The 2020 NFL Draft was held a couple of months into the Covid-19 pandemic. The draft was held remotely; there were no cheering and booing fans.
Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the picks for the first three rounds from his home in suburban New York City. He was a stranger in a strange land.
Coming into the draft, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow was familiar to everyone, the obvious No. 1 choice. He had size, smarts, arm strength and a charged resume. He had just won the Heisman Trophy and a national championship.
The Cincinnati Bengals wasted no time in picking the Ohioan with the top pick.
Three other quarterbacks were selected in the first round:
- No. 5: Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama), Dolphins
- No. 6: Justin Herbert (Oregon), Chargers
- No. 26: Jordan Love (Utah State), Packers
NO. 53 PICK WAS A SHOCKER
The next quarterback drafted was a huge surprise not only in his draft city but around the league. Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts was picked No. 53 by the Eagles.
Eagles fans were shocked. The Eagles had Carson Wentz under contract and under center. The Eagles had won the Super Bowl only two seasons before, with Wentz playing a dominant role through the first 12 games before being injured.
Still, the Eagles chose Hurts.
As a rookie, Hurts started four games, showing brief glimpses of talent, as he replaced the unreliable Wentz.
In his second year, he started 15 games. This year, he is the established starter — the great hope for the franchise.
There is great uncertainty about how good Hurts is and how good he can be. He showed flashes of stardom in 2021, leading the Eagles to a 9-8 record and a wild card berth.
Hurts also showed inconsistent play — erratic enough that the Eagles reportedly was looking to trade for another quarterback.
LOOKING AT FIRST-ROUNDERS’ STATS
Below, I compare Hurts’ stats with the three other first-rounders who are starters — Burrow, Tua and Herbert. (Love mostly has sat on the bench in Green Bay behind Aaron Rodgers.)
Statistics don’t mean everything but they mean something. You can’t be a successful NFL quarterback without some serious numbers.
Of the other three, only Burrow has made the playoffs — last year’s remarkable Super Bowl run.
Here are their regular-season stats:
- 26 games (26 starts)
- Record: 12-13-1
- 630-of-924 passes
- 68.2 percent
- 7,299 yards
- 47 touchdowns
- 19 interceptions
- 7.9 yards per attempt
- 23 games (21 starts)
- Record: 13-8
- 449-of-678 passes
- 66.2 percent
- 4,667 yards
- 27 touchdowns
- 15 interceptions
- 6.6 yards per attempt
- 32 games (32 starts)
- Record: 15-17
- 839-of-1,267 passes
- 66.2 percent
- 9,350 yards
- 69 touchdowns
- 25 interceptions
- 7.4 yards per attempt
- 30 games (19 starts)
- Record: 9-11
- 342-of-580 passes
- 59 percent
- 4,205 yards
- 22 touchdowns
- 13 interceptions
- 7.3 yards per attempt
Hurts’ percentage rate is poor compared with the others. So is his touchdown-to-interception ratio. Those are numbers he and the Eagles are working to fix.
This is what the Eagles want: For Hurts to throw the ball to the correct receiver after he does a more informed assessment of reading the defense. They want him relying more on the pass than his legs.
Although, his big advantage is his running ability. Just as he did in college, Hurts is a monster running the ball. He has gained 1,138 yards in 202 rushes and has 13 touchdowns.
If the Eagles are happy with a run-pass combo quarterback, Hurts is their guy. That method works successfully for the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals’ Kyler Murray.
BURROW ON ANOTHER LEVEL
Burrow has enjoyed the most team success, given his Super Bowl run last year. He has a strong team around him and in the offseason the Bengals improved their biggest weakness — the offensive line. Burrow was sacked 51 times last year, the most in the NFL.
Last year, Burrow led the NFL in completion percentage (70.4) and passing yards per attempt (8.9).
Burrow reportedly underwent surgery Tuesday to remove his appendix, according to the NFL Network. Burrow is expected to miss some training camp time.
Burrow’s favorite target is LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase, who caught 81 passes for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns. They are one of the most effective and dangerous duos in the league. Burrow also has running back Joe Mixon, who gained 1,205 yards on the ground last year.
IS HERBERT EVEN BETTER?
Herbert is thought to be even better than Burrow, despite no playoff appearances with the Chargers. Herbert is yet another big-armed quarterback, synonymous with the Chargers.
They’ve had John Hadl, Dan Fouts and Philip Rivers, and Herbert might be better than all of them. Herbert’s numbers are off the charts in his first two years.
The Chargers are a playoff run away from Herbert joining the Mahomes-Rodgers-Allen-Wilson-Brady elite fraternity.
The jury is still out on Tua. Like Hurts, his inconsistencies stand out as much as his strong play. He has 27 touchdowns but an alarming 15 interceptions.
Tua should benefit greatly from the addition of Tyreek Hill, acquired in a trade with Kansas City. He has a new head coach in Mike McDaniel and a new offensive coordinator in Darrell Bevell. Perhaps they can tap Tua’s talent.
EIGHT MORE PICKED
Eight more quarterbacks were selected, making it 13 total in the 2020 draft. None has had an impact.
The other eight players made six starts and appeared in 11 games combined over two seasons.
- Round 4, No. 122: Jacob Eason (Washington), Colts
- Round 4, No. 125: James Morgan (Florida International), Jets
- Round 5, No. 167: Jake Fromm (Georgia), Bills
- Round 6, No. 189: Jake Luton (Oregon State), Jaguars
- Round 7, No. 224: Cole McDonald (Hawaii), Titans
- Round 7: No. 231: Ben DiNucci (James Madison), Cowboys
- Round 7, No. 240: Tommy Stevens (Mississippi State), Saints
- Round 7, No. 244: Nate Stanley (Iowa), Vikings
There are two established quarterback stars from the 2020 draft — Burrow and Herbert. Two others, Hurts and Tua, aren’t there yet and may never get there.
However, Hurts and Tua should improve this year given another year of experience and how their teams have added offensive weapons around them.
Their teams stuck with them, hoping for better results than they had in 2021.