The Senior Bowl is always fascinating for the quarterbacks. After illustrious careers, they find themselves throwing to unfamiliar wideouts in front of scouting staffs from every team in the NFL.
Most of the time, the event draws Day 3 talent and some borderline Day 2 passers trying to boost their stock into Round 1. Occasionally, a top prospect competes in Mobile, as was the case with Baker Mayfield in 2018.
This year, we'll get that with Justin Herbert, and Jordan Love is the super-sleeper with flashes of serous first-round skills. And with a big week, Jalen Hurts could catapult up boards. Here's what the six signal-callers who have accepted invites have at stake in Mobile.
Justin Herbert, Oregon
Herbert can make throws no other quarterback in this class can make: long, anticipatory throws across the field at the intermediate, range; tight-window strikes while on the run; and ropes to his secondary read through multiple levels of the defense, all of which elicit gasps from everyone watching.
He can also toss some flat-out brutal interception-worthy passes; sit stagnant in the pocket, overly enamored with his first read; and take hits he shouldn't, all of which elicit gasps too.
During Senior Bowl practices, Herbert should absolutely shine. The "against air" drills seem like they should mean absolutely nothing. But for scouts, coaches and GMs, seeing the velocity on passes up close in the intimate Ladd-Pebbles Stadium does make an impact.
In team drills, if Herbert can mostly stay away from the strange confused-by-coverage blips -- and he should, because coverages stay very vanilla during the week in Mobile -- he will almost assuredly be garnering buzz as a quarterback competing with Tua Tagovailoa to be the second quarterback off the board in the top 10. Admittedly, I've been higher on Herbert than the masses because of his experience and wow-throw capabilities, but I really think participating in the Senior Bowl will work wonders for his draft stock.
Jordan Love, Utah State
Much of what I wrote above about Herbert applies to Love. They're both athletic, rocket-armed quarterbacks with a lot to prove. But Love's 2019 campaign was clearly less impressive than Herbert's, as he was even more reckless with the football. In general, his style is Patrick Mahomes' to Herbert's, say, Cam Newton, and while the Utah State alum does have Mahomes-like arm talent, it's not to the level of the Chiefs quarterback, as some of the off-balance, weird-arm-angle, across-the-field tosses simply don't work.
Love doesn't need to be Drew Bledsoe from inside the pocket, because the teams that already like him probably dig his creativity and willingness to try the borderline impossible, but a reining in of sorts of his wild play in Mobile wouldn't be the worst idea. However, it'll be a thin line for Love. He can't simply check it down during team drills, and he needs to stay on par with Herbert's velocity down the field in team drills and one-on-ones with wide receivers and corners.
Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
No quarterback has more to gain at the Senior Bowl than Hurts. His unprecedented collegiate career and class he showed while at Alabama before transferring to Oklahoma will also be a positive on his resume as a prospect. But at the end of an ultra-efficient season in Lincoln Riley's system with the Sooners, Hurts' lack of polish as a passer reared its ugly head against LSU in the CFP semifinals.
His arm isn't outstanding -- nor is it weak -- but at the Senior Bowl, he needs to showcase an ability to quickly process coverage then move through his reads and throw accurately. In the practice setting, Hurts kinda-sorta won't be able to demonstrate his rushing skills, which may seem like a bad setup for him. But it's not. We all know he can run. We need to see him pass, from the pocket, when his comfortable first read isn't open. It'll be a challenge throwing to unfamiliar wide receivers.
Gordon will be looking to ride the Gardner Minshew wave from one-year starter in Mike Leach's Air Raid system to success early in his NFL career. Gordon's pretty similar to Minshew, actually. He instantly showed comfort in the Air Raid attack, got the ball out insanely fast, and threw accurately for the vast majority of the season. Also like Minshew, his arm is below average. Ripping some strikes at the intermediate level or down the field would be valuable for him.
Patterson is a pretty good athlete for the quarterback spot. He improvised well over the past two seasons for the Wolverines, but similar to Hurts, he never really developed the ability to methodically bounce through his progressions and throw the ball accurately. He tends to leave pockets prematurely and isn't a deft pocket mover when pressure is mounting on the inside. Can Patterson have good ball placement when his first target is covered? That's what we'll all be watching at the Senior Bowl with him.
Montez has a hose, and the three full years of starting experience is what you want from a quarterback prospect. However, he never really improved throughout his time at Boulder, and at 6-foot-5 with plus athletic skills, he has the raw tools of a franchise quarterback. Accuracy and an antsy demeanor inside the pocket were his two most glaring weaknesses. Simply hitting receivers in-stride and not morphing into a runner too quickly during the week of practices in Mobile will be beneficial to how he's viewed by the NFL before the draft.