With Christmas passed, bowl season is really going to heat up leading up to New Years. For NFL fans watching the games, quarterback is always a position of interest, so here’s background for some of the top guys playing in bowl games the next several days.
Jake Browning, Washington
The winningest quarterback in Pac-12 history doesn’t get a ton of praise from casual fans, but he’s a tough player that has plenty of experience as a four-year starter at Washington. Browning has 110 total touchdowns in his career (94 passing, 16 rushing), with his best season coming in 2016 when he was surrounded by future NFL receivers John Ross (first-round pick in 2017) and Dante Pettis (second-round pick in 2018). The lack of a big arm will likely lead to Browning falling outside the first few rounds of the draft, but at the very least he should be able to become one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league. He could work his way into the early rounds with a big performance against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
When: Rose Bowl, Tue. 1/1, 5:00 PM ET (ESPN)
Ryan Finley, NC State
Ryan Finley started his college career at Boise State for two years, but he’s become a three-year starter at NC State. Finley has gotten better every season, boosting his numbers across the board each year—including completion percentage from 60.4% to 65.1% to 67.9%. The fifth-year player helped take the team from 7-6 in his first year as starter to 9-4 last season, and he’s looking to help the Wolfpack get its first double-digit-win season since 2002. At six-foot-four, Finley has the height many teams are looking for in their quarterback.
When: Gator Bowl, Mon. 12/31, 7:30 PM ET (ESPN)
Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
As a Heisman Trophy finalist, Dwayne Haskins doesn’t need much of an introduction. The Ohio State quarterback threw 47 touchdowns with four rushing scores this season, leading the Buckeyes to a Rose Bowl appearance against Jake Browning and the Huskies, so The Granddaddy of Them All is a game that could have two future NFL signal-callers on the field. Keep in mind that Haskins is just a redshirt sophomore and could opt to return to school for not just one, but two more seasons. Most assume he’ll enter the NFL after the Rose Bowl, though.
When: Rose Bowl, Tue. 1/1, 5:00 PM ET (ESPN)
Daniel Jones, Duke
Duke quarterback Daniel Jones is one of the most intriguing players in the 2019 draft. He’s been under the tutelage of head coach David Cutcliffe, who coached both Peyton and Eli Manning during his coaching career, so it’s easy to connect things and believe Jones has obvious potential as a pro. Jones has more ability as a runner than the Mannings, but clearly, he’s not quite where the two former No. 1 overall picks were as passers coming out of college. With another year of eligibility as a redshirt junior, Jones could garner big-time hype if he returns to school in 2019. However, this year’s draft class doesn’t look close to as good as 2020.
When: Independence Bowl, Thu. 12/27, 1:30 PM ET (ESPN)
Brian Lewerke, Michigan State
This has been an injury-riddled season for Brian Lewerke, who might not even be starting in the Redbox Bowl against Oregon, so the best option for him might be to return to school for one more season to get healthy and rebuild his draft stock. Lewerke was a potential first-rounder as a tough, pro-style quarterback leading one of the nation’s best programs coming into the year, but he could end up being a steal in a relatively weak quarterback class if he declares after the bowl game. If Lewerke doesn’t play, you can at least look ahead to 2020 with Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert on the other side against the Spartans.
When: Redbox Bowl, Mon. 12/31, 3:00 PM ET, (FOX)
Drew Lock, Missouri
Of all the draft prospects at any position, Drew Lock might be the most polarizing as any. The Mizzou starter has a cannon for an arm, and he put up an SEC-record 44 passing touchdowns last season before coming back down to 25 passing touchdowns his senior year. Lock has upped his completion percentage to 63.2% (from 57.8% last season) though, which some people want to see (even if it’s an unsound judgement of a quarterback as an NFL prospect). Given his natural ability as a thrower, an MVP performance in the Liberty Bowl could get the hype train rolling into the draft process.
When: Liberty Bowl, Mon. 12/31, 3:45 PM ET (ESPN)
Trace McSorley, Penn State
Because he isn’t “prototypical” size with all the qualities some look for in an NFL quarterback Trace McSorley could be going under the radar as a potential franchise quarterback in this year’s draft. Despite being undersized, McSorley has a very good arm and excels on deep balls down the field—especially back when he had current NFLers Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton running elite routes for college players and getting open deep. All college football fans should be tuned in for the last game for one of the best players in the nation the last few years and one of the most prolific players in the history of a prestigious Penn State program, but NFL fans should keep an eye on McSorley, too.
When: Citrus Bowl, Tue. 1/1, 1:00 PM ET (ABC)
Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
Despite another year of eligibility, Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham already announced his intentions to enter the NFL draft after the Music City Bowl against Purdue. Stidham entered this season with expectations that he’d take another step forward and potentially become a strong Heisman candidate in his second season leading Gus Malzahn’s offense, but the Tigers struggled to find a consistent running game with 2017 SEC Offensive Player of the Year Kerryon Johnson now in the NFL, making things tougher on Stidham. His size and athleticism make him an intriguing prospect that could be selected in the first couple of rounds in the draft if the process leading up to April goes well.
When: Music City Bowl, Fri. 12/28, 1:30 PM ET (ESPN)
If the name is familiar, that’s because it should be. Kyle Shurmur is the son of Giants head coach Pat Shurmur. Like a few of these guys, he has the size many teams are looking for in a franchise quarterback, and he has the toughness and smarts as the son of a former Michigan State center who is now one of the best offensive coaches in the NFL. Shurmur is a three-year starter that also had experience as a freshman (103 pass attempts), and he’s gotten better every year as one of the best signal-callers in a tough SEC conference.
When: Texas Bowl, Thu. 12/27, 9:00 PM (ESPN)
Clayton Thorson, Northwestern
After starting with a four-year starter in Jake Browning, we’re ending with a four-year starter in Clayton Thorson. The Northwestern captain also has the size some require from a quarterback, and in a crowded and unclear quarterback draft class, he might make a push as one of the first players selected at his position. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said he believes Thorson is an NFL talent. While Thorson certainly isn’t an outstanding runner, he has a knack for the end zone with 27 rushing scores in four seasons. If you’re looking for something to do in the early part of the evening on New Year’s Eve, Thorson and the Wildcats play at 7:00 PM ET.
When: Holiday Bowl, Mon. 12/31, 7:00 PM ET (FS1)