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Ranking sophomore quarterback breakout candidates for 2020

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Murray, Lock, Stidham, Minshew and a pair of NFC East quarterbacks...

Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The second and third years are typically when NFL players make their biggest leap. Quarterbacks are no different. Over the next two shows of The QB Factory on BGN Podcasts, we’ll be examining, ranking, and debating year two quarterbacks that we believe will or will not take the next step and become certified stars.

On The QB Factory #4, we started by ranking the second-year crop from the 2019 NFL Draft Class.

1. KYLER MURRAY - Arizona Cardinals

With a unique offensive system and a rookie quarterback at the helm, the Cardinals offense took a while to find its sea legs. Once they did, they saw a higher scoring output and better drive efficiency from the first half of their season to the second half. For example, in their first 8 games the Cardinals ranked 24th in touchdown drive frequency (16.9%). That saw a significant spike in their last 8 games, moving them to 6th in the same metric (25.8%).

One area where it’s reasonable to expect improvement from Murray is the consistency in which he attacks the intermediate-to-deep areas of the field. With the addition of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Murray’s pedestrian average intended air yards (7.1) from his rookie campaign should experience a significant shot in the arm in his sophomore year.

The Cardinals still have other issues that could hinder Murray’s success, like their leaky offensive line that allowed Murray to be sacked a league-high 48 times. Still, Murray has all the tools and should see a significant step forward with the addition of one of the best wide receivers in the game.

2. DANIEL JONES - New York Giants

Jones never really got to play with a full compliment of healthy weapons in 2019, something Eagles fans can certainly understand. How much that matters in terms of his 2020 projection remains to be seen, but it certainly can’t hurt. Overall, Jones played better as a rookie than many expected.

There’s plenty to clean up though, which is why I believe there’s a clear gap between him and Kyler Murray. Jones’ tendency to bird dog his first read is a holdover from his college film and leads to bad sacks and bad fumbles. As Mark Schofield noted on the show, those fumbles proved incredibly costly for the Giants...

“Jones had 18 fumbles last season. That led all players in the NFL... making matters worse, Jones lost 11 of those to the opposition, making him the only player to lose double-digit fumbles last year. Historically, Jones’ fumble statistic was the most by an NFL player since Dante Culpepper coughed it up 23 times back in 2002.

...On ten of those 11 fumbles lost, the opposing team scored points on their next drive. Jones had three fumbles that were actually “scoop and scores”... and on seven other occasions, the opposing offense put together a scoring drive after recovering a Jones fumble. Only back in Week 1, when Jones coughed it up at the end of the game against the Cowboys, did the opposition not turn the turnover into points.” - Mark Schofield, Touchdown Wire

Faster mental processing and better ball-handling will go a long way in curing what ails Jones. If that happens and the Giants’ playmakers can stay healthy, Jones should be able to put together a solid enough season to provide hope for the future.

3. DREW LOCK - Denver Broncos

QB wins mixed paired with a small sample is an enticing siren song, but I’m not near the believer in Lock as those in Denver. Going 4-1 as a starter is a solid beginning to any career, and there’s some enticing moments to hang your hat on, but there’s also the volatility that haunted Lock during his college days.

What will help Lock is a set of playmakers that could prove to be one of the best group of weapons in the league. Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Noah Fant bring different skill sets and unique trump cards to the table, which certainly will help prop up any quarterback.

There’s just too much unknown with Lock and too many lingering concerns from his pre-draft evaluation to believe that he’s one of the next young stars in the league.

As for the rest...

We discuss the group above plus Dwayne Haskins, Jarrett Stidham, and Gardner Minshew on The QB Factory #4! Listen on the media player below or click here if the player doesn’t load. New to podcasts?! Check out our guide on how to listen and subscribe to BGN!