SEC ‘What-If?’ No. 4: What if Jake Fromm decided to return to Georgia for his senior season?
When Georgia QB Jake Fromm declared for the 2020 NFL Draft, it surprised a number of analysts and fans. After a fantastic 2018 season, Fromm regressed under new OC James Coley’s offense in 2019.
Here’s a look at his numbers from 2018 compared to 2019:
2018: 207-for-307 (67.4%), 2,761 yards, 9.0 yards per attempt, 30 touchdowns, 6 interceptions
2019: 234-for-385 (60.8%), 2,860 yards, 7.4 yards per attempt, 24 touchdowns, 5 interceptions
Yeah, that’s not what NFL teams wanted to see. After earning first-round buzz heading into the 2019 season, that all seemingly evaporated as the season went on.
Yet, even with 1 year of eligibility remaining, Fromm decided to go to the NFL.
We all know what happened next. Fromm didn’t hear his name called in Round 1, Round 2, Round 3 or even Round 4. In the 5th round, the Buffalo Bills finally took a chance on him, selecting him with the No. 167 overall pick.
That’s almost certainly not what Fromm had in mind when he declared for the draft. So, it’s worth asking — what if he decided instead to return for his senior season?
Georgia’s new offense
This offseason, the Bulldogs moved on from Coley and hired Todd Monken as the new offensive coordinator. Monken spent the 2019 season as the Cleveland Browns’ offensive coordinator, working with QB Baker Mayfield.
His offense with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2018 led the NFL by passing for 320.3 yards per game. It’s clear that is the sort of explosiveness Kirby Smart wanted. The Bulldogs struggled with the big play in 2019. Georgia completed just 19 pass plays covering 30 yards or more. That ranked 6th in the SEC, despite playing at least 1 more game than everybody except LSU. Tennessee and Missouri were among the 5 teams that completed more 50-yard passes than Georgia (3). Arkansas and Vanderbilt were among the 7 teams that had more 60-yard pass plays than the Dawgs (1).
The biggest question mark about Fromm entering the NFL Combine was his arm strength, and he didn’t exactly do much to dispel those concerns. It’s fair to wonder if he would have been a good fit in Monken’s system.
But Fromm is certainly a proven winner and has command of the locker room. Can Jamie Newman step in and lead the way at a similar level? He’s already been dealt a rough hand with the COVID-19 pandemic canceling spring practices.
Fromm’s year of working with guys like George Pickens, Dominick Blaylock, Demetris Robertson, James Cook and others could have been invaluable during times like these. While Newman gets to speak with Monken and the skill position players virtually, there’s no replacement for on-field chemistry.
Does Fromm give the Dawgs a better Playoff chance?
So, the big question is — would the Bulldogs have rather had Fromm or Newman? Fromm has familiarity at Georgia, but would that have even mattered with a new offensive coordinator and a new system?
The question I keep going back to is the Georgia offensive line. The Dawgs lost Andrew Thomas, Isaiah Wilson and Solomon Kindley to the NFL Draft. Cade Mays transferred to Tennessee. The only starter who will return is Ben Cleveland.
Yes, there are plenty of highly-rated recruits waiting in the wings, and Jamaree Salyer could be the next first-round pick for Georgia offensive linemen, but there are going to be chemistry issues that need to be worked out.
Newman’s scrambling ability would allow him to extend plays when the new-look Georgia line inevitably breaks down, especially early in the year. (Georgia plays at Alabama in Week 3.) However, Fromm’s familiarity with the returning receivers could lead to him getting the ball out of his hands sooner.
Basically, with the way Fromm performed in 2019, it’s tough to say he would undoubtedly be a better choice for Georgia in 2020. At most, it’s a toss-up with Newman. But, if Fromm did return, that leads to another important question.
Where does Jamie Newman end up?
Obviously, if Fromm decided to return to Georgia for his senior season, the Bulldogs wouldn’t have been active on the graduate transfer quarterback market. Thus, Newman, a talented dual-threat quarterback from Wake Forest, probably ends up elsewhere.
A number of big-name programs were recruiting Newman. In addition to Georgia, Oregon, Washington, Miami and Maryland were the favorites to get him:
According to @BruceFeldmanCFB, Wake Forest grad transfer QB Jamie Newman is considering Georgia, Maryland, Washington, Oregon and Miami (FL),
Jake Fromm's decision feels like it'll be the domino to get the grad transfer QB market going.
— Connor O'Gara (@cjogara) January 8, 2020
Yahoo’s Pete Thamel called Oregon the favorite for Newman at one point. The Ducks lost star QB Justin Herbert to the draft, where he went No. 6 overall to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Let’s say Newman does end up at Oregon — the other team on that list that gives him the best chance to make the College Football Playoff. He almost certainly beats out redshirt sophomore Tyler Shough, who is the current favorite to replace Herbert.
Then, things get interesting. Oregon’s 2020 schedule provides ample opportunities for the Ducks to make statements. In Week 1, they host FCS powerhouse North Dakota State. In Week 2, Ohio State comes to Autzen Stadium. In Week 5, the Ducks host Washington. In Week 10, USC visits Eugene.
Those are 4 of the Ducks’ toughest games, and they’re all at home. Adding Newman to the offense along with RB CJ Verdell, OL Penei Sewell and a defense that is loaded with talent makes the Ducks a legit Playoff contender.
Can they still make it to the final 4 without Newman? The Ducks have the talent, but landing a quarterback like Newman would have helped.
Fromm going to the NFL might not have a huge impact on Georgia this fall. Newman is a solid replacement and might actually fare better as the Dawgs revamp their offensive line.
But a potential Playoff team in Oregon definitely missed out through Fromm’s decision to go pro. Mario Cristobal would have loved to have Newman in Eugene for his final year of eligibility.