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2020 NFL quarterback class might be better than 2004

2020 NFL quarterback class might be better than 2004
November 18
14:22 2020

When it comes to recent NFL quarterback classes, the first one that comes to mind is the 2004 draft that included Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning. All three are sure-fire hall of famers, with two of them having multiple Super Bowl rings, but the 2020 class seems primed to possibly be just as good.

All three of those signal callers elevated their teams to another level. Manning brought the Giants back to relevance they have not seen since the late 80s. Roethlisberger was seen as a game manager early on, but has reminded Steeler fans of their glory days of the 1970s. Even though Rivers has not won a championship, he may go down as the best pure passer of all three and will more than likely be mentioned with Dan Marino as one of the best quarterbacks to never win a Super Bowl.

There have been a few draft classes that have come after the famed 2004 class, but none of them have ever lived up to the hype. The most noteworthy class is probably the 2012 class that included Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III. Wilson has won a Super Bowl and was one play away from winning another, Luck was well on his way to legendary status before retiring due to injuries, and Griffin was Rookie of the Year in 2012.

I know it’s early, but halfway through the year, the rookie quarterback class of 2020 is looking quite impressive. Joe Burrow, the No. 1 overall pick, Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa have all played well so far this season.

Since he was the first pick in the draft, I will start with Burrow. The Bengals had the first pick in the draft for a reason – they were not very good. Burrow was stepping into a situation where no one expected much from this team. Surprisingly, Cincinnati has been respectable with a 2-5-1 overall record in the first half of the season.

The defense needs help, and the offensive line is not very good, but the cupboard was not totally bare for Burrow.  He has guys like A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross and rookie sensation Tee Higgins to throw the ball to. He also has Joe Mixon and Gio Bernard in the backfield, so Burrow has some above average talent at the skill positions to work with.

In eight games of work, Burrow has thrown for 2,272 yards, with 11 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. If Burrow continues on this pace, he could throw for 4,500 yards and nearly 25 touchdowns.  

To be honest, I did not envision this much early success for Burrow. He wasn’t even the most sought-after quarterback in college to begin his senior year. He not only rose to the top of the draft class, but quite possibly put together the best season ever for a quarterback. His last year at LSU, Burrow threw for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns, which led to him winning the Heisman Trophy and National Championship.

I doubted how good Burrow was going to be in the league because I did not think he had an elite arm, along with being surrounded by NFL talent at LSU. With players like Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson at his disposal, I thought his numbers were inflated because of who he was playing with.

So far, he has exceeded what I thought he could do on the NFL level and looks to be well on his way to becoming an elite starter in the league.  

Herbert was drafted 6th overall in the draft and was not supposed to be under center so early on in his career. He was told just minutes before the week 2 game against Kansas City that he was going to be the starter. That could have been a recipe for disaster, but Herbert performed well with a stat line of 22-33 for 311 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Most people thought Herbert was going to be the first quarterback taken in the draft after Tagovailoa hurt his hip during the season.  If not for the legendary season put up by Burrow, Herbert would have been the top pick.  

Herbert has only won one of his seven starts, but the blame cannot be put on him due to his outstanding play. If a couple of plays went their way, the Chargers could easily have four wins. Herbert has progressively gotten better every game. Through seven games he has thrown for 2,146 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. Those are gaudy numbers for a rookie.

The Chargers have to feel good with their selection of Herbert and their move away from long-time quarterback Phillip Rivers. His strong arm and gunslinger mentality have served him well thus far.  

Out of the three, Tagovailoa was the last to start for his respective team. The Dolphins were playing well and then-starter Ryan Fitzpatrick was more than serviceable at the position. Miami surprised everyone by benching Fitzpatrick in favor of Tua. With his injury concerns and the Dolphins being in the mix for a division title, many wondered why the Dolphins made the change.

Once the change was made, I immediately thought the Dolphins wanted to see what they had in Tua prior to next year’s draft. Miami will have the Houston Texans first round pick next year and it seems it will be a high pick due to the subpar season the Texans are having. Trevor Lawrence of Clemson and Justin Fields of Ohio State are the top two quarterback prospects this season, so if Tua does not work out, Miami could possibly be in play for one of them in the 2021 draft.

The Dolphins vehemently denied that Tagovailoa is “auditioning” for his job and has fully backed him as their franchise quarterback. Tagovailoa has made two starts and has won them both. His first start was somewhat forgettable with a pedestrian stat line of 12-22 for 93 yards and one touchdown. That is understandable as he played against Aaron Donald and the fierce Los Angeles Rams defense.

His second start against Arizona was a lot better. Tagovailoa looked calm and in command during the game. He went 20-28 for 248 yards and two touchdowns. He also looked elusive on a couple of improvised runs when the pocket broke down. If Tua can stay healthy, I think the Dolphins have found their guy.

It’s rare that three teams hit on a quarterback in the top half of the draft. Yes, it’s only year one for these players, but they all look like they are going to be solid starters and possibly Pro Bowl level players. I am not sure they will end up with more Super Bowls than the 2004 class, but I wouldn’t bet against it. If you ask me which class is more talented, I would have to say 2020 over 2004.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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