In the NFL daft community, we love to talk about rankings. It's all about who you have in your Top 10, or how much higher you have a player on your board relative to someone else. Rankings are what differentiate our opinions as draft analysts and draft fans.
What usually happens is we just take a position group and make a vertical board of the prospects in order of how much we value them, numbering them in order one through whatever in singular fashion. But though that is the most common, it's not the best way to do it.
A much more efficient way of getting your analysis of players across is by placing them into tiers. For example, let's say there are four quarterbacks you believe are franchise changing talents in a single draft class. If you just do a vertical ranking of them, someone could look at your rankings and think, "oh wow you have this player as your No. 4 quarterback. You must not think they're that good or that they're not a first rounder." When in reality you might totally believe they can be a first rounder, there are just three other quarterbacks you like just as much.
Ties allow us to more accurately describe how we view players at a position relative to the draft class they're in, and since I haven't done it yet this season, here are my five tiers of quarterback groups for the 2020 NFL Draft.
In the first tier I have Joe Burrow from LSU and Tua Tagovailoa from Alabama. Even though I would tell you that Burrow is my top overall quarterback, I believe both of these players are worthy of Top 5 selections, and should be viewed as franchise changers. These guys check the boxes needed -- though to each their own -- in enough ways where I would feel comfortable building not only an offense but a franchise around them.
As stated before, though I would tell you confidently Burrow is my QB1, any team looking for a cornerstone quarertback can't go wrong with either of these guys. That's why they're both in the top tier.
In tier number two I have Oregon's Justin Herbert sitting by himself. The reason for this is because I think that Herbert can also be a franchise changing player, but I'm not as confident in that as I am with Burrow and Tagovailoa. Herbert is a bigger body signal caller with a good arm both with velocity and with distance. But I don't believe he handles pressure as well as the two guys above do, and when it comes to those x-factor kind of special plays, I wouldn't expect Herbert to make those as much as I would the other two.
Herbert is in this tier because he has a lot of the tools and trait you want to see from a quarterback along with longevity of production. I believe that Herbert is a step below the top tier, but a head above what would be the next group of quarterbacks.
In tier three we have a log jam of Jalen Hurts from Oklahoma, Jacob Eason from Washington, and Jordan Love from Utah State. Each one of these players brings one or two elite skillsets to the table that could make them first rounders, but I still have some hesitation with each.
With Hurts, he's having a great season. He's passing the ball better than he ever has, and his stats at Oklahoma prove that. But I still don't believe he's the pin-point accurate thrower than many of these other guys are. He's improved in that area, which means I think that he can still do so in the pros, but it's a bit of a projection. However his ability to win with his legs and his calmness under pressure are big pluses.
With Eason, I am not sure I trust him under pressure. Eason has a great arm that can push the ball down the field with velocity and throwing power. But everything is easy for him at Washington. His climate is extremely conducive to him being as comfortable as possible. I don't think his conditions will be that ideal in the NFL. He's also a different quarterback when pressured versus when he's attempting throws from a clean pocket.
Finally, Jordan Love might have the best arm in the entire class, but it's a bit of a loose cannon, at times. Love has some of the most impressive throws I have seen this season, but he still struggles to read defenses, and his mistakes with turnovers and accuracy still happen at a far too regular rate. He's a guy with the passing tools such as arm strength, quicker release and a "big play" mentality to become a stud pocket passer, but become is the key word -- he's not there yet.
The reason why I have Georgia's Jake Fromm in a tier by himself like Herbert is because Fromm is clearly better than the guys listed below him here, but he is limited as a quarterback. Fromm just does not push the ball down the field much. He is very much a game manager, in that sense -- a very good one, but still. I'm not saying he can't hit a big throw here and there. He has proven he can. But it doesn't happen nearly enough.
Fromm is a safe pick. What you see is what you get.
Anthony Gordon from Washington State, K.J. Costello from Stanford and Cole McDonald from Hawai'i are all in tier five because I believe these are quarterbacks who, if you're looking to just take a flyer on a guy in the mid-to-late rounds who might have a chance to hit the jackpot, they could be one of them. Each one of these players are in offense that asks them at attempt NFL throws; Gordon in Mike Leach's spread offense that produced Gardner Minshew, Costello at Stanford's pro style system, and McDonald in the "let it fly" run-and-shoot offense. All three have some nice highlight reels of their best stuff. But there is a consistency level missing from all of their games that hold you back from drafting them much sooner.
These guys are what I would call the wildcards. But if the right quarertback coach in the right offense get their hands on one of these guys, they might be able to catch lightning in a bottle.