INDIANAPOLIS – It’s been quite some time since the decision makers of the Indianapolis Colts fielded multiple questions at the Combine about quarterback prospects.
That’s the reality of the 2020 situation for the franchise though, as they search for a more solidified future at the quarterback position.
At this week’s NFL Combine, Chris Ballard was asked about Utah State QB-Jordan Love, and the rise in interceptions (from 6 to 17) during Love’s final collegiate season.
“He’s very talented,” Ballard said of the intriguing Love. “Had a heck of a season in 2018 under (Coach Matt Wells) Wells, who is now at Texas Tech. Matt Ryan coming out of Boston College, what did he have, 19 (interceptions)? You got to break down each one of those interceptions and (ask) why did they happen? It’s not always on the quarterback. I’m not saying that’s the case in this situation, but we got to break all those down and see where we’re at.”
A few hours later, Frank Reich took a question on Oregon’s Justin Herbert:
“Justin has certainly had a good career,” Reich said, admitting he is just now diving into the quarterback film from the 2020 group. “His tape is exciting. He does a lot of good things.”
With the expectation that LSU’s Joe Burrow will be taken No. 1 overall in April, there seems to be a general consensus on the next 5 quarterbacks likely to come off the board.
How do those guys fit the Colts wants? What did the signal callers have to say at the Combine?
Tua Tagoviola (Alabama): It’s all about the medicals for the 2018 Heisman Trophy runner-up. How crazy have those physicals been for Tagoviola? “It’s been a process now,” the lefty said. “We went to the hospital at 10 in the morning. I was the last person to leave. We went there at 10 and I was back by about 7:49 p.m. So right in time for the informal and formal interviews.” Even though the schedule has been hectic for Tagoviola, the feedback from teams inspecting his hip and ankle appear to be promising. “This rehab process has been gradually getting up as far as workouts with what we’ve been doing,” the Hawaiian native says. “Just strengthening all the parts around the hip, the glute, hamstring, quad. Just being able to be ready that once March 9 hits and we’re cleared to go, I’ll be able to do everything.” Tagoviola plans to throw and do on-field activities at his Pro Day.
-Colts Impact: If these medicals on Tagoviola do get a passing grade, the full expectation is his name will go in the top-5, as the second quarterback off the board. That means the Colts would have to give up a very significant trade package to be in the range of selecting him. From an accuracy and athletic standpoint, Tagoviola checks those boxes. Nick Saban also raves about what the QB meant to his program. But would even a little hesitancy about Tagoviola’s medical history scare the Colts from making a franchise-changing trade up?
Justin Herbert (Oregon): A successful Rose Bowl and Senior Bowl from Herbert has him likely to hear his name called in the top-10. Many pundits see a high ceiling for Herbert, but he is making a significant transition from a spread offense, where he was exclusively in the shotgun. Some question Herbert’s mental makeup and if he possesses the ideal leadership makeup at the most important position in sports. Herbert took those questions head-on this week. “I’m a different person,” Herbert said. “I think the kid that showed up at the University of Oregon isn’t me anymore. There’s aspects of my game that have changed. I’ve become more vocal. I’ve become more outgoing and there are things you have to do to be a quarterback and the way a quarterback carries himself. I think I’ve done a great job of becoming that over these past four years. When I showed up (at Oregon), I was shy and didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes and the quarterback can’t be that. To be a successful team the quarterback you have to have a quarterback that’s himself, he’s got to be genuine and real and he needs to demand form his offense, from the team when he needs to get out of them. I’ve done a better job of being vocal, stepping up and stepping out of my comfort zone.”
-Colts Impact: We know Frank Reich had a close eye on the quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl. If the Colts want Herbert, they will likely have to move up a bit. Such a move would also mean the Colts don’t have concerns over his under center/pro system transition, along with the leadership questions. Throughout this QB evaluation process, the Colts have not shied away from stressing how important that leadership component is to them.
Jordan Love (Utah State): Many in Colts Nation have a crush on Love. Fans are enamored with the rare arm talent (a la Patrick Mahomes) from Love in providing a physical characteristic that you can’t teach. While Love has traits the Colts are big fans of, the quarterback admits he didn’t do much pre-snap at Utah State. “In the run game, I didn’t have much control over that,” the three-year starter said. “With the protections, the center’s going to be making all those adjustments. Protection slides and things like that.”
-Colts Impact: Let’s not overlook that quote from Love. We know the Colts are big fans of some of Love’s ability, but the cognitive aspect of controlling things pre-snap is a huge element to Frank Reich’s offense. Can that be taught at the next level? Do the Colts think Love can handle that responsibility? How the Colts feel about that will be a huge factor in deciding what type of resources they think is worthy of committing to Love?
Jacob Eason (Washington): The 6-6 Eason has a very ‘chill’ persona when hearing him talk. From a physique standpoint, Eason looks like a prototypical professional quarterback with a big arm. Eason isn’t the most elusive quarterback though, which is a common trait we’ve seen in recent years from young successful quarterbacks. “It’s not my biggest strength but to get a first down or whenever it’s necessary, I’m comfortable enough to go make a play,” Eason says. “Like I mentioned before, everybody is going to have their nit pickings about this and that, but my job, I’m a confident player and I am going to go out there and compete my best.”
-Colts Impact: It’s interesting, when Frank Reich describes the ideal quarterback traits in a future franchise QB, he doesn’t often mention scrambling/escapeability. But we did hear Chris Ballard throw out the elusive characteristic as something the GM is looking for. Is Eason mobile enough to appease Ballard? What about the questions on Eason’s laid-back feel?
Jake Fromm (Georgia): It was Fromm who beat out Eason for the starting job at Georgia in 2017. Without a doubt, the greatest strength of the 6-1 Fromm is what he brings between the ears. And the quarterback knows that. “I would say, I probably had as much or more as any college quarterback as far as what I could do at the line of scrimmage,” the three-year starter said. “The coaches really trusted me a lot. I could change a run to a pass, a pass to a run. This play to that play. I was really grateful for the kind of power they gave me with the offense. It was awesome. It was a great learning curve for me. It’s really going to prepare me for this next level and what I can do and how I can communicate.”
-Colts Impact: Listening to Fromm, he sounds like a guy Chris Ballard and Frank Reich will really enjoy getting to know. Now, there are some definite questions about Fromm’s physical limitations and how vast of potential he has. Is this a high floor/low ceiling situation? Fromm finished his three years starting at Georgia with 78 touchdowns, 18 interceptions, while completing 63.3 percent of his passes. Is a Fromm selection in the second round more of the route the Colts want in 2020?