What if I told you that a team who was not down in Mobile coaching either the North or South squad, a team without a need to address the quarterback position, and a team whose most glaring needs (offensive line and EDGE) could likely be filled by underclassmen who were not even in Alabama, won the week? Would you believe me?
That case begins with the quarterback position.
Justin Herbert came into the week looking to cement his status as the top quarterback in Mobile, and his Tuesday practice showed some strides in that effort. During the footwork drills at the start of practice he showed off his athleticism and his fluidity, despite his size. Then during the routes versus air segment he flashed not only his velocity but also some timing and rhythm, throwing some well-placed speed out patterns with the ball coming out of his hand on time and in perfect rhythm.
During the 1-on-1 drills, Herbert displayed some of the arm talent that has scouts excited about what he could be at the next level. He threw a rope on a comeback route to Austin Mack, and followed that up with a beautiful throw on an in-breaking route with velocity and good placement. That continued into the 7-on-7 portion, where Herbert threw a number of slant routes with great placement, velocity and tempo.
Then on Wednesday during practice, Herbert continued to shine. Early in the practice he threw a perfect post pattern off play-action to Collin Johnson from Texas (another WR who fared well in Mobile) and then followed that up with a great out route to Josiah Deguara and a perfect corner route to LSU’s Stephen Sullivan.
Then during the CB/WR 1-on-1s, Herbert ripped a perfect out route to Jauan Jennings from Tennessee and what happened after the throw might highlight some of what Herbert told the media on Tuesday. The quarterback went right over to his WR to hype him up after the play, perhaps showing some of that leadership that Herbert wanted to display this week. Herbert also showed the ability to anticipate, on an out route to Johnson, during this portion of the practice.
During the skeleton session one of the things Herbert displayed that might also be a big thing for him is the ability to work through reads. He made a few full field reads during this portion of practice, showing that processing speed and decision-making that he did not have a chance to show much of in Oregon’s offense.
During the team portion, Herbert flashed the arm strength with a tremendous throw on a slant to Jennings, and also showed his athleticism, throwing on the move here:
It is probably safe to say that Herbert has been the best of the passers so far this week.
But that does not diminish what Jordan Love did this week. The Utah State product entered Senior Bowl week on a bit of a down note, when his 2019 film did not match up with the 2018 tape that had so many excited to see him this past season. But after a disappointing start to his week, Love began to shine on Wednesday. It started early just throwing routes versus air, when he threw a perfectly placed curl route to Chase Claypool, leading him towards the sideline and the boundary shoulder. On a curl route a bit later, the ball just popped out of hand perfectly and you saw the velocity.
Love later in practice during the cornerback/wide receiver 1on-1s connected with Southern Methodist wide receiver James Proche on a pristine comeback route, and with Denzel Mims from Baylor on a beautiful deep ball.
During the skeleton portion, Love showed some of the timing and rhythm that was missing the day before, on this comeback route:
Not bad timing and rhythm here from Love: pic.twitter.com/ejNxstM9NN— Mark Schofield (@MarkSchofield) January 22, 2020
Love finished the day strong during the team portion. He had another good deep ball to Mims where the receiver adjusted very well to the throw, and Chicago Bears fans might want to know that tight end Adam Trautman was wide open on a post route as well. Love closed it out with this touch throw working off play-action:
Like how Love took a little off this. Good placement: pic.twitter.com/qGqDHW61Yc— Mark Schofield (@MarkSchofield) January 22, 2020
Now here is where it gets interesting for the Giants.
Everyone in and around the league has put Joe Burrow to the Cincinnati Bengals with the first overall pick in Sharpie. I have made that case as well. But coming out of Mobile there was a bit more bite to the idea that the Bengals might go in a different direction ... even by drafting Herbert. In fact, the sage Matt Waldman said as much after Mobile:
The Justin Herbert “in the mix” for Bengals is and has been a sensible possibility if you get past the fan perspective about production-rankings and look more at traits that fit the offensive system.— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) January 26, 2020
Doesn’t mean Burrow isn’t a fit for Bengals but Herbert will get serious look.
Herbert might not end up going first overall. But the fact that people are now considering it a possibility, speaks to the week he had.
But consider this: I think both Herbert and Love did what they needed to do last week. What did strike me when talking to some around the league is that the gap between them might be closer than I expected. In discussing these players with a league source he indicated that in a meeting of evaluators after watching both players this week and some of their film, Love was the heavy favorite among the group of over 20 individuals. I would lean in Herbert’s direction, but the potential upside with Love might move the needle for some organizations. Remember, it just takes one team.
Then there is the Tua Tagovailoa factor. Another rumor floating around Mobile was that the league is still a bit wary of his hip injury. Provided his hip checks out at the Combine in a few weeks, teams will feel much more comfortable moving up if necessary to draft him.
Now consider the board.
Cincinnati at 1 likely drafts a quarterback. Say for the sake of argument it is Burrow. Washington at 2 likely drafts Chase Young. Then the draft truly begins. Do the Detroit Lions stay pat and draft a defender, perhaps Auburn defensive lineman Derrick Brown, or Ohio State cornerback Jeffrey Okudah? Or do they trade down, for a team coming up to draft a quarterback? Either way, that might spark a ton of interested parties trying to get up to four to draft a quarterback, getting ahead of the Miami Dolphins at 5.
If the Chargers at 6, or the Carolina Panthers at 7, come calling about moving up, the Giants might be in a great position to move down, acquire additional draft capital, and still get the player they might be targeting at 4. Why? Because we always see quarterbacks get pushed up boards. If you look at the teams picking in the top 15 of this year’s draft there are a host of teams that could be looking at QB. Cincinnati. Miami. The Chargers. Carolina. Even outside the top ten, teams like Las Vegas, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay could be in on the QB show.
Yes, there is a long way to go, and yes, free agency might shake some of this out. But with Herbert and Love “winning” Senior Bowl week, the benefit for the Giants is, they potentially win too.