In what was a rather thick rookie quarterback class, this year’s NFL draft provided us with a variety of potential Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates.
Joe Burrow is currently listed as the odds-on favorite at +250, but a handful of other players appear to be in the running, as well. Quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert sit at +900 and +2000, respectively, as neither is expected to start Week 1.
However, both Tagovailoa and Herbert are bound to see the field in some capacity this season, as they were selected fifth and sixth overall for a reason. Veterans Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tyrod Taylor are in line to start the season under center for their respective teams — the Dolphins and Chargers — but both will likely be on a short leash if they do not perform early on.
Furthermore, the wildcard of this draft class, the Green Bay Packers traded up in the first round to select Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. The 26th overall pick won’t see much action in the foreseeable future, as Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers will remain the starter — at least for now.
Heisman Trophy winner and former LSU signal-caller Joe Burrow headlined this year’s NFL draft class for quarterbacks, as he was penciled in as the #1 draft selection many months prior. He will have his hands full resurrecting a Cincinnati Bengals franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game in nearly 30 years (1990).
Second-year head coach Zac Taylor, a disciple of Rams coach Sean McVay, was hired last offseason due to his offensive expertise and should be able to build a solid rapport with the rookie quarterback. Cincinnati has plenty of weapons for the signal-caller, as former Pro Bowl receiver AJ Green will finally be back in action after missing all of last season due to an ankle injury.
To complement Green, Cincy also boasts three high upside receivers in Tyler Boyd, John Ross, and second-round rookie Tee Higgins. They should all be able to play a significant role in Taylor’s offense, and should provide Burrow with plenty of support on the outside. Moreover, running back Joe Mixon is poised for a rebound year in 2020, as an improved offensive line will go a long way in stabilizing their run game.
Expectations for Tua & Herbert
Although Burrow stole the show in this year’s draft, both Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert are poised to make significant impacts for their teams in 2020. Former University of Alabama standout, Tagovailoa was selected fifth overall by the Miami Dolphins and should start the season on the bench learning under veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s tutelage.
Fitzpatrick played very well down the stretch last season and rightfully deserves the opportunity to start the season under center. However, expect Tagovailoa to see the field at some point this season, as Fitzpatrick has been prone to inconsistent performances throughout his career.
It would be wise for second-year head coach Brian Flores to give Tua some live reps this season, as it will serve as a springboard for 2020 and beyond. A lot will depend on how the Fins fare out the gate, but in what is likely another rebuilding in South Florida, Tua should get the chance to lead the troops at some point this season.
Miami did an admirable job of re-tooling this roster as they fortified the offensive line tremendously this offseason. Tua has had serious medical concerns, so keeping upright and protected should be the main focus for Flores and this front office.
Wide receiver DeVante Parker had a breakout campaign in 2019 and should remain a reliable target for Tua this season. The pieces are finally in place to start steering this ship in the right direction, as the future of the franchise now hinges on the development of the lefty quarterback.
Herbert in Charge?
Herbert, on the other hand, is in a much different situation. The Chargers have one of the best rosters in football and have their eyes set on a playoff berth in 2020.
Journeyman quarterback Tyrod Taylor — the backup to Philip Rivers last season — will start the season under center while Herbert gets familiar with the playbook. Herbert is a much more raw prospect than Tua, and may need time to get comfortable with the NFL game.
However, Herbert’s strong arm, coupled with his elusiveness in the pocket will help him adjust to the speed seen at the NFL level, as most of his deficiencies are mental. He is often slow to read defenses and struggles going through his progressions. He needs proper coaching to reach his full potential, but all the tools are there for Herbert when you include the fact his offense is loaded with playmakers such as Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Austin Ekeler, and Hunter Henry.
It wouldn’t shock me if he spends the entire 2020 season on the bench getting comfortable with Head Coach Anthony Lynn’s offense, as there’s no rush for the former University of Oregon quarterback given the consistency veteran Tyrod Taylor brings to the field each week.
The Heir Apparent in Green Bay?
In what was far and away the biggest surprise of the draft, the Green Bay Packers traded up to select Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. Aaron Rodgers is coming off one of his worst seasons as a pro, which may have fueled Green Bay’s decision to draft his potential future replacement. At 36 years old, Rodgers likely only has a few great years left, as his play subsided significantly last season coming off major injuries in 2018.
It is never too early to plan for the future, and Love has all the attributes of a star quarterback. Like Rodgers, he has an absolute cannon — giving him the unique ability to make tight-window throws in the pocket and on the run. He has tremendous athleticism that enables him to make off-script plays when protection breaks down, as he’s also capable of picking up first downs with his legs.
His accuracy and decision making remain major concerns, as Love struggled last season with turnovers. Much like Herbert, he’s going to need to learn the NFL game from the sideline before he’ll be able to make a significant impact on the field, as he needs to be coached out of some of the bad habits that got him into trouble last season.
Love was truly one of the most polarizing draft picks in recent memory, as no one and their mother could have ever imagined Green Bay would not only draft a quarterback in the first round, but trade significant assets to ensure they got what they hope is the future of the franchise.