Matt Waldman’s RSP 2020 Senior Bowl Quarterback Preview

Matt Waldman shares his thoughts on the 2020 Senior Bowl quarterbacks. 

Here are the quarterbacks participating on each roster, some essential thoughts on their play, and in some cases, what I’d like to see from them this week in Mobile. Moreso than any position, I would not read too much into their play this week because these passers are all participating in a basic offense, there will be little rapport among players, and there is limited contact.

There will be a lot of analysis about mechanics, seeing the field, and leadership qualities on the practice field and interviews. Unless the player is dismal at the hard skills on tape or has a history of recent poor behavior with the soft skills, much of what will be discussed this week will come at the risk of magnifying practice behaviors in a unique setting that aren’t an accurate measure of the player.

North Roster

Anthony Gordon (Washington State): Gardner Minshew’s successor at Washington State has a strong year. Like Minshew, Gordon makes quick and accurate throws with a variety of throwing motions and stances. He holds defenders well with his eyes and he’s willing to hang in a tight pocket to find the open man. Like Minshew during his college career, Gordon also rushes his process to deliver the football under pressure and makes throws that are unnecessarily off-platform, which compromises his accuracy. He often waits too long to deliver the ball against zone defenses and his ability to create also leads to reckless behavior. What you won’t see this week that is the biggest problem with his game is Gordon’s slow clock against pressure. It’s unlikely he’ll get sacked in practice and analysts may make the mistake of lauding a successful red-zone throw this week that otherwise would have taken him too much time in a real game situation. There are also enough instances on Gordon’s film where he overreacts to pressure—something you’re unlikely to see in Mobile’s environment. I will be looking at his footwork with various drop-backs when used from the center or specific drills that require three-, five-, and seven-step drops. He tends to walk his way back to a position in the pocket in Washington State’s Air-Raid system.

Jordan Love (Utah State): There’s a real opportunity for Love to raise his PR value to the media this week because of the practice environment minimizing what Love does poorly and maximizing what he does well. Love is a strong vertical passer willing to target tight windows of coverage. He has a good back-shoulder game, delivers the screen and roll-out passes with touch, and his athletic. These skills and traits will likely show up well this week and reinforce his status as a potential first-day pick even if the bigger question marks from his film won’t rear its ugly head as often. These issues include a loss of accuracy when he has to hitch or move within the pocket, ill-advised throws into zone coverage, and over-aggressive behavior under pressure. If there’s any negative I expect to see with Love this week, it will be an overestimation of his ability to target specific receivers facing man coverage where Love misreads the leverage.

Seah Patterson (Michigan): He’ll work well from the center and show off mobility in the passing game. Some observers will accurately see that he holds onto the ball too long but as with Gordon, many will find opportunities to praise accurate throws during this week’s practices that would have taken way too long in a game situation. It wouldn’t be surprising if there’s praise for his off-script ability in scrimmages where he finds receivers 20-30 yards downfield while on the move. However, it’s more likely that we’ll see issues with not seeing the open receiver and underestimating zone defenders in the middle of the field.

South Roster

Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma): I think Hurts will surprise those who expect to see a running quarterback who cannot throw downfield and stay in the pocket—essentially a significant portion of media who don’t study Saturday football until the NFL season is over. Hurts will get a chance to show off the arm, downfield accuracy, and ability to do it from the pocket that is more apparent on his tape than many have characterized. As you’re beginning to gather from this preview, young quarterbacks often struggle with management of the game inside the 20s. It’s unlikely these quarterbacks who posses these issues will have these flaws exposed this week—Hurts being one of them. If you see ball-security issues, they are indicative of his tape. The less reactive he is to pressure this week, which should be easier than his past game situations, the greater potential there is for him to have a strong week of practice based on the standards of most media scouts.

Justin Herbert (Oregon): The most likely to impress this week, Herbert’s big arm and willingness to target receivers against tight coverage with pinpoint accuracy downfield will become apparent. He’ll be more likely to show anticipation on timing routes during practice than what his tape reveals—practice environments are notorious for inflating the sense of anticipation and vision of the field that is not as frequent during in-game scenarios. I will be surprised if the hesitation at the top of his release hurts him this week—if it shows up at all. Expect his athletic ability, arm strength, and aggressive play to earn him praise.

Steven Montez (Colorado): The 6’2″, 230-pound quarterback operates well enough from the pocket that he could earn praise as a nice Day Three prospect. He can deliver the ball accurately on and off-script within 30 yards of his release point and he has a big enough arm that it will wow those evaluators who place a lot of weight on the superficial aspects of quarterbacking. Montez’s game tape reveals a quarterback that leans on his arm strength to his detriment. His pocket clock, pocket footwork, skill to adjust with precision in pressure-filled environments are often late and sloppy. Expect him to show off a big arm but the practice environment will hide some of his biggest conceptual flaws.

Go to this page for Matt’s coverage of the 2020 Reese’s Senior Bowl.

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