those concerns in Mobile, but he didn't hurt himself either.
2020 NFL Draft Projection: Round Top-10 Pick
Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
There have been a few NFL Draft analysts who project Jordan Love to be a first-round pick. This seemed like nonsense heading into the Senior Bowl, but I was eager to see how the Utah State product would compete with the major-program prospects in Mobile.
Love was uneven in the practices, as Charlie Campbell reported. He showed his amazing tools on some impressive passes, but his poor field vision got him into trouble at times. I wondered how this would impact his performance in the Senior Bowl, but we didn't get to see it very much because Love attempted just six throws.
Love went 4-of-6 for 26 yards. His best throw was a nice touch pass to Antonio Gandy-Golden, but it turned out to be an incompletion as a result of Gandy-Golden's jersey being held. Love later had a receiver open deep downfield, but couldn't step into the throw because of pressure. That was his other incompletion.
Love seems like a second-round prospect to me. He has plenty of upside, but he's not ready to start in the NFL right now. He'll need to work hard and take to good coaching. If that happens, he can be a solid starter in the pros, but it'll take some time.
2020 NFL Draft Projection: Round 2-3
Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
Jalen Hurts is a fan favorite because he was a winner at two major programs in college football. However, he has some glaring flaws. He's a one-read quarterback and doesn't have good pocket awareness, which will result in plenty of sacks at the next level.
We saw evidence of that in the Senior Bowl game. He took three sacks in his initial drive alone. Granted, the North pass rush, led by the stellar Bradlee Anae, dominated the South offensive line. However, some of the sacks were Hurts' fault. For example, the second sack occurred because he held on to the ball too long. He also fired a careless pass while getting pressured, and that nearly resulted in a pick-six.
Hurts also had some trouble as a passer. He made a late throw on a roll-out, which caused the receiver to be out of bounds. He also threw an interception, though that was the result of Anae hitting him as released the pass, prompting the ball to pop up into the air.
There were some positive moments for Hurts, however. He showed nice ball placement to convert a third-long, then picked up a fourth-and-5 on a slant while under pressure. He closed out the afternoon with a beautiful fade pass into the end zone for a touchdown. Hurts finished 6-of-13 for 58 yards, one touchdown and the aforementioned pick.
Hurts' most likely projection would be the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft because of his great leadership skills and other intangibles. However, he has much to improve if he wants to be a quality quarterback in the NFL.
2020 NFL Draft Projection: Round 3-4
Steven Montez, QB, Colorado
Shea Patterson was the worst quarterback at the Senior Bowl, but Steven Montez wasn't too far behind. Montez had the uglier stat line, going 3-of-8 for only 22 yards and an interception.
Montez's pick wasn't all on him, as it occurred when he was hit by Michigan edge rusher Josh Uche. However, Montez showed poor pocket presence all afternoon. The announcers mentioned that he has a tendency to spin into sacks for big losses, and he did that almost immediately after it was discussed.
Montez has a strong arm and nice size (6-5, 235), but his mechanics, accuracy and pocket presence are all abysmal. He's going to fail in the NFL unless he gets some great coaching and works very hard to improve his game.
2020 NFL Draft Projection: Round 4-6
Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State
Gardner Minshew played in the Senior Bowl last year, paving the way for his successor, Anthony Gordon. Minshew enjoyed mild success as a rookie for the Jaguars, so that can only help Gordon's chances of being drafted, given that they both played in the same system.
Gordon's showing in the Senior Bowl game will help him as well. Gordon has a weak arm, but he displayed his accuracy in Mobile. He made a nice throw when threading the needle deep in South territory, and then he followed that up by throwing a touchdown to receiver Chase Claypool, who was wide open because of a blown coverage.
This was the first of two scores Gordon threw. The second was something you'd see out of a shortstop, as Gordon fired a pass while oddly twisting his body to Antonio Gandy-Golden for a touchdown. Television replay showed that Gandy-Golden had one foot out of bounds, but there was no replay review to overturn it.
Gordon finished 8-of-12 for 69 yards and two scores. His arm strength is sorely lacking, but his accuracy and intelligence could make him a viable backup in the NFL.
2020 NFL Draft Projection: Round 5-7
Shea Patterson, QB, Michigan
Shea Patterson had a rough week of practice, so he needed to perform well in the Senior Bowl game to salvage his stock in Mobile. While Patterson posted an impressive-looking stat line, he certainly did not have the showing in the actual game that he was looking for.
Patterson finished 6-of-10 for 131 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The numbers look good, but the reason for that was a 75-yard touchdown to running back Darius Anderson, who was inexplicably wide open along the sideline. The replay actually showed that Anderson stepped out of bounds on his touchdown run after the catch, but there was no review system at the Senior Bowl to overturn the call.
Other than that, Patterson really struggled. He heaved an interception on a high throw when he didn't look comfortable in the pocket because of some pressure. He then overthrew wide receiver Chase Claypool for what should've been a big gain. Patterson later should've been pick-sixed on a late pass showing horrible footwork, but the defensive back dropped the ball.
Patterson has upside, but he's a terrible passer at the moment. He's a late-round prospect at best.