Quarterback Carousel: Senior Bowl Edition
Quarterback is the most important position in all of sports. They are in charge of understanding and executing not only the offense, but developing ways to dissect a defense after they see what they are being shown schematically. Discussions around scouts and media circles come NFL draft time are always centered on the incoming talent at quarterback. Every team wants to find their next leader that can take them to the promised land. With NFL teams like the Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers and potentially the Indianapolis Colts looking at bringing in a new signal caller for the 2020 NFL season, it is time to take an in-depth look at the six QBs that were in Mobile this week and breakdown how they performed in front of scouts, media and various coaching staffs.
Justin Herbert – Oregon
The most notable name on this list is someone that has been connected to the top of draft boards for nearly three years now. Experts thought he was going to declare last season and be the potential number one overall pick. Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert decided to stay in school for his senior season and led Oregon to a 12-2 record including a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin. A few days later it was announced that he was going to be in Mobile for the Senior Bowl festivities.
After Joe Burrow announced he was forgoing the Senior Bowl to get healthy and spend time with family all eyes turned to Justin Herbert to be the top quarterback in Mobile this weekend and he did not disappoint.
It became apparent that Herbert had been working on his footwork and pocket presence before getting to Mobile as he took massive strides in both areas from what was shown on tape. Herbert maintained incredible balance in the pocket all weekend long and not only showed off his electric arm talent, but also proved he can put some touch on it and throw into tight spaces.
In individual fundamental drills his feet looked the fastest, his arm looked the sharpest and his body control was by far the most balanced. He did not seem phased by the NFL officials around him, or the mass media that were intrigued by his talent. He looked comfortable from the moment he stepped foot out on that field.
In 11 on 11 drills is where Herbert shined the brightest and really made heads turn. His ability to place the ball in tight windows was something that was extremely fun to watch all weekend. Whether the throw was a deep pass downfield that caught a receiver in stride, or a pass that was threading the needle between two defenders Herbert made it look effortless.
It is no secret that Herbert has been a polarizing figure in scouting discussions for a long time. The opinions on him are split right down the middle. Some scouts believe that he can be a franchise guy, while others think that he is the ultimate franchise killer. After this weekend of practices scouts’ opinions became a little clearer, and so did Herbert’s potential as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
Jalen Hurts – Oklahoma
As much as the national media was excited about seeing Oregon’s Justin Herbert, the local media was excited to see former Alabama and Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts. Jim Nagy even gave him a special helmet that had both the Alabama and Oklahoma designs on the side.
The Alabama citizens see Jalen Hurts as a role model, football idol and potential franchise quarterback. The entire state was rooting for him this weekend and the attention was all on him. Hurts spent most of the week before the Senior Bowl attending media events, signing memorabilia and being around the people of Alabama. All the attention locally was on him.
He was extremely busy leading up to the event and it showed. The first day practice he looked lethargic. Constantly missing throws behind his receivers and not looking as crisp athletically as he did on tape. The same problems that scouts had coming into the weekend were even more evident at practice.
He looked uneasy taking snaps from under center, the majority of the time, with his footwork being the main issue that was identified throughout the week. Hurts’ footwork was slow and he seemed off balance during drop backs. Timing was also an issue throughout the entire week for Hurts as he often times threw behind the targeted receivers causing more than his fair share of incompletions.
The hopes were high for Hurts this week, being the local kid coming home for one last college game in Alabama. He came in trying to prove he belongs in the conversations as a top-tier prospect. What he is leaving behind is an underwhelming performance that gives scouts more questions about his ability to be an NFL quarterback rather than answers about his future.
Steven Montez – Colorado
The last quarterback on the South roster is Steven Montez, the three year starter from Colorado, the first quarterback announced to the Senior Bowl roster, was a questionable choice to some to make the trip to Mobile. When compared to Herbert and Hurts, the talk about Montez was more about seeing him progress his fundamental understanding of the quarterback position.
Scouts wanted to see Montez progress as a natural thrower of the football. On tape he struggled with accuracy downfield, and balance inside the pocket. On the first day, Montez seemed to have found his rhythm throwing the football downfield effectively, and the ball looked electric coming out of hand.
However that is where the positives ended for Steven Montez as the next two days of practice he looked like the quarterback that struggled the most. Montez looked lost at times when asked to drop back from under center, and struggled to find balance with his footwork when dropping back in the pocket to scan the field.
I want to see more consistency from Montez overall in both the fundamental aspects and the mental processing aspects of his game because there is no denying that he has the potential NFL level arm strength to be a project for NFL coaches to build upon in the future.
Jordan Love – Utah State
The most polarizing quarterback in the Senior Bowl is Utah State’s Jordan Love. When looking around the outlets you see Jordan Love all over the place on both boards and in mock drafts. He is somebody that is as high as QB3 and as low as QB8.
When entering the Senior Bowl weekend a lot of scouts had high hopes for Jordan Love to showcase his high ceiling that he has showed splashes of during his college career. With that being said, while some people came away impressed with Jordan Love, others came away still questioning where he should be taken in the NFL Draft come April.
This weekend Love looked very similar to the guy we saw on film. He struggled making a lot of the routine short and intermediate throws consistently, but showed flashes on pinpoint accuracy and arm talent when placing the ball into tight windows.
There were a lot of throws this weekend by Love where scouts were left scratching their heads, questioning his ability to be an effective NFL quarterback, but every now and then there were throws that were placed in the perfect spot for the receiver to make a catch.
Coming into the weekend, Love (at least I felt), had the most to gain because he had a chance to show NFL teams his true potential as a franchise quarterback. Similarly to Jalen Hurts; scouts are leaving Mobile with the same questions they came in with about the Utah State QB.
Shea Patterson – Michigan
Media members and execs have been talking about Shea Patterson for what seems like forever. A top high school recruit coming into Ole Miss, ended up transferring to Michigan to join Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor after failing to win the starting job in his first two seasons with the Rebels.
Things didn’t go as planned for the duo as Michigan failed to reach the hype, and Patterson was wildly inconsistent failing to win big games against Ohio State or Wisconsin. When entering the NFL Draft, scouts questioned if Patterson had enough NFL arm talent to translate to the next level. Patterson also struggled at Michigan with pocket awareness when faced with pass rush, and with his lack of mobility (to an elite level), he struggled to extend plays outside the pocket.
I wanted to see him progress as a passer inside the pocket, and showcase some potential mobility and athleticism in drills. What he showed was a quarterback that was capable of making some marquee throws in tight windows. He looked fluid in the pocket, and his footwork was much improved when dropping back to pass.
Patterson was the best QB on the North roster for the majority of the weekend, showcasing his capability to place the ball into tight windows on a number of occasions. He also looked more comfortable moving inside, and outside the pocket. When walking away from practices a lot of the conversation was around Shea Patterson, both positive and negative.
Throughout the entire weekend Patterson showed steady progression throughout the week, improving in each facet every practice. I still am not sold on him being anything more than a project at the next level, but I think some teams came away learning a thing or two about Shea Patterson.
Anthony Gordon – Washington State
After announcing he would wear number 3 to honor former quarterback Tyler Helinski, eyes turned to the final QB on this list. Trying to turn a feel-good story into a successful weekend in Mobile. Anthony Gordon is somebody that has shown incredible arm strength but severely questionable mechanics including his footwork and pocket management. On film Gordon has showcased some really good athletic upside with mobility inside and outside the pocket, but the questions that were asked about Luke Falk and Gardner Minshew will be asked about Anthony Gordon. Is he a product of the air raid system or can he develop into a steady NFL quarterback?
The weekend did not start off kindly to Anthony Gordon as the very first snap he took from under center turned into a fumble. After that moment, I really liked the improvement with Gordon’s footwork this weekend. He showed command of the pocket and an understanding of his surroundings when dropping back to pass and his balance was much more fluid from under center. Unlike his other counterparts Gordon did not have many throws that turned scouts heads, but he also made very minimal mistakes.
Gordon used this weekend exactly the way scouts asked him to. He got better mechanically from a footwork and throwing motion perspective, and gained valuable experience taking snaps from under center. He was not very flashy in any aspect of the game this week, but I think Gordon played it safe this week showing scouts and NFL teams that he is willing to learn and adapt his play style to fit NFL offenses.