The 2019 season was a bit of an oddity. In what seemingly became commonplace across the NFL each week, role players admirably stepped in as highly efficient starters, and key contributors emerged from relative anonymity. Many of these players proved to be key components to their team’s success, and, in some cases, postseason victories. While there were countless examples of these success stories around the league last season, perhaps no position exemplified this as much as late-round quarterbacks.
Whether it was Gardner Minshew, or the undrafted David Blough and Devlin Hodges, these signal-callers served as constant reminders that production can be found at any point throughout the draft process. This piece highlights two late-round quarterback prospects that could potentially carry a similar mantle in 2020.
Anthony Gordon has experienced the highs and lows of success throughout his five-year collegiate career.
After leading City College of San Francisco to a 12-1 record and a CCCAA Championship as a freshman, Gordon earned first-team All-California Community College Athletic Association Region 1 and Bay 6 League Offensive Player of the Year honors. He led the Community College Athletic Association in passing yards (3,864) and touchdowns (37) in his lone season at the junior college level.
Gordon’s momentum would come to a screeching halt when he arrived at Washington State in 2016. Given the redshirt designation upon arrival, as he adjusted to the various intricacies that come with being a Division I signal-caller, Gordon spent his first two seasons on the shelf behind heralded starter Luke Falk. In fact, it wasn’t until his third season with the Cougars that Gordon saw any game action, appearing in two contests against San Jose State and Colorado.
Following the departure of quarterback Gardner Minshew to the NFL last season, Gordon’s patience and preparation paid off in a big way in 2019. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound passer threw for 5,596 yards and 48 touchdowns against 16 interceptions on the season. After a dominant campaign in which he averaged 429 passing yards per game and set both school and conference records for passing yards, touchdowns, and total offense, the redshirt senior was rewarded with second-team All-Pac-12 honors.
Gordon’s prolific season culminated in an invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
Though he doesn’t possess prototypical size for the position and his arm doesn’t quite stack up with his predecessor, Gordon has the intangibles to make an impact at the next level. The slightly built signal-caller delivers his passes with remarkable accuracy and touch, while consistently keeping his eyes downfield with pressure bearing down. Perhaps the most underrated aspect of Gordon’s game is his poise in the pocket, where his patience to work through his progressions often resulted in big plays for the Cougars last season.
Much like Minshew before him, Gordon offers late-round appeal as a developmental backup. While some may look at his frame and question his ability to withstand the rigors that come with playing in the NFL, and while his inconsistent footwork needs refinement, Gordon has demonstrated his knack for seizing opportunity when presented to him. Perhaps most importantly, however, he showed he was prepared for his moment when thrust into the spotlight.
Much like Gordon, James Morgan also had to wait his turn before ultimately earning the nod as a starting signal-caller.
Originally committing to Bowling Green University after a standout career at Ashwaubenon High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Morgan spent his first collegiate season on the sideline as a redshirt player.
The 6-foot-4, 229-pound quarterback worked his way into the picture the following season, however, throwing for 2,082 yards and 16 touchdowns over 12 games (seven starts). His most notable performance was a 389-yard passing effort in an uneven 40-26 loss to Miami University. Morgan endured a tumultuous second season for the Falcons, opening the season as the starter before an 0-3 start prompted a temporary changing of the guard. The redshirt sophomore started six games, throwing for 1,260 yards, nine touchdowns, and seven interceptions.
Opting for a fresh start, Morgan transferred to Florida International University at the conclusion of that season.
The redshirt junior emerged from 2018 fall camp as the Panthers’ starting quarterback; in 12 games, Morgan passed for 2,727 yards, 26 touchdowns, and seven interceptions, leading the team to a program-best nine wins. His breakout season proved to be the catalyst behind FIU’s gaudy statistical season, as the Panthers led the Conference USA in total points (450) and points per game (34.6).
Morgan experienced similar success as a redshirt senior. Through 12 games, the Panthers’ quarterback amassed 2,585 passing yards and 14 touchdowns against five interceptions. He completed 58 percent of his passes and compiled a 128.9 quarterback rating in a 6-7 season.
Despite a slight dip in production in his final season, Morgan’s body of work over the past two seasons was enough to earn him an invite to the prestigious East-West Shrine Bowl in St. Petersburg, Florida.
It was apparent from the very first practice that Morgan was the most gifted quarterback in attendance during Shrine week. Whether it was instantly establishing rapport with his unfamiliar contingent of pass-catchers, responding well to his coaching, or completing throws in tight windows with pinpoint accuracy, Morgan quickly garnered the attention of many of the evaluators on hand. As a player who seemingly improved with each practice and dazzled when commanding the offense, Morgan became a known commodity by the end of the week.
Morgan continued his impressive pre-draft cycle on the grand stage of the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Field, where he showed off his pro-level arm strength and accuracy in the on-field portion of the testing.
While Morgan is undoubtedly the beneficiary of a strong pre-draft process, the Green Bay native has elevated his performance under the bright lights, proving himself to be someone who has the requisite tools to lead an offense at the next level. My top late-round quarterback prospect, Morgan’s stock is only expected to elevate in the weeks leading up to draft day.