So what if it’s not Herbert or Tagovailoa?
What if the Dolphins don’t land either quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft on April 23?
For starters, that would be at least a mild surprise. The Dolphins want to emerge from this draft with their quarterback of the future and are positioned to select either Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa or Oregon’s Justin Herbert. As the Herald has reported and NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah and others have subsequently reported, the Dolphins have high grades on both quarterbacks, as well as LSU’s Joe Burrow, of course, but remain concerned about Tagovailoa’s durability.
We’ve noted, back in January, the Dolphins believe a fourth quarterback in this draft — Utah State’s Jordan Love — has NFL starter potential, and have given strong thought to drafting him in the right spot, but there’s a belief internally that picking him fifth would be too high.
With every other quarterback prospect in this draft, the odds of finding a long-term quality starter begin to diminish.
And what about the idea of taking two quarterbacks? That doesn’t seem realistic for this reason: The Dolphins aren’t going to carry four quarterbacks — last season, they didn’t even carry three on the 53-man roster — so adding two rookie quarterbacks to the returning incumbents (Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen) doesn’t make sense from a roster management standpoint.
There is a possibility the Dolphins could sign a second rookie quarterback after the draft with the intent of stashing him on the practice squad.
In this piece, we broke down the metrics with Love and why he’s so polarizing. The Dolphins are intrigued. Miami rushed him to team headquarters before the NFL banned predraft visits due to the coronavirus pandemic.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. raises this concerns:
“Four games he was less than 52 percent [on completions in 2019]. Three of those games were New Mexico State and Colorado State — who were 6-18 this year — and Nevada. You can’t excuse all that, though he did lose nine offensive starters [from his 2018 team].
“Look at the schedule, Michigan State [in 2018], no touchdowns, two picks. He still had a tight end that was pretty good, running back, receivers that caught the ball [last year]. I have him between 12 and 23.”
ESPN’s Tim Hasselbeck isn’t convinced: “With Love, there are natural inaccuracies with how he plays that would make me nervous. Does he make some wow plays? Sure. I just don’t get that excited watching him tear up Wake Forest when nearly everybody tore up Wake Forest. When you watch him play, there are a lot of mistakes, gimmes and layups that he misses. It’s just hard to fix that in my experience. Guys that are naturally inaccurate, which he has been, I think that’s harder to change than other things about the quarterback position.”
NBC analyst Chris Simms’ take: “He has good size, he’s a good athlete. He does a great job of staying in throwing position in the pocket — he’s fearless that way…He can throw it effortlessly... I think he’s a guy that has room to grow.
“Is he a little raw? Certainly, but I think between his size, athleticism, composure — that I think showed off on film — and then his ability to throw the football. I think his game translates better to the NFL than someone like Tua…If Jordan Love was on Alabama, his stats would look a whole lot different.”
And there’s this from Jeremiah: “I won’t be shocked if Love goes in the top 10. I also won’t be surprised if he falls to the bottom of the first round. Grades are all over the place on the Utah State product. He is the most talented natural thrower in the entire draft. However, due to a variety of circumstances [losing a number of starters, dealing with a new coaching staff and scheme, etc.] his play dramatically fell off this past season. He will need some time to sit and develop, but the payoff could be huge.”
The production was pretty good, not great, for Washington last season: 23 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, 3,132 yards passing and a 64.2 percent completion percentage. The Dolphins like his skills; they arranged a video conferencing session with him.
“He is more of your prototypical pocket-passing quarterback,” Simms said. “He wants to stand in there and try to throw all over the field. The first thing is, I think that type of quarterback is a dying breed in the NFL... Quarterbacks that can’t get out of the pocket, can’t move around in the pocket, make plays off-schedule like that.
“If you look at all the top quarterbacks in football, they’re all capable of doing that… Good player, I do think he’s a guy that probably needs to go somewhere and sit a year or two. He’s got some potential, but I think he’s got to speed up his release, speed up his feet and just become a better overall athlete… My comparison would be Ryan Mallett.”
Jeremiah said: “Everyone I’ve spoken to about Eason believes he’ll end up in Tampa Bay. His big arm is a great fit for Bruce Arians’ offense, and he would be afforded the luxury of time to develop behind [Tom] Brady. In a perfect world, Eason would sit for two seasons before Brady retires and hands him the reins to the offense.”
Though the touchdown-to-interception ratio was good last season for Georgia (24-to-5), his completion percentage dropped from 67.4 to 60.8, and he went a subpar 20 for 42 for 222 yards with one touchdown and two picks in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game against LSU before closing well (20 of 30 for 250 tards abd two touchdowns) versus Baylor in the Sugar Bowl.
“When you look at Fromm, I like the history of him,” ESPN’s Hasselbeck said. “Runs a starter out of town at Georgia. They try to replace him with a big-time recruit, keeps his job. To me, he’s Andy Dalton. He’s a guy who knows how to play the position.
“You can tear apart his physical skills and throws he can’t make. I’m not saying he should be a first-rounder, but if you compare him to Andy Dalton — some people may roll their eyes — Andy Dalton has had a nice career. Does not have the upside of other guys we’ve talked about, but his floor is pretty high.”
Zierlein sums him up this way: “Arm strength is a concern, and that concern may be exacerbated if his ball placement and timing aren’t more consistent. He’s an intelligent game-manager whose range is good backup to middling starter.”
And Jeremiah said: “Fromm is a fascinating evaluation. He doesn’t possess a huge arm or special athleticism. His statistics don’t jump off the page, but he won a bunch of games at Georgia. He’s lauded for his intelligence and leadership. I asked a handful of teams which quarterback was the most impressive in their Combine interview and every single one of them mentioned Fromm at or near the top of the list. His physical limitations will limit the number of teams interested in him, but I believe someone will fall in love and take him in the second or third round.”
There’s no question about the production in Oklahoma’s high-octane offense last season: 32 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 69.7 percent completion percentage, 3,851 yards passing and 1,298 rushing (with 20 touchdowns).
“Hurts’ stock has dropped on my board,” Kiper has said. “When [Todd McShay] and I discussed in early October, I was bullish — if he kept up the same pace and showed improvement going through reads and seeing the field. That hasn’t happened. After a hot start throwing the ball, Hurts has leveled off, putting up much better numbers with his legs. Taking care of the ball was his greatest strength, but he has put out some bad tape lately [with five late-season fumbles].”
He was 15 for 31 for 217 yards and an interception in the national semifinal game loss to LSU.
“Hurts is a more accurate passer and better runner than [Tim] Tebow but is inconsistent as a decision-maker and tends to break the pocket when throws are there to be made,” Zierlein said. “His deep-ball touch and intermediate accuracy improved this year so teams may see him as a developmental talent who will keep getting better in the right scheme. He’ll struggle to beat NFL defenses from the pocket, but his ability to grind out yards on the ground and make off-schedule plays should make him a solid backup with upward mobility.”
Jeremiah’s take: “Hurts is the one quarterback who keeps me up at night. He still has some improvement to make as a passer — mostly, his ability to throw with anticipation — but there’s a lot to like in this prospect, both as a player and as a competitor. He has the arm strength to make every throw on the field. He can extend plays with his legs and create big plays both throwing and running. He is very smart and his competitive spirit is outstanding.”
THE NEXT BEST
Depends on who you ask. That would be some combination of Colorado’s Steve Montez, Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke, Iowa’s Nate Stanley, Michigan’s Shae Patterson, FIU’s James Morgan, Hawaii’s Cole McDonald and Washington State’s Anthony Gordon.
Simms said FIU’s Morgan and Oregon State’s Jake Luton “were two guys that I saw and said, ‘Man, they can spin it, they got some legit talent there.’ They might have a chance to do something here in the NFL if they get in the right spot, the right opportunity.”
Zierlein, on some of the others: “Teams may see [Montez] as a developmental prospect based upon physical traits, but his interceptions were mostly easy takeaways, and that doesn’t figure to improve against faster talent on the back end…. The traits and talent [of Lewerke] are absolutely worth a look, but the spotty confidence and issues with ball placement could be hard to overcome…. [Stanley] has moments where he is comfortable in a pro-style attack, but struggles to find a rhythm in the short passing game. His indecisiveness and lack of mobility could make him a sitting duck against NFL defenses and might limit him to backup status....
“With Patterson, finding an RPO-heavy [run-pass-option-heavy] offense that allows him to play fast and utilize his talent outside of the pocket could be critical in sticking on an NFL roster long-term as a backup…. With just 14 collegiate starts, Gordon hasn’t played enough chess against defensive coordinators and may need time on a practice squad to continue his development and avoid the “system quarterback” label….
“Morgan is very capable of making impressive throws to all areas of the field, but his violent release and inconsistent footwork hinder functional ball placement and accuracy. His lack of pocket mobility and instincts make him too easy for defensive coordinators to assault with a variety of blitz packages. He’s a tough guy with a big arm and the 2018 tape is the one to watch, but QB3 may be his ceiling.
“While [Hawaii’s McDonald] can read defenses and throw with touch, he doesn’t have the timing or ball placement to make up for his weak arm. He’s a decent athlete, but it’s not enough to offset his throwing deficiencies.”
Kiper predicts Morgan will be the later-round quarterback most likely to have NFL success; McShay says it’s McDonald.
Here’s a link to my six previous Dolphins stories over the previous 72 hours, with lots of nuggets on players the Dolphins have contacted; the position they believe they must find a starter; and Dolphins-flavored breakdowns on the draft class at offensive tackle, defensive tackle and safety. And please check back tonight for more nuggets.