Just wait until next year's quarterback class, they said. Can we just accept that every draft is uniquely different, especially when it comes to the quarterback prospects? One year after five passers went in the first round including four in the top-10, three were first-round selections in 2019.
We've got a long way to go before we can confidently discuss which quarterbacks are in the first round conversation for 2020 but there seems to be somewhat of an established pecking order, one that often resists mentioning Georgia QB Jake Fromm towards the top of the list.
I understand being hesitant when it comes to Fromm, but there are also reasons to be optimistic about him. A true junior, Fromm has an important season in front of him in determining his draft stock.
In two season as Georgia's quarterback, Fromm has tallied 5,376 passing yards, 54 touchdowns and a 64.9 completion percentage while leading the Bulldogs to a 24-5 record in games he's started.
While Georgia has recruited well, four of Fromm's top-5 receivers from 2018 are now in the NFL. Fromm is tasked with developing timing and chemistry with a new arsenal of weapons while offensive coordinator Jim Chaney departed for the same position with Tennessee. Things will be different in 2019 and Fromm has to adjust.
The pressure on Fromm truly mounts when considering he's the reason Justin Fields transferred to Ohio State. A five-star quarterback, Fields was one of the most highly-touted high school recruits in recent memory but lasted just one season in Athens and attempted 39 passes.
I talked to a source late last fall and they warned me Fields was going to transfer. They affirmed to me that Fromm is head coach Kirby Smart's guy. There's no arguing which passer is more gifted, but Fromm's preparation, work ethic, leadership and mastery of the offense meant he was going to be the starter in Athens.
Fromm's emergence as "Kirby's Guy" also pushed five-star quarterback Jacob Eason out the door after replacing him when Eason suffered a knee injury in the first quarter of the 2017 season-opener against Appalachian State. Eason will be Washington's starter this season and the comparative discussions on how he fares for the Huskies and Fields with Ohio State, measured against Fromm in Georgia are inevitable. Fromm and Eason are both draft-eligible in 2020, while Fields is still one year away.
Let's examine why Fromm "wins" and where he needs to illustrate growth in 2019 to prove himself as a top QB prospect. Does he belong in the same conversations as Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert?
Where Fromm Wins
When studying his film, the most notable strength of Fromm's game is his football intelligence. He illustrates an obvious feel for working his progressions, hitting throws with anticipation, processing coverage and understanding where space/leverage will be. Playing against elite competition in the SEC, he's been tested against the best defensive talent and coaching in college football. He knows where his matchups are most favorable and is confident. There's a lot to like about his approach, decision making and execution of Georgia's offense.
From an accuracy perspective, Fromm has some really exciting touch throws down the field. No, he doesn't have a cannon for an arm but his processing skills combine with fairly consistent ball placement that leads to big plays in the passing game. Fromm does well to lead targets into space and maximize their ability to create separation. Especially against Florida and Alabama last year, he made some terrific reads with perfectly-placed throws that lead to big plays.
While he often has a low release point, Fromm has a quick, compact and efficient throwing motion. There isn't any wasted or elongate motion with his release.
With two SEC East Championships, an SEC Championship, Rose Bowl Victory and National Championship appearance in two seasons as a starter, Fromm is building an impressive resume in the best conference in college football. Thrust into action as a true freshman, Fromm held his own in 2017 and was even better in 2018.
What Fromm Needs To Prove In 2019
I'm nervous the primary concerns with Fromm can't really be improved upon. Simply put, he has physical limitations. While Fromm can hit throws on the run, he isn't going to wow anyone with his mobility. Fromm is a pocket-passer that hasn't proven to be effective working off-script or finding ways to extend plays. His arm strength is only average, requiring those strong mental processing skills to off-set any shortcomings in terms of velocity. While his arm isn't Nathan Peterman or Ryan Finley noodley, he leaves something to be desired when dialing up his fastball.
To Fromm's credit, he is self-aware when it comes to his lack of arm strength and mobility. While some quarterbacks struggle to determine what they can and cannot get away with, Fromm takes care of the football and gets it out on schedule. Fromm will eat the football at times, but he doesn't put Georgia in bad situations, searching for athletic ability that doesn't exist.
While I mostly like Fromm's upper body throwing mechanics, he is guilty of some flat-footed throws and failure to generate throwing power from the waist down. His trail foot often lags and there is no rotation. The disappointing aspect of that note is that Fromm doesn't generate enough zip on some throws while there is an easily identifiable way to get more zip on his passes. The moments that Fromm does get in trouble and he exposes the football to turnovers is when he attempts to work the football between zones or on out-breaking routes and he doesn't put enough on his throws, leading to unnecessary contested situations.
A true junior, Fromm isn't a lock to be in the 2020 NFL Draft. If he does opt to declare early, I am hopeful to see cleaner lower body mechanics that potentially improve his arm strength and eliminates those instances where not enough velocity was put on the football.
Fromm should continue to illustrate command and comfort leading the UGA offense, but he will need to adjust to a new supporting cast and offensive coordinator.
Absent of top physical tools like most of his contemporaries, Fromm's quest to be a top quarterback prospect is challenging. Continuing to showcase his exceptional football IQ while fine-tuning his ball placement will be critical to showcase in 2019.