The 2020 NFL draft quarterback crop has been sent through the spin cycle three or four times since August. Can we even count the ways?
The injury to Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa has changed the draft landscape completely.
LSU’s Joe Burrow, the possible No. 1 overall pick, has gone from Average Joe to Holy Joe seemingly overnight.
Everyone’s summer crush, Utah State’s Jordan Love, has gone from a 32-6 TD-INT ratio in 2018 to 13-14 this season.
Washington’s Jacob Eason, playing extensively for the first time since 2016 at Georgia, is no clean evaluation after an up-and-down junior season.
Oregon’s Justin Herbert might be that old blanket you can’t help but curl up with — still there, not much has changed, still as good as you remembered — after his decision to come back. He was viewed as a top-10 pick a year ago, and he’s likely going to fall in that same range five months from now.
But overall, the big-school senior crop has been disappointing, minus a few somewhat surprising developments, such as Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, Washington State’s Anthony Gordon and one or two more farther down the food chain.
And somewhere in the QB fog is the fascinating case of Georgia’s Jake Fromm.
Entering the season, Fromm was viewed as a high-floor prospect with some decidedly Drew Brees-ish vibes. Fromm’s poise, uncanny accuracy, big-game experience and elite intangibles were all the reasons why it was expected he would finish his junior season along the rolling-boil path he set forth on when Fromm replaced an injured Eason and led the Bulldogs to an eyelash from beating Alabama in the national title game as a true freshman two years ago.
It hasn’t exactly worked out though. And now there’s some mulling in scouting circles that Fromm might opt to come back to school in 2020.
“I could see it,” an NFL college scouting director told Yahoo Sports on Thursday night, “because there’s not as much to get physically excited about, and this class is more about the toolsy players, the one who can sling it farther and move around better than [Fromm] does. Sometimes those players who have the immeasurable stuff and lack the great traits, they get pushed to the side.
“The funny thing is that Tua isn’t all that gifted physically, and Jake doesn’t have nearly the physical concerns that [Tagovailoa] does, but it seems like [Tua] can still make it into Round 1 if he answers those health questions with some good reports on that. Jake? I don’t know if he is guaranteed to make it in.”
The director added: “There’s been a little talk [Fromm] could come back next year. We’ve not heard anything concrete on that, but yeah, I could see it.”
Why Jake Fromm might want to come back
Not all of this is the fault of Fromm, who has had a very respectable season in terms of taking care of the football — 16 TDs, three picks and only four turnover-worthy passes out of 261 attempts, per Pro Football Focus. That’s efficient. You can work with that.
But Fromm has been a victim of poor coaching, less-than-stellar wide receiver play and some injuries that have held the offense back. New offensive coordinator James Coley has been the easy mark here. When head coach Kirby Smart was asked after the stunning loss to South Carolina about the job Coley was doing in his first year of calling plays, Smart just ... didn’t answer.
“Yeah, we're definitely looking forward to Kentucky right now,” Smart said. “That's the biggest concern we've got, and we're going to focus on that.”
Well, in the Kentucky game — played in sloppy conditions — Fromm completed 9 of 12 passes for 35 yards. For a solid laugh, watch this “highlight” video of the game; it starts with the opening kickoff being fumbled around like a winter squash covered in Crisco and immediately jumps to the six-minute mark of the third quarter for the first offensive play of note:
It has been Fromm’s — and the Georgia passing game’s — inconsistency that has been surprising. He went from a razor-sharp efforts against Notre Dame and Tennessee, hitting 44-of-53 passes combined, to the dregs of the South Carolina and Kentucky games. All three of Fromm’s picks this season came against the Gamecocks, along with three of his six sacks taken in 2019.
Those eyesores were followed by a surgical dismantling of a good Florida defense. Box-score scouts will also add that Fromm had five touchdowns and no picks against Missouri and Auburn, two respectable defenses, but he also only completed 45.6 percent of his passes in those games, without enough throwaways (four) or dropped passes (two) to justify the inaccuracy.
For all the impressive moments he’s had this season, Fromm also has underwhelmed at a commensurate rate. His elite intangibles didn’t suddenly disappear overnight; he just appears to be pressing some of the time and shackled by the offensive design.
Coming back would be a pretty safe call. Fromm doesn’t have elite physical skills, so opting to be in the potentially banner 2021 class of Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields wouldn’t be a mistake. He’s never going to win a beauty contest against either, which is why there seems to be more buzz for Utah State’s Love and even Washington’s Eason — both more gifted specimens than Fromm — this year.
Herbert has a higher talent floor than Fromm does, but the Oregon QB’s decision to come back looks like a wise one. He felt it was important for his development to return and play one more season while trying to win a national title. Georgia stands to lose some quality offensive talent to this coming draft, including first-round possibilities in OT Andrew Thomas and RB D’Andre Swift.
But if Fromm came back, he likely would have some talented pieces remaining on the offensive line, along with a top three at wideout — George Pickens, Dominick Blaylock and Demetris Robertson — that would likely be much better than they’ve been this season. Plus, Georgia just cranks out the RB talent year in and year out, so losing Swift and Brian Herrien would not hurt. Zamir White appears to be the next star in that backfield. And Georgia figures to field another first-class defense in 2021.
It wouldn’t be easy for Fromm to pass up a spot in this year’s top 40 or 50 picks. That certainly would put him on the path to starting for an NFL team eventually and would give him a year or more in their system before that pressure to win the job arrives.
But staying and putting behind him the slog that has been the 2019 season also could make Fromm far more attractive in the 2021 draft. He’d still be only 23 years old — younger than Carson Wentz when he was the No. 2 pick a few years back — and have an entire year to answer the questions that have caused his draft stock to slip over the past few months.
Don’t be surprised if this is the way this one plays out in the end.
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