Breakdowns

Sophomore Slumps and Jumps: An Evaluation Of The 2nd Year NFL QBs

Sophomore Slumps and Jumps

With the Chargers playing the Bengals this week, 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow will host 2020 NFL Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert. This makes it a great time to revisit the 2020 QB class. While the evaluation process is fluid, here’s what is encouraging and concerning about each of the 2020 first round QBs, along with their future outlook.

No. 1 overall pick: Joe Burrow

Encouraging:

  • Playing at a high level: Burrow has been playing at a high level throughout the entirety of the season, amassing multiple passing TDs in each of his first 8 regular season games. One of the biggest positives has been his efficiency with the football. Out of his 11 starts, he has 9 games with a higher yards per attempt than league average (min 100 attempts), including 5 games with greater than 9.2 YPPA.
  • Accuracy and Anticipation: Seeing Burrow in person last week against Pittsburgh confirmed his ability to throw with accuracy and great anticipation. Through 11 starts, he has both the 4th highest completion percentage and adjusted completion percentage of any QB with at least 100 attempts. 
  • Pre-Snap Reads: The ability to dissect and distinguish between different coverages has enhanced Burrow’s play. He has the 7th quickest average time to throw while still leading the NFL in TDs on 30+ yard passes (10 TDs on 17 completions). It’s clear that he has a really good idea of where he wants to go with the ball pre-snap​​. 

Concerning:

  • Injury Rate: In 2020, the No. 1 overall pick suffered a significant injury, tearing his ACL, MCL, PCL and Meniscus. 

Outlook:

  • Durability is the biggest concern. It is the only aspect that could prohibit him from being a top flight QB in the NFL. By its nature, a coaching staff will be reluctant to use his athleticism outside of the pocket to prevent future injuries—and rightfully so. This timidness could diminish Burrow’s ceiling.

No. 5 overall pick: Tua Tagovailoa

Encouraging:

  • The last month: Over the past month, Tua has been more accurate and confident, showing greater anticipation. He has the highest completion percentage in the NFL over the past three weeks at 81% and has back to back games with a completion percentage over 81.5%. He has excelled with quick passes and has the third fastest average time to throw in the league at 2.48 seconds. 

Concerning:

  • Recurring injuries: Multiple injuries in his career have pulled him from playing during his most productive times as a QB. These injuries include: hip, finger, ankle, knee, quad, ribs. In the NFL specifically, his injuries have been to his ankle, thumb, and ribs.

Outlook:

  • A lot of this will depend on his ability to stay healthy, something he’s struggled with at Alabama and in the NFL. How he finishes the 2021 season will be particularly important, but there are reasons to be encouraged. 

No. 6 overall pick: Justin Herbert

Encouraging:

  • Prototypical Height/Weight/Speed, Strength, Athleticism, and Intelligence: Herbert came into the draft with amazing measurables at 6-foot6, 236 pounds with 32 ⅞ arms, 10-inch hands and a 4.68 40-yard dash. 
  • Limitless Potential and the Highest Ceiling: Following his ROY campaign last season in which he set rookie passing records, Herbert has been on a  similar trajectory in his sophomore season. He is on pace for more TDs, less turnover worthy plays.

Concerning:

  • Average Depth of Target: Through 12 games last season, Justin Herbert was pushing the ball down the field more often. He had an average depth of target of 7.9 yards last season and through the same timeframe, he only has an ADOT of 7.3 this year. Despite targeting shorter throws, his completion percentage is actually down (by almost 1%). 

Outlook:

  • Herbert is excelling through growing pains, and the Chargers should be excited to have found their franchise QB for the future. If you were starting a franchise today and could choose one QB to build around, Herbert would be one of the top choices. 

No. 26 overall pick: Jordan Love

Encouraging:

  • Great Teammate: By all accounts, Love has been incredibly accepting of his backup role. The Packers hope is that Love will benefit from sitting early in his career, then follow the trajectory of QBs such as Chad Pennington, Patrick Mahomes, Jimmy Garoppolo, etc.

Concerning:

  • Performance: Love was an emergency starter for Aaron Rodgers in Week 9 and did not perform to the level that they had hoped. He completed 52.8 percent of his passes for 5.3 YPPA for a total QB Rating of 65.7. 

Outlook:

  • The Packers need to keep Aaron Rodgers around this upcoming offseason, but the jury is still out on Love. He has to play more before they can get a full sense of his progress. In fairness to Love though, no one will look good in comparison to Rodgers…