College Players Saints Could Target as Their #3 Back-Up QB in 2020 NFL Draft

Photo courtesy of North Texas Athletics / MeanGreenSports on YouTube,com

With the 2020 NFL Draft now less than 3 weeks away (from Thursday Night April 23rd thru Saturday April 25th), the New Orleans Saints could decide to choose a player coming out of college out at the quarterback position, who they feel can become the team’s #3 QB behind starting QB Drew Brees and #2 back-up Taysom Hill.

However with Brees expected to retire within the next year or two and Taysom set to take over once that time arrives, the Black and Gold still need to add another player at that position who not only can be the future back-up behind Hill but also could become the new starting QB himself someday (assuming they don’t sign an available veteran free agent instead) most likely in the Draft’s mid-to-late rounds.

With that in mind, this morning here at Big Easy Magazine we’re taking a quick look at a few quarterbacks in this year’s Draft Class that fit that description who New Orleans — a team that currently doesn’t have either a 2nd Round or 7th Round pick — could take beginning in Round 3.

And we start our list first with…..


Unless they shock everyone by selecting a QB with their 1st Round pick (at #24 overall) or make a trade to regain another pick and move back into the 2nd Round, the Saints presumably won’t be able to take any of the players at the position projected to be already gone by then; beginning with #1 overall-ranked QB Joe Burrow of LSU and including other notable names previously linked to New Orleans such as Utah State QB Jordan Love and Georgia QB Jake Fromm.

But assuming they don’t make either one of those moves, chances are pretty good that the Saints will begin looking at players at the QB spot who are expected to be still available after Georgia’s Fromm — currently projected to be the last QB off the board near the end of Round 2 — starting in the 3rd Round. If that scenario does happen, then the next best available young star at the position at that point should be former University of Iowa QB Nate Stanley.

At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds. Stanley definitely fits the mold of the prototypical NFL QB, and most draft experts feel that his combination of physical abilities and experience he gained as a 3-year starter for the Hawkeyes, might just make him one of the most underrated QB’s in this year’s 2020 Draft Class.

More than a handful of different scouts think that Stanley really has the potential to become a future starter at the next level; and his senior season last year in 2019 in which he threw for a career-high 2,941 passing yards in 13 games, is an indication that they might be right. The biggest knock or criticism on Stanley is that he doesn’t have the strongest arm that you’d expect from a player of his size, and he also tends to struggle at times with accuracy as well as ball placement on both intermediate throws and “deep balls”. In 44 total games, Stanley completed 673 out of 1155 passes for 8,297 yards, with 68 TD’s and 23 interceptions.

USA TODAY NFL Draft analyst Patrick Conn says that the team that drafts Stanley will need to work with him individually with developing the ability to “throw guys open”, since he lacks anticipation. Conn adds that Stanley will also need to work on getting through his progressions, rather than going off of the first or second read. That means that he will need to end up with a team willing to give him the time that’s needed to eventually learn those skills; and  the bigger question for the Black and Gold would be if Saints head coach Sean Payton has the patience required to help him achieve those tasks.


The next player ranked after Nate Stanley of Iowa in most current draft projections is the young man who is one of the more surprisingly-undervalued QB’s in this year’s class, in Florida International University (located in Miami) passer James Morgan.

After playing at Bowling Green University just outside of Toledo, Ohio for the first two seasons of his college career, the 6-foot-4, 230 pounder saw the final 2 years of his college career suddenly EXPLODE —after he racked up 5,312 passing yards and 40 TD’s — during his time and remaining eligibility with the rapidly-rising Panthers football program.

After transferring down to Miami and the warms confines of South Florida, the 22-year old Green Bay, Wisconsin native was eventually named the 2018 Conference USA Newcomer of the Year, and then last season in 2019 earned  Honorable Mention All-Conference-USA honors.

But it honestly wasn’t until his recent performance in the East-West Shrine Bowl college all-star game at Tampa, FL in late January. that saw his NFL draft stock make a dramatic rise after he was given the Pat Tillman Award for being the game’s most valuable player.

Morgan threw for 2,560 yards and 14 touchdowns (in 12 starts) last year, which came on the heels of his junior season back in 2018 when he completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 2,727 yards and a school-record 26 TD’s. In the opinion of several prominent NFL scouts, Morgan’s biggest asset skill-set wise is his accuracy on vertical / downfield passes; as well as the capability to anticipate exactly where and when his receivers will be on a given play.

The Draft Network analyst Kyle Crabbs says that Morgan’s biggest adjustment at the professional level will have to be getting rid of the ball out of his hands much faster in the pocket, since he has a tendency to hang on to the ball too long and ends up taking sacks for huge amounts of lost yardage. But Crabbs nevertheless is encouraged by the fact Morgan possesses what he refers to as A+ intangibles, also has a strong arm, and has a knack for making and completing big-time throws.

If there ever was a player one could envision the Saints taking their time with by “grooming” him to eventually become a starting QB if Taysom Hill doesn’t pan out as they hope, then Morgan potentially could be that individual; unless some other NFL team (picking right ahead of them) is able to snatch him up before their turn to pick comes up.


Another player at the QB position in this year’s draft class that one can envision Sean Payton and the Saints “grooming” to be the eventual starter in the future, is former Washington State University star Anthony Gordon. The 6-foot-2, 205 pound redshirt senior quarterback had a phenomenal season last year in 2019 for the Cougars, as he completed 493 of 689 passes (a very impressive 71.6% completion percentage) for 5,579 passing yards, 48 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions in 13 total starts.

Gordon actually led all of NCAA Division I football with the most pass completions and attempts last season, but like with Morgan of Florida International in the profile right above, is a QB that made his mark and gained increased recognition from NFL scouts, after a great performance in one of the several college all-star games (the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama) that take place every year in late January.

Gordon truly made his biggest impact as a senior in 2019, after he had been the Cougar back-up QB prior to last season behind former starter and now current 2nd year NFL star / Jacksonville Jaguars starting quarterback Gardner Minshew back during his junior year in 2018. He played for former Cougars head coach Mike Leach (who recently left Washington State to become the new head coach at Mississippi State) in the famous “Air Raid” offensive scheme that has also produced current young QB’s (but now big-time NFL superstars) such as Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield,

The 22-year old Gordon is viewed as a player that is very efficient and effective from a passing standpoint; who additionally also is able to anticipate and make his reads and progressions exceptionally well thanks in particular to his great instincts (including a very quick release with his throws) within the pocket.

But with that said however, a major concern among many draft analysts and observers going forward is that by having played within the “Air Raid” system, his numbers and stats might have been somewhat inflated and (unfortunately) hid the fact that he has what most consider to be only average arm strength. Draft Expert Lance Zierlein cautions that while Gordon certainly is capable of putting good “touch” on his throws, he doesn’t have the arm strength or eye discipline to keep NFL coverages from closing his throwing windows. That Zierlein notes, essentially means that Gordon hasn’t played enough against NFL defenses as of yet and might need to spend some time on the Practice Squad first to continue his development and to help him avoid the label as a “system quarterback”.


Considered by some scouts as an “undisciplined gunslinger”, former University of Hawaii starting QB Cole McDonald is still one of the more intriguing mid-to-late round QB prospects in this year’s draft class, and most are in total agreement that he has the prototypical size and arm strength necessary to succeed at the NFL level.

But he’s still thought to be a player that is still somewhat rough around the edges so to speak, and he’ll only be able to succeed by ending up with a team willing to help him improve his throwing mechanics. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, McDonald started 33 games for the Rainbow Warriors program and threw for 8,032 total yards and 70 TD’s and 24 interceptions, and also added another 12 TD’s running the ball.

His most successful season came last year as a senior, when he threw 33 TD passes (along with 14 interceptions) and rushed for 7 more of them as a runner. Overall. McDonald is a solid athlete who has made a notable impact by extending extending plays and has demonstrated a knack for making plays with his feet as a scrambler out of the pocket.

He also is fearless when trying to fit the ball into tight windows (and the main reason for the “gunslinger” label that he’s gotten), but his tendency at times to stare down his receivers is seen as a detriment that he will need to fix once he reaches the pro level. That has caused some debate as to which round that he will eventually be taken at.

For McDonald, a lack of consistency seemingly has been his biggest issue up to this point, although The Draft Network analyst Trevor Sikkema says that the youngster is a “natural” when it comes to making the most of his size by pushing the ball down the field with both distance and velocity. Nevertheless, Sikkema adds that McDonald’s unpredictable accuracy and his sense of timing with his receivers will need to be addressed immediately after he enters into the League, if he hopes to have any type of eventual success. 


Last but certainly not the least. we come to the young man who has drawn some comparisons to Drew Brees and who well-respected Bleacher Report NFL Draft expert Matt Miller (among others) considers to be the “biggest” SLEEPER prospect in the entire 2020 QB draft class: University of North Texas QB Mason Fine.

Similar in physical size to Brees at 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, Fine has actually met Brees in person and worked out with the Saints living legend and future NFL Hall of Famer when he was on his Spring Break out in Southern California (San Diego) a few weeks ago. That certainly is ironic, in the sense that many observers believe that Fine could potentially follow a very similar path to future NFL success as Brees himself has done.

The soon-to-be 23-year old Fine was named the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year in both 2017 and 2018, and was also one of the finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award last year as a senior in 2019. Fine started ALL 4 seasons with the Mean Green football program (located in Denton, Texas, in suburban Dallas) and he set school records for passes (1,655), completions (1,039), passing yardage (12,505) and touchdowns (93).

Despite his small stature however, Fine has ROCKETED up NFL draft boards in recent weeks and most scouts have stood up and taken notice of his ability to make throws from every different angle with a great degree of accuracy and velocity. His ball placement is the one trait that most analysts and observers are now almost drooling over, and his notable well-thought decision-making process while facing pressure from on-coming pass rushers, is a trait that has led to some NFL front office personnel becoming absolutely giddy with unbridled excitement.

Clutch Points Sports NFL Draft analyst Avery Duncan makes the observation that Fine, a native of Oklahoma who has gained additional notoriety and popularity as a potential future NFL star who is of Cherokee Indian / Native American heritage, should excel as a pro because of his efficiency, cerebralness, timing, and ball placement.

And while Duncan warns that Fine’s deep-ball accuracy is a concern and his footwork can be a bit sporadic on occasion, Fine has all of the tools necessary to become a top-notch QB some day — and Saints fans very likely would welcome him with open arms — especially if he were to wind up replacing the very same player (Brees) that he’s most often compared to….

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked previously as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending their games as a young boy during the early 1970’s, uptown at the old Tulane Stadium. He is also the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

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