I know what you may be thinking. “There isn’t another Mahomes.” You are correct. There is only one Mahomes, and generational talents like him are hard to come by. I’m not saying any of these guys on this list are going to win the MVP their first year, throw 50 touchdowns, and lead their team to back to back conference championship appearances.
What I’m talking about are players that have Mahomes-like traits. A quarterback who can put his offense on his back and carry his team to victory with his arm talent. A quarterback with the moxie that you can never count out of the game, and can make something out of nothing when everything else fails.
Mahomes was a massive sleeper in the 2017 NFL Draft, and I think there are several quarterbacks in the 2020 NFL Draft that offer “Mahomes-like” traits and upside.
Joe Burrow, LSU
Now I know this one may be controversial. I did just mention Mahomes’ incredible arm talent above, which is not Burrow’s strongest trait. When you take away the arm and look at the two players together, you see a lot of the same similarities: moxie, incredible improvisation skills, accuracy, poise, and confidence.
Last weekend, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs were down 24 points in the AFC Divisional Round, and Joe Burrow and the LSU Tigers were down 17-7 in the National Championship game. Throughout both games, however, you never really felt like either team was out of the game at any point. Why was that? It was these two quarterbacks. Both Mahomes and Burrow have that special ingredient about them, the will and fire to win and the ability to execute under any circumstance.
That’s just the mental and emotional side of their play. Burrow has this ability to turn any play into a positive one, with his poise and improvisation ability. Just watch this one play and tell me it isn’t Mahomes-like.
This play still haunts me pic.twitter.com/zpYeJAs4XM
— AJ Schulte (@AJDraftScout) January 16, 2020
Again, I’m not saying Burrow will be Mahomes or that he’ll have a similar career path in the NFL, but the similarities these two players share cannot be ignored in my mind.
Jordan Love, Utah State
This one will be the most common comparison, and it is incredibly easy to see why. In terms of pure arm talent, I’d argue Love leads the way in the 2020 NFL Draft, much like Mahomes did in his draft class. Love has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to make jaw-dropping throws on and off-script from multiple angles.
This throw and ball placement by Jordan Love >>>>
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 16, 2020
With his athleticism on the move and his loose touch on downfield throws, Love makes difficult throws appear routine. He’ll need time to develop at the next level to further hone his decision-making and adjust to the speed of the NFL, but so did Mahomes. If Love lands in the right landing spot, he could very well be a Mahomes-style player for his team.
Cole McDonald, Hawaii
The reasons for Cole McDonald are virtually the same as the ones for Jordan Love: cannon arm, strong abilities on the move and in the pocket, and making exciting plays downfield. McDonald is a tricky evaluation for a lot of analysts due to the offensive system he comes from at Hawaii. I believe that will turn scouts off of him, much like the “Big 12 offense” was criticism for Mahomes.
McDonald comes from the Run and Shoot offense at Hawaii under Nick Rolovich, now head coach at Washington State. In layman’s terms, in the Run and Shoot, wide receivers read and adjust their routes based on the coverage they see. However, if they don’t communicate this adjustment properly to their quarterback, it often leads to a turnover, which helps explain McDonald’s 14 total interceptions this season.
This adjustment period that McDonald will face won’t be a difficult one, as many teams run similar Run and Shoot concepts in their offense, and McDonald has demonstrated an ability to adjust and learn over his time at Hawaii. To me, he is the most “Mahomes-like” player and story in this draft, and I’m willing to bank on his talent.
Anthony Gordon, Washington State
If you’ve followed me on my Twitter (@AJDraftScout) or kept up with my articles here at Pro Football Network, you’ll know I’ve been extremely high on Anthony Gordon for some time now. Gordon is a record-setting quarterback from Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense at Washington State. He isn’t a preferred flavor for many analysts, but when I watch him, I get Mahomes vibes. Why? There are plenty of similar traits such as the arm talent, and coming from a similar scheme in the Air Raid offense. But the biggest reason is they are both just fun quarterbacks. Gordon has some ugly mechanics and mistakes, but there are so many positive plays that the negatives don’t outweigh the successes.
Despite only starting for one season, Gordon had an impressive feel and command for the Wazzu offense. He has a great understanding of leverage and the ability to place precise tight-window throws and throw guys open. Gordon is a daring, true gunslinger that’s so much fun to watch. I get the same feeling I did for him as I did when I watched Mahomes, who was unfairly discounted due to his “offensive scheme” in college.
With the recent success of many “Air Raid” quarterbacks in the NFL, including Patrick Mahomes, Gordon will have less of a stereotype going into the 2020 NFL Draft. Gordon is a player that will have a divide over his pro potential, but I gave him a second-round grade, and I think he can be a Mahomes-style gunslinger at the next level.
AJ Schulte is a writer for PFN covering the NFL Draft. You can follow him on Twitter @AJDraftScout.