NFL Draft Preview

by Jack Qiu

A Truly Unique Draft: Quarterback Madness

This year’s NFL draft is shaping up to be like no other. Due to a confluence of factors, including a fascinating quarterback situation and a novel pandemic, nothing is clear-cut besides the number 1 pick. With that pick, the Cincinnati Bengals will almost certainly draft LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. Burrow arguably had the greatest college quarterback season of all time, throwing for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns with only 6 interceptions, all while maintaining a 76.3% completion percentage. Most importantly, with wins over Georgia, Oklahoma, and Clemson, he led LSU to both the SEC Championship and the CFP National Championship.

After Burrow, however, the draft picture becomes murky. Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is the consensus #2 quarterback in this year’s draft and has tremendous potential. In fact, multiple analysts and coaches, including Alabama coach Nick Saban and famous draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., have compared him to all-time great Drew Brees. Several teams are rumored to be interested in him, primarily the Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Chargers, and Carolina Panthers. According to numerous reports, the Dolphins are predicted to draft him with their #5 pick; however, many of the aforementioned teams could draft Tua by trading up to the #2, #3, or #4 picks. In addition, Tua’s lengthy injury history increases the uncertainty around him, as each team’s medical staff must determine if his upside can offset the questions surrounding his durability.

Two other quarterbacks in the draft, Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Utah State’s Jordan Love are another contentious topic. Herbert, a more traditional “pocket” quarterback, seems to be more ready to play in the NFL with all of the necessary physical traits, great arm strength, and accuracy to thrive outside the collegiate level. Meanwhile, Love has great athleticism and mobility, can extend plays, and can hit amazing throws on the move. As an added dimension to his game, he is also capable of running downfield with the ball to gain yards. Thus, he is seen as having higher potential while being less “NFL-ready” than Herbert. With the previously mentioned Chargers and Panthers and several other teams in need of franchise quarterbacks, it will be interesting to see where Herbert and Love fall in the draft and which of the two is ultimately drafted first.

The NFL draft has also been heavily impacted by the coronavirus. Most critically, teams will not be able to have their medical staff look at a potential player’s medical conditions. Thus, they have to rely on potentially inaccurate outside information. This is particularly impactful for players who have had severe injuries, as their perceived risk has increased due to teams’ lack of information. In addition, player interviews will be less useful, as they must now occur online. Though teams can still evaluate players’ mental aptitude, they can no longer evaluate other key aspects such as body language and presence. Teams will also have to rely more on their scouts who personally interacted with the players and were able to watch them up close and evaluate their intangible traits. All of this increases the uncertainty surrounding this year’s draft, creating an unpredictable, yet fascinating situation leading up to draft day.