This is the sixth installment of a multi-part series previewing the NFL Scouting Combine. The event will be broadcast over four days on the NFL Network, Thursday, Feb. 27 through Sunday, March 1. Today, we'll look at the quarterbacks.
Lions pre-free agency needs
One of the bigger takeaways from the Lions' 2019 season is the team is among the worst in football without Matthew Stafford. At the mid-point of the campaign, the Lions weren't exactly lighting the world on fire with a 3-4-1 record, but most of those outcomes were coin-flip results, including one-score losses to the Chiefs, the eventual Super Bowl champions, and the Packers, who earned a bye in the NFC.
With Stafford sidelined the final eight games, the Lions went winless, despite a relatively soft schedule. David Blough and Kyle Sloter remain under contract for 2020, but it's unreasonable to say with conviction either is a long-term solution.
Metrics to monitor
40-yard dash, three-cone drill
As we see more and more mobile quarterbacks have success in the NFL, there's going to be a greater emphasis on speed and athleticism at the position. But outside Lamar Jackson, who didn't even run at the combine, there really aren't any teams building offenses around a quarterback's feet.
It's always interesting to watch the throwing drills, for those who participate, because it can provide a feel for arm strength and accuracy. But the most valuable work done during the week will be in the individual interviews with teams.
► Joe Burrow, LSU
Burrow is coming off one of the greatest college football seasons of all time, leading the Tigers to an undefeated record and a national championship. He completed a staggering 76.3 percent of his passes for 5,671 yards, 60 touchdowns and six interceptions. Plus, he has above-average mobility. It would be a stunning upset if he's not the first overall pick in April's draft.
► Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Tagovailoa isn't going to be cleared to participate in any drills after a devastating hip injury in November, but his trip to Indianapolis might be as important as any prospect's because NFL medical staffs get a chance to put his recovery under a microscope. If things check out positively, he'll be a hot commodity for quarterback-needy teams, potentially leading to a significant trade early in the first round.
► Justin Herbert, Oregon
Staying through his senior year, Herbert capped his college career with some reassuring production, completing 66.8 percent of his throws with 32 touchdowns to six interceptions. With a strong arm and above-average mobility, he's expected to come off the board in the first 10 picks.
► Jordan Love, Utah State
Love is physically gifted, but is coming off an awful season where he made an unreasonable number of poor throwing decisions, resulting in 17 interceptions. That's five more picks than he had the previous two seasons combined. Some of that can be tied to changes to the team's coaching staff and depleted pass-catching personnel. There's little doubt he'll draw interest from a handful of NFL decision makers, who believe they'll be able to harness and develop his potential.
Sleepers to watch
► Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
There's value to having a stylistically different backup quarterback than your starter. Hurts is one of the better dual-threat options in this draft class. As a passer, he thrived during his one season at Oklahoma, completing nearly 70 percent of his throws, with four times as many touchdown tosses as interceptions. As a runner, he racked up 1,298 yards. Only Malcolm Perry, running the triple-option at Navy, rushed for more among QBs.
Hurts will need some patient development with his accuracy and decision-making, but if he can be groomed into quarterback similar in caliber to Tyrod Taylor, it would be an excellent use of a mid-round pick.
► Jake Luton, Oregon State
Luton is more of a pocket passer, possessing an excellent frame (listed at 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds) and quality decision-making. As a senior, he threw 28 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Just don't expect a rocket arm.
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