The 2020 NFL Draft class appears as though it could have three top-end starting quarterbacks in it.
No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow, despite playing behind a porous offensive line, is the favorite to win the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. Burrow's Bengals are 2-6-1, with four of their six losses by five points or less. He's tossed 12 touchdowns to just five interceptions, and has brought the same it factor that allowed LSU to go on a historic National Championship run a season ago to an NFL franchise that desperately needed it.
Not to be outdone, Justin Herbert, the No. 6 overall pick, has been excellent in his own right. Herbert was unexpectedly forced into starting in Week 2, and hasn't looked back. He's tossed 19 touchdowns to six interceptions, flashing elite arm talent. Herbert has also rushed for over 200 yards. An organizational problem that he inherited - an inability to win close games in the fourth quarter - hasn't subsided. The Chargers are 1-7 in games that Herbert has started, with all seven losses coming by a touchdown or less. While the close losses may cost Anthony Lynn his job, Herbert has shown enough to make you believe that he may be the most physically talented quarterback in the class.
Finally, No. 5 overall pick Tua Tagovailoa didn't get to start until Week 8, but he's won all three of his first NFL starts, including last weekend against Herbert's Chargers. Of the three, Tagovailoa clearly is part of the best team, but it's hard to argue with three wins and zero turnovers in your first three NFL starts.
2020 could be viewed as a historic quarterback class, and the crazy thing is that 2021 has a chance to be even better.
With more than half of the 2020 NFL season in the books, let's take a look at a top-10 mock for the 2021 NFL Draft, including four quarterbacks:
1. New York Jets: Trevor Lawrence - Quarterback, Clemson
If Lawrence had been eligible to enter the draft last year, he would have been the No. 1 pick. Even if you gave the Jets - or any other franchise - the chance to have any of Burrow, Tagovailoa or Herbert, they'd still take Lawrence. The best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck, Lawrence has the chance to be a franchise-altering selection. Because of the Jamal Adams trade, Jets' general manager Joe Douglas already has a treasure chest of draft picks, one he'll be able to add to this offseason with the trade of Sam Darnold, which feels inevitable at this stage.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Justin Fields - Quarterback, Ohio State
Between Gardner Minshew and Jake Luton, the Jaguars have proven capable of finding backup quarterbacks in the later rounds of the NFL Draft in recent years. This time around, it will be time for the franchise - who may very well have a new general manager and head coach - to find a prospect capable of being an elite starter. The Jaguars could still end up with the No. 1 pick and put themselves in line to take Lawrence, but there would be no shame in having the No. 2 pick and taking Fields. In his collegiate career, Fields has tossed 56 touchdowns to just three interceptions, while rushing for over 800 yards. In some classes, Fields would be considered the top quarterback prospect, so there's little doubt that whoever has the No. 2 pick should select him.
3. Washington Football Team: Trey Lance - Quarterback, North Dakota State
There are some who believe that another quarterback has taken the spot as the third in this class, but at least for the time being, we're sticking with Lance. The North Dakota State product didn't throw a single interception in 2019, while tossing 28 touchdowns, rushing for 1,100 yards and leading the Bison to an FCS National Championship. In his one showcase game in 2020, Lance did throw an interception, but also tossed two touchdowns and ran for 143 yards. NFL comps for Lance are all over the place, but he's dazzled and college, and Washington desperately needs a star quarterback to pair with what is a talented young defense. While they'd prefer to get in position to take Lawrence or Fields, Lance could immediately help them to compete in a disastrous division.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Penei Sewell - Offensive Tackle, Oregon
At his peak, Tyron Smith was a Hall of Fame-caliber left tackle, one that helped the Cowboys to have one of the most dominant offensive lines in recent memory. Unfortunately, Smith hasn't played 16 games since 2015, and had season-ending neck surgery in October. Drafting Sewell, the top offensive lineman in the 2021 class, would give the Cowboys quite a bit of flexibility. They could play Sewell at right tackle, hoping Smith is able to stay healthy and play at a high level in 2021. Or, the Cowboys could draft Sewell to play left tackle and part ways with Smith, a franchise icon. While the Cowboys desperately need impact defensive players, being able to protect your quarterback - especially if it's Dak Prescott coming off of a major injury - supersedes that need.
5. Los Angeles Chargers: Gregory Rousseau - Edge Rusher, Miami
If presented with the chance, the Chargers would be happy to take Sewell - Herbert's college teammate - themselves, but we'll guess they won't be in position to do so. Rousseau opted out of the 2020 college season, but had 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for a loss in 2019, and NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah says that he has "All-Pro potential." Melvin Ingram can become a free agent after this season and has zero sacks in 2020. Re-energizing the edge with Rousseau across from Joey Bosa could help the Chargers to close out some of the tight games that they've lost in 2020.
6. Miami Dolphins: Ja'Marr Chase - Wide Receiver, LSU
Chase also opted out of the 2020 season, and frankly, he had nothing left to prove at the collegiate level. Justin Jefferson had a monster season for LSU in 2019, and turned that into being a first-round pick and an early success in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings. Make no mistake, though, Chase was the best wideout on the National Championship team, hauling in 84 passes for 1,780 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns. Chase and DeVante Parker will create a pretty strong one-two punch at receiver for Tagovailoa to throw to.
7. Cincinnati Bengals: Patrick Surtain II - Cornerback, Alabama
The Bengals' No. 1 need is to add impact offensive lineman, but unlike last year, there aren't a bunch expected to go in the top 15 picks. If they aren't in position to draft Sewell, using a top-10 pick on any other offensive lineman in this class may prove to be a stretch. Cornerback remains a pressing need for the Bengals, and drafting Patrick Surtain II, the son of a former All-Pro corner, would help them to fill that need.
8. New York Giants: Micah Parsons - Linebacker, Penn State
Parsons opted out of his junior season because of COVID-19, and a struggling Penn State team badly misses his presence. However, like a few of the other names on this list, Parsons was cemented as a top-10 pick after his sophomore season, so there wasn't a ton to gain by playing another college season. In two seasons playing at what was once dubbed "Linebacker U," Parsons accumulated 191 total tackles, with 18 of them coming for a loss. Additionally, Parsons forced six fumbles in two years for the Nittany Lions as well. Joe Judge and the Giants definitely need this type of impact defender, and the former Penn State star could join Big Blue just in time for Saquon Barkley to come back from his torn ACL and have a career year.
9. Carolina Panthers: Zach Wilson - Quarterback, BYU
Joe Burrow didn't blow up until final collegiate year under Joe Brady at LSU. Wilson was fairly pedestrian his first two years at BYU, but has exploded in his junior season, tossing 22 touchdowns to just two interceptions, leading BYU to an 8-0 start. That's catapulted him into the discussion for being a top-10 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and ironically, he could end up with Brady, now the offensive coordinator for the Panthers. Teddy Bridgewater has proven to be an excellent stopgap at the position, and could still open 2021 as the starting quarterback. Ultimately, though, Matt Rhule and company need an impact player at the position. By the time Wilson hits his stride, the trio of Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan could all be out of the division, opening the door for the Panthers to seize the NFC South.
10. Atlanta Falcons: Kwity Paye - Edge Rusher, Michigan
Though there's been speculation about what will be a new regime in Atlanta potentially moving on from Matt Ryan, the Falcons would have to take on over $44 million in dead cap next season if they traded the former NFL MVP, likely a prohibitive amount. If the Falcons end up in position to take Lawrence or Fields, they should do it regardless, but that doesn't appear to be the most likely outcome at this stage. For at least another season, Ryan and Julio Jones will likely be in Atlanta. The need for an edge rusher remains, and Paye has 16.5 sacks in his last 15 games.