Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons

The 2020 NFL Draft class of quarterbacks saw four selected in the opening round, and all of them have become starters for the teams who drafted them. Plus, there so happens to be a second-round selection who just led his team to the Super Bowl.

Let's look back at these quarterbacks as prospects, where they must improve, how their strengths can be maximized and formulate a projection for their third seasons, factoring in supporting casts.

To check out my outlook for the this year's rookie class of quarterbacks, click here. For the 2022 class outlook, click right here. The 2021 class is here.

Bengals' Joe Burrow (No. 1 overall pick)

Joe Burrow
CIN • QB • #9
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How he's improved

Burrow was a LSU rockstar for a season (and change), and you'd be hard-pressed to find any draft analyst who had legitimate concerns with Burrow's game after his 2019 in which he completed nearly 77% of his throws for nearly 5,700 yards with 60 touchdowns and six interceptions. 

But he has improved in one key area as a professional, and it relates to his rookie-year knee-ligament tear. In that rookie campaign with the Bengals, Burrow's pressure-to-sack rate was a hefty 21.9%, the eighth-highest among 42 qualifying starters that year. Even in his breakout 2021, nearly 26% of the instances in which Burrow was pressured, he was sacked, and again that was one of the highest rates in the league. It spoke to his one clear flaw on film -- his lack of elite-level athleticism. In 2022, his pressure-to-sack rate was 22.9%. Looking closer at that percentage, following the Week 10 bye week, Burrow only had one contest with a pressure-to-sack rate above 20%, and three regular-season games were below 15%. In the division-round win against the Bills, he posted a minuscule 8.3% in that advanced metric. 

Supporting cast 

When deciding the best (strictly) receiver trio in the NFL, the Bengals immediately come to mind as the best in football with superstar Ja'Marr Chase, the intimidating Tee Higgins, and the been there, done that, ultra-reliable slot option Tyler Boyd. The Bengals prioritized the fortification of the offensive line in the 2022 offseason, and while La'El Collins didn't materialize into the shutdown right tackle he was early in his career, the interior additions of Ted Karras and Alex Cappa had a seismic impact on the strength of Cincinnati's blocking last season. Proving they weren't complacent with mediocrity, as the Jonah Williams investment has ultimately paid average dividends, the Bengals signed Orlando Brown Jr. to man the ever-important left-tackle role this year. 

Altogether, Burrow has one of the most cozy -- but imperfect -- quarterback environments in football. 

Improving his weaknesses

I'll revert back to the intricate pressure-to-sack rate. While Burrow improved late in the 2022 season, if we're looking at the entire season as a whole, the nearly 23% rate was much higher than the other top quarterbacks in the AFC like Josh Allen (14.7%), Justin Herbert (14.0%), and Patrick Mahomes (10.8%). 

Now, we aren't going to suddenly see Burrow become a scrambling phenom. And he typically does an admirable job tapping into every ounce of athleticism he possesses. Yet lowering that rate would give Burrow another edge in 2023. 

Strengthening his strengths

Where do I start here? Burrow had the NFL's highest passer rating on throws outside the pocket a year ago. He was in the top 10 in passer rating inside the pocket, too. He got the ball out of his hands the third-fastest in football. His big-time throw rate ranked seventh among his quarterback contemporaries, and he managed the fourth-lowest turnover-worthy play rate. Pick one or all of them. They were strengths in 2022 for Joe Cool. 

Season outlook 

Burrow has established himself as a hyper-accurate, rapidly processing, pure passer with a touch of athletic twitch to improvise at times, and he's throwing to a awesome trio of pass catchers in a system that's a branch off the Kyle Shanahan offense. While the Bengals may not go 7-4 in one-score games again because they're unlikely to face as many backup quarterbacks as they did in 2022 -- although with a quarterback like Burrow, sustaining close-game success is much more possible than in most scenarios -- their quarterback is an indisputable elite passer. That will not change in 2023.

Dolphins' Tua Tagovailoa (No. 5)

Tua Tagovailoa
MIA • QB • #1
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How he's improved

Enter Year 4, Tagovailoa is essentially identical to the player he was as a prospect. Minimal movement skills -- although not a statue -- exquisite downfield accuracy, a keen understanding of the best location to throw the football while he's inside the pocket, and a noticeably quick delivery. 

Supporting cast

A case can be made that no quarterback in the history of the NFL has ever had as much speed at his disposal than Tagovailoa in 2023. From Tyreek Hill to Jaylen Waddle to Raheem Mostert to rookie runner Devon Achane, who ran 4.32 at the combine, the Dolphins have made their speed emphasis patently clear to the rest of the NFL over the past two offseasons. 

The offensive front, which finally was a respectable unit in 2022 thanks in large part to the veteran additions of Terron Armstead and Connor Williams, is still mostly solidified, although Armstead is currently on the shelf with injury. Head coach and play-caller Mike McDaniel may not give the most conventional press conferences, but when it's time to line up on Sunday, who cares? If he continues what he started last season, the Dolphins will again be super-efficient offensively. 

Improving his weaknesses

Tagovailoa has to reduce his mistakes when pressured. His turnover-worthy play rate only dipped from 4.8% in 2022 to 4.2% last season, and his big-time throw rate was just 4.3%. 

His 5.0% sack rate in 2022 is actually decently low, and he didn't have a high pressure-to-sack rate (18.9%). Still, his BTT to TWP ratio being essentially even doesn't align with top-end quarterbacks. 

Strengthening his strengths

His Alabama film hinted at it -- Tagovailoa, when protected well, can be a surgically accurate downfield passer. In 2022, that showed at the highest level. His 58.2% adjusted completion rate on passes made 20 or more yards down the field led all qualifying passers. Combine Tagovailoa's deep-passing prowess with the incendiary speed of Hill and Waddle, and its quite obvious: the Dolphins must continue to frequently test defenses vertically this season. And they will. 

Season outlook 

Armstead's health is worrisome. Beyond that, the Dolphins have constructed an offensive line good enough to support McDaniel's quick-strike offense. The receiving group is decently deep -- with the likes of Braxton Berrios and Ced Wilson -- but, of course, will lean on its electric duo of Hill and Waddle. The defense, with the addition of coordinator Vic Fangio, should be better than a unit that ranked 15th in Football Outsiders' defensive DVOA a season ago. 

All this paints a glorious picture for Tagovailoa. But -- and this is massive -- I still do not believe Tagovailoa can do what's necessary to stay healthy. That's not an injury prediction per se. It's just that he wasn't overly twitchy and explosive to elude defenders to begin with, and he apparently added weight this offseason in hopes of increasing his chances of absorbing hits. To me, it's the ability to avoid hits altogether that's most crucial, and Tagovailoa hasn't shown that capability yet. 

Related to that, Tagovailoa's average-at-best mobility doesn't lend itself to plus off-structure play -- which may not matter in most games for Miami this season. In the critical contests against top AFC teams, though, that lacking skill will make a difference. If he can stay off the injured list, Tagovailoa will have another strong season but not one that garners a monstrous multi-year contract afterward.

Chargers' Justin Herbert (No. 7)

Justin Herbert
LAC • QB • #10
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How he's improved

The lulls have all but completely vanished from Herbert's game, which was the main area of concern from naysayers during the pre-draft process. In that final season at Oregon, he had three contests with a completion rate under 60% and didn't eclipse 200 yards passing in any of his final three outings for the Ducks. 

Everything else -- pretty spot-on from his time as a multi-year starter in the Pac-12.  

Supporting cast 

Elder statesman Keenan Allen can still get open. Mike Williams is still a tremendous rebounder, and Quentin Johnston can be the yards-after-the-catch monster the Chargers offense has missed early in the Herbert era. Rashawn Slater's return at left tackle has a magnificent ripple effect on the offensive line -- and don't forget his 2022 replacement Jamaree Salyer proved he's a valuable piece of the line. And while the defense might not be incredibly deep, it's a star-studded group with Joey Bosa, Derwin James, Khalil Mack, and Asante Samuel Jr.

The Chargers bringing in Kellen Moore to coordinate the offensive may go down as the most positively impactful coaching hires of the offseason when we look back on the 2023 campaign. The Cowboys finished 15th and 6th in offensive DVOA the past two seasons, and Moore has loved the deep ball, which I'll get to later. 

Los Angeles GM Tom Telesco has done yeoman's work manufacturing a diverse, talented group around Herbert after he was drafted in 2020. 

Improving his weaknesses

I have faith in Herbert returning to normal deep-passing mastery in 2023 after a down 2022, but the dip must be noted. His 38.2% adjusted completion rate on downfield throws ranked 30th out of 40 quarterbacks last season after being just under 51% in 2021 and 40.3% as a rookie. 

If Moore is going to dial up more long-ball attempts for Herbert, the veteran quarterback has to be more accurate than he was a year ago. Period. 

Strengthening his strengths 

Nothing quantitative in this section. Herbert is in the Mahomes and Allen tier of arm talent / athleticism combo. He is one of the few people on Earth capable of making Mahomes- and Allen-type throws from every arm angle, platform, and location on the field to any location on the field. That threat alone makes game-planning for the Herbert-led Chargers offense an absolute nightmare. More spotlighting of his arm and mobility is a must in 2023.  

Season outlook 

It's normally a challenge to fully predict or encapsulate the impact of a new offensive coordinator on a (talented) quarterback. There's one element of Moore's play-calling past that indicates his impact will be mostly positive for Herbert -- the way Dak Prescott pushed the football downfield on an annual basis. In Dallas with Moore as the offensive coordinator, Prescott's aDOT never dipped below 8.2 yards (and reached high watermark of 9.8 in his first season with Moore calling the shots). Herbert's aDOT has never even gotten to 8.0 yards in any of his first three seasons with Joe Lombardi orchestrating the Chargers attack. 

And of course, given Herbert's bazooka arm and supreme big-time throw capabilities, it feels like Moore is the ideal man to accentuate the former Oregon star's passing skills. Finally free from schematic restraints, Herbert will firmly move into the "unquestioned" elite quarterback tier in 2023. 

PackersJordan Love (No. 26)

Jordan Love
GB • QB • #10
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How he's improved

To date, the fourth-year Love has attempted 83 passes as a professional, so it's impossible to pinpoint how he's improved from his days as a collegiate star at Utah State. 

Supporting cast 

The youth movement in Green Bay started a year ago when the Packers shockingly moved Davante Adams to the Raiders. Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson have the complementary skills to be a tremendous receiver pairing. Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft are two athletic rookie tight ends with different strengths. Fellow Jayden Reed can be a nifty slot option and the duo of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon at running back is one of the steadiest in football. 

The offensive line is rock-solid at its worst with the realistic possibility to be elite in 2023. With David Bakhtiari back and Zach Tom ready to assume the right tackle role after earning valuable experience as a rookie a season ago, it's unlikely Love will have blocking problems to deal with on a weekly basis. 

Plus, Matt LaFleur has proven himself as an NFL head coach as quickly as any in recent memory. He runs his version of the Shanahan system brilliantly and manages the game like he's been making in-game decisions for decades. 

Improving his weaknesses

We don't know what Love's NFL weaknesses are yet. I can speak to his collegiate woes. Point blank -- he was too careless with the football too often in his final season at Utah State. His 5.2% turnover-worthy play rate ranked fourth among full-time starters that season. 

Love has the natural throwing talent to make off-platform throws look routine. But completing those passes without proper fundamentals in the Mountain West and doing so in the NFL are a completely different animal. Love will experience the balancing act needed for many young passers today of correctly picking and choosing his spots to get risky. 

Strengthening his strengths 

Despite 17 interceptions in a non-Power 5 conference in the last season in college, Love still went in the first-round because of his phenomenal traits. While not as powerful of an arm as Mahomes, he gave off noticeable Mahomesian vibes while at Utah State. His 7.0% big-time throw rate was the third-highest among all full-time, qualifying passers in 2019. 

Season outlook 

An emergence as a star is the most sensible prediction for Love in 2023 given the blocking unit in front of him, springy, youthful targets, and a smart offensive-minded head coach. It's really that simple. Young (naturally talented) quarterbacks who aren't asked to elevate the play of everyone around them instantly typically perform. 

Love has the inherent ability, and the Packers organization knows how to field the proper, complementary pieces around a new quarterback. Love will silence the critics, dispel the doubters' concerns, and prove the naysayers wrong -- however you want to word it -- in 2023. 

EaglesJalen Hurts (No. 53)

Jalen Hurts
PHI • QB • #1
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How he's improved

Hurts has come a long way from his time as an Alabama quarterback and has even made strides as a passer from his breakout campaign at Oklahoma in 2019. At the outset of his collegiate career, Hurts was almost a run-only quarterback who wasn't accurate or confident enough reading defenses to be a consistent threat throwing the football. His running back frame, plus vision, and sneaky speed made him productive enough in the Crimson Tide's insulated environment for the team to win just about all of their football game. 

It was with Lincoln Riley and the Sooners that Hurts became more assertive zipping the football all over the field. And 2022 with the Eagles marked the third-straight season in which his ball placement and coverage-reading abilities improved as a professional. As a rookie, in a short audition, Hurts completed 52.1% of his throws. Last year, that vital, elementary statistic was 66.5%. 

Supporting cast 

There's a strong case for the Eagles having the best, most complete, well-rounded roster in football. In fact, you probably won't find many analysts who, at worst, have Philadelphia outside of the top 3. 

The offensive line does feature some older pieces like Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson, yet they're two future Hall of Fame talents who still excel at center and right tackle, respectively. GM Howie Roseman astutely planned ahead at guard, drafting Cam Jurgens in the second round of the 2022 draft, to replace Isaac Seumalo, who signed with the Bears in free agency. 

A.J. Brown is an elite YAC No. 1 wideout with deceptive route-running sharpness, Devonta Smith could emerge as the best No. 2 in the NFL this season, and Dallas Goedert is the most under-appreciated tight end in football. 

Hurts has it made. And that's even before we consider his stellar head coach Nick Sirianni. New offensive coordinator Brian Johnson is a former quarterback who's been with Hurts since his second NFL season. 

Improving his weaknesses

I'd like to see more on Hurts' plate in 2023. He methodically operated Sirianni's scheme last season, but a relatively sizable portion of the offensive production was due to his playmakers knifing through the defense after the catch as opposed to Hurts making indefensible throws through tight windows at the intermediate level and down the field. 

Hurts posted a 39.3% adjusted completion rate on throws made between 10-19 yards -- normally the bread and butter for the game's best passers -- which ranked 25th out of 40 qualifying quarterbacks. 

Strengthening his strengths 

More of the same offensive diversity from Hurts in 2023, please. Designed run game usage, scramble-drill throws, chain-moving scampers on third down. All that. That's the allure with Hurts. He's had more than 700 yards on the ground in each of his last two seasons. Hurts is genuinely one of the games best, most efficient combo quarterbacks because of how fluidly athletic he is. 

Season outlook 

Nothing regarding the Eagles as a team would indicate a regression is imminent for Hurts, yet I'm still not sure he can be relied upon to make challenging throws the game's elite passers make on a reasonably routine basis. However, because the Eagles are going to field a punishing offensive line and have assembled a phenomenal group of skill-position players, it probably won't matter for Hurts and Co. 

It'll be another step forward for Hurts, and the Eagles are going to rock, again. But I don't believe he'll genuinely be on the same tier individually as the established elite passers by season's end.