In the NFL draft, quarterback prospects are always under the spotlight and are seen as the most valuable position in football. This year is certainly no exception with guys like Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and Zach Wilson in the mix.
Fans love it when their team has a high draft pick and can grab themselves a QB early on to build around. So, with a draft loaded with throwing talent and several teams looking for someone to fill their starting QB spot, lets take a look at and rank the five guys who will likely get taken in the first round:
Bryce’s Prospect Grading System HERE
(1) Trevor Lawrence, QB Clemson
I think Trevor is an above average athlete for a 6ft 6 QB. He moves outside the pocket well, has the ability to run and make plays, and has a gifted arm– throwing the ball with power and precision.
In comparison to some NFL QBs and other prospects in this draft, I consider him a great athlete, but not elite. He has a strong arm and is fairly mobile, but doesn’t quite have the speed or downhill footwork that some others do.
Watching Lawrence’s game tape is a GM’s dream if he needs a QB. He consistently makes big plays at the right time, rarely makes ANY mistakes, and has minimal games where his performance is significantly worse than other games.
With a near perfect record throughout his career at Clemson (34-2) and his consistency as a big time performer (NCG Win, 3x ACC Champion, and playoff appearances all three seasons at Clemson), Lawrence gets a perfect score for the film category section easily.
To be an NFL QB you need to be consistent, intelligent, and fundamentally sound– Lawrence possesses all of that already and can only get better with NFL coaching.
As a passer, he is poised and comfortable making decisions in the pocket, and also can sometimes extend the play with his feet. He has excellent power, touch, and accuracy throwing at any level of the field. Trevor makes good reads, throws confidently, and rarely makes mistakes (only 17 interceptions over 3 seasons and 1,138 pass attempts).
A flaw in his game would involve his accuracy on the run and his ability to slide. As a top QB prospect who will likely start immediately, he needs to learn to slide and protect his body, while also being more consistent throwing on the move.
Lawrence played in the ACC, which is tough football but not as competitive as the Big10 or SEC. However, his ability to win OOC matchups, make the playoffs three years in a row, and win a national title largely makes up for that.
Trevor is my highest graded QB (next highest grades at a 79), and should be the first QB taken in the draft. I think he has an extremely high ceiling and can produce efficiently at the next level right away. He has extremely coachable flaws and should be a great NFL QB.
Prospect Comparison: Andrew Luck
(2) Zach Wilson, QB BYU
As a QB he has excellent arm talent (can make any throw he wants) and can move around well enough to escape pressure, but his footwork needs some work and it impacts his ability to make throws to the sideline.
Some scouts may question his throwing mechanics, but I think the modern NFL QB can do things their own way and get away with it (see: Patrick Mahomes). He will need some coaching to help with his mechanically related misfires, but overall I don’t mind his style.
Zach doesn’t possess exciting agility or speed, which brings his grade down due to the athleticism of other QB prospects in this draft, but his arm talent and abilities as a passer keep him in the average-great range.
Zach is one of the more talented throwers to enter the draft in a while. He hasn’t had as decorated of a career as Trevor Lawrence, but he put BYU on a national stage this season with his incredible throwing talents.
Wilson has the best touch pass and deep ball in this draft in my opinion, and I think with some coaching help, he can make every single type of throw on the football field.
As much as I love the potential of this kid, he did have some games where he made more mistakes than you’d like to see and he has some flaws he needs to work on. For example, he would often get lazy with his play action fakes. As an evaluator, you want to see a prospect (especially a QB) do all the little things right.
Zach is a very intelligent, decisive passer who gobs with potential, but I think he is still a bit raw and needs some work under a good set of coaches to be elite in the NFL.
He does possess the ability to extend plays, make throws on the run, and slide when necessary, which helps his score a bit. Plus, he is calm and very patent in the pocket– always keeping his eyes downfield to make a play. He rarely settles.
Playing at a small school in the FBS Independent Conference hurts his competition score. However, his performance against a few ranked schools this season (see stats/opponents here) and a Boca Raton Bowl Game win keeps him in the average competition level.
In terms of my prospect grading system, Wilson ranks 3rd among QBs. However, I’m ranking each prospect based on who I would personally draft.
With the right coaching and support, Wilson could be very special in the NFL. He may not play right away, but when he does he could be the next great QB in football.
Patrick Mahomes is the new “standard” for QBs and GMs will always look for prospects like him to experiment with. Zach Wilson is the closest thing we’ve seen so far.
Prospect Comparison: Patrick Mahomes
(3) Trey Lance, QB NDSU
In terms of QBs, Lance is by far the most gifted athlete in this class. On film, he looks like he could play RB in the NFL, and his strong arm and accuracy at all levels makes his athletic ability jump out even more.
Trey Lance is a true dual threat QB/athlete who could probably do anything on the football field, even at the NFL level. Speed, size, arm strength/talent all check out. This kid possesses elite athletic ability.
Now, if we based Trey’s film grade on this year alone, he would have a much lower grade. NDSU only played one game this season against Central Arkansas, but Lance performed poorly through the air (15/30 for 149 yards and 2 TDs, 1 int). He did run the ball well, but as a 2021 draft 1st-round prospect, you’d expect more.
Then again, it should be considered that this season was a little more than unordinary with COVID-19 restrictions. He played for a small FCS school who didn’t have the ability to find OOC games to play in, and instead the team opted to play in the spring (right before the draft, so Lance opted out).
If you go back and watch his 2019-2020 film, things are much more impressive. He has an occasional poor performance, but there wasn’t one that I watched that was horrific. He showed off his athletic ability on rollouts, deep throws, and RPO/Read Option plays all season long and put impressive numbers, including ZERO interceptions in nearly 300 pass attempts (see the rest here).
Lance gobs with talent and potential. He is a gifted runner, has NFL-level deep throw abilities, and is excellent. Not only is he talented, but he visibly puts out 100% effort every play. he runs out fakes on read option plays, has a great play action fake, etc.
The problem lies in his abilities as a pocket passer. Lance has a tendency to either sit in the pocket way too long and eat a sack, or he looks to run way too fast without giving time for the pass play to develop. He needs big time work with coaches in terms of pocket awareness/comfort. You can’t just scramble and panic in the NFL, you need poise and patience.
I would also want Lance to work on sliding and to not take so many hits. He’s a gifted runner and should absolutely utilize that aspect of his game, but if he wants to last in the NFL, hits need to be at a minimal.
One of his biggest knocks as a prospect is the fact that he plays in a low-tier conference (FCS) and doesn’t play bigger schools/highly touted NFL prospects. While finding players in small schools can work out (Carson Wentz came from NDSU and has shown h can perform in the NFL), it’s still something to keep in mind.
However, despite the level of competition, he was able to win the FCS Championship game over James Madison and Lance starred all throughout the playoff run.
Lance’s 2019 season was electric and near perfect on film. There are flaws however, and his sole performance in this pandemic riddled 2020-21 season leaves GMS/scouts with question marks… including me.
If Trey was able to replicate or even top his performance in 2019 this year (with more games obviously), then he would most likely be my #2 ranked prospect, but with, essentially, a year gap in between his last full season and the draft, he has to fall a bit.
Prospect Comparison: Robert Griffin III
(4) Justin Fields, QB Ohio State
Fields is an excellent athlete. He can run, extend plays, and make deep throws down the field accurately. He has prospective NFL size, weight, and has next level speed to fit the mold as what used to be called “prototypical” (now I think it’s more of the “standard”).
Although he isn’t as dazzling of an athlete as (say) Trey Lance, Fields has all the tools to make it to the NFL and perform at a high level.
Ohio State runs a very QB friendly offense. It’s simple, effective and gets the job done. Fields excelled and flashed to many scouts with his big arm, big run plays and so on– but if you really break things down and watch really him play, I think it’s extremely apparent that he doesn’t possess the ability to read a defense or improvise when the 1st/2nd option on a throw isn’t there.
With that being said, it’s tough to trust him as an evaluator. We’ve see many QBs produce stats and win games, but then go on to flop in an NFL style offense because they can’t adjust or read defenses (Dwayne Haskins, JaMarcus Russell).
At the same time, there are flashes of excellence. The flashy moves and big play ability cannot be overlooked, and I want to give credit where it’s due but the football IQ part is something that is going to be a huge leap for him coming into the pros.
There is no doubt that Justin Fields possesses NFL potential. He’s shown he can make big plays, extend plays with his legs, make accurate throws down the field, and play through big games with toughness and grit.
Fundamentally, his throwing mechanics have shown to hurt his accuracy however, and his release puts balls high and off target. He also needs work with his feet (back drop is flat footed sometimes) and his presence in the pocket (appears tense and jittery). At the same time, improving his throwing motion, speed, and feet will help him add zip to his throws, as he often floats passes too often. In the NFL a lot of those will be INTs.
As a runner, Fields excels. I think the best aspect of his game is that he can make big plays running the rock and he can throw on the run at a very high level.
Fields played in the Big 10, which is debatably one of the toughest conferences in football. Ohio State had a limited schedule with COVID, but Fields was able to lead wins over Penn State, #11 Indiana, #14 Northwestern, and then #2 Clemson in the College Football Playoffs. Fields made it to the National Championship game where he fell short to top ranked Alabama, which is a top class football team with a ton of NFL prospects on roster.
Fields has very, very raw talent and has proven he can win games against top tier competition. However, he grades as my #4 ranked QB due to his inability to make next level decisions and his awkward mechanics as a thrower. He could prove me wrong and succeed in the NFL, but as of right now, I think there are 3 QBs that are much more ready for the NFL and have higher ceilings overall.
Prospect Comparison: Cam Newton
(5) Mac Jones, QB Alabama
Jones is a very average athlete. He isn’t a great runner, but has shown ability to escape pressure and make some decent passes on the run. He also has pretty average arm strength (though the accuracy isn’t quite there on deep throws).
Especially in comparison to the other QBs in this draft, there is definitely no “wow” factor in terms of Mac’s athleticism.
Jones actually has pretty decent tape. He has shown the ability to be an efficient, intelligent passer for top ranked Bama. He can make throws on the run, throw it deep, and has good short range accuracy. However, he isn’t as talented with his arm in comparison to other prospects in this draft.
His fine play and minimal mistakes helps his draft case a lot.
In the other four QB prospects that I went through, there was obvious or flashes of excellence in their game. I never saw that or felt that with Mac Jones.
Mac is limited athletically, and although he makes good decisions, it needs to be understood that he had world class athletes all around him at Alabama. Yes he will in the NFL as well, but the competition and speed of the game is much different than college ball.
I think he has all the tools to be in the NFL, but is he worthy of a 1st round pick?
Personally, I think the SEC is the toughest football conference in the nation and Bama swept through it. They went undefeated while beating #5 Texas A&M, #9 Georgia, defending champs LSU, #7 Florida, #4 Notre Dame, and #3 Ohio State.
At the very least, Mac had the hardest overall schedule and still won a national title. That can’t be ignored.
To me, Mac Jones will be a back up QB for most teams, a starter of some. He can probably win you some games with his precise decision making, but does he push you to be a playoff or Super Bowl contender? I think not.
Jones is a decent QB with enough talent to play in the NFL, but he is nowhere near the same level of the other 4 guys on my list. Don’t buy the hype on social media or form his Pro-Day.
Prospect Comparison: A. J. McCarron