Written by: Joseph Yun
The draft process is well underway with the Senior Bowl in the books and Pro Days ongoing throughout the month of March and into April. Welcome to the annual series of positional big boards.
In case you missed my preseason quarterback rankings, they can be found here.
Who are the top eleven quarterbacks in the 2021 draft class? Where will they begin their pro careers?
Note: All statistics were courtesy of profootballreference.com
1. Trevor Lawrence Clemson
- Lawrence did nothing during the 2020 season to dissuade the Jacksonville Jaguars from selecting him with the first overall selection. He can be considered a peer of the generational billing that Andrew Luck and others of that ilk received during their respective classes. The biggest concern I do have is the surgery to his non-throwing shoulder (which went well according to reports). Physically, he has all the tools including a great arm just a tick below the Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allens of the world. Mental and physical toughness isn’t a question. Lawrence can make any throw he wants to. If all goes well, he can reach the heights of Aaron Rodgers physically but currently, he profiles as a more pro ready Justin Herbert.
Current Comparison: Justin Herbert
Potential: Aaron Rodgers
Draft Projection: First Overall
2020 Statistics: 231 / 334 (69%) 3,153 yards 24 touchdowns and five interceptions
2. Justin Fields Ohio State
- I have Fields still as my second ranked quarterback despite the push made by QB3 this past season. The reason being Fields has been consistently good for a longer period of time. He also comes from a lineage of talented passers to make their way through Columbus. Buckeyes HC Ryan Day knows how to develop quarterbacks. He’s a bigger guy than most people give him credit for, I think. The arm talent is undeniable and possesses a natural motion so he isn’t required to fool around mechanically. Can throw efficiently to all three levels without an issue. Some comparisons have been made to his predecessor Dwayne Haskins but Fields isn’t that. He’s much more talented and reportedly a professional behind the scenes. Comes from an athletic family as his sister currently plays for the University of Georgia softball team. Given his athletic and mental makeup, he would be successful anywhere (provided he’s allocated the resources) but he would be a killer in the Falcons play action heavy offense under Arthur Smith, especially. The mental and physical toughness he displayed in the playoff was impressive while he gutted out playing TWO games while dealing with a severe rib injury.
Current Comparison: Dak Prescott / a more refined passing Cam Newton
Potential: Patrick Mahomes
Draft Projection: Top Five
2020 Statistics: 158 / 225 (70%) 2,100 yards 22 touchdowns and six interceptions
3. Zach Wilson BYU
- Wilson skyrocketed up the boards with an outstanding 2020 season and settles in as the third ranked quarterback on my board. There’s a bit of one year wonder about him as the 2019 tape was less than ideal, to say the least. The rate of development in which progressed over the course of the 2020 campaign was astounding. Wilson has an above average arm but it’s clearly not in the Allen / Mahomes class. He has improved his footwork and is clean mechanically. He thrived in the spread attack employed by BYU so if a team is willing to cater to his mobility and ability to make something out of nothing, he should be more than OK. For the most part, the pocket was clean in 2020 but he showed an aptitude to maneuver within the pocket when it got cluttered. Wilson has locked himself into the top five if not the second overall selection (for whoever makes it).
Current / Potential Comparison: Marcus Mariota
Draft Projection: Top Five
2020 Statistics: 247 / 336 (74%) 3,692 yards 33 touchdowns and three interceptions
4. Trey Lance North Dakota State
- Through no fault of his own, Lance had no 2020 tape minus the one “showcase” exhibition in which NDSU seemed thoroughly not ready or disinterested in playing. He’s an unique talent for sure. A true dual threat with an above average arm that can make nearly all of the pro level throws. The real gem to his game is his ability to move amongst the maelstrom in and out of the pocket. He has athleticism for days and uses it quite well. A question is, how rusty is he after missing nearly all of 2020 due to the global pandemic? He missed valuable live reps but the 2019 tape warrants a top half of the first round selection. The real regret I have for him is being forced to miss the scheduled game against a top level Oregon defense so there could’ve been a better barometer. Still, he’s a unicorn in this class that most scouts can’t nail down a pro comp to. It will be interesting to see where he gets drafted to.
Current Comp: Colin Kaepernick
Potential: Ryan Tannehill
Draft Projection: Top 15
5. Kyle Trask Florida
- Trask had a great year until the bowl game against Oklahoma when the majority of his weapons decided to opt out. He’s not the greatest athlete but is serviceable enough to make a few plays here and there when necessary. The arm isn’t the best either so he’s best suited for an offense that heavily features a ton of the short to intermediate passing game like the Saints or Panthers. Whichever team that gets him will receive an outstanding character. He had to wait a long time before getting his chance to shine with Florida in this era of the transfer portal. Trask could stand to lose some weight to increase the foot quickness a bit.
Current Comp: Chad Henne
Draft Projection: Fourth to Fifth Round
2020 Statistics: 301 / 437 (69%) 4,283 yards 43 touchdowns and eight interceptions
6. Mac Jones Alabama
- The point man for the reigning national champion Crimson Tide is garnering significant hype after a standout season. He’s not the most athletic but has an innate pocket awareness and can move around a little bit when you know what hits the fan. Pinpoint accurate to everywhere on the field. He really blew up in 2020 after taking over for an injured Tua during the latter stages of 2019. Former OC turned Texas head man Steve Sarkisian did a really good job with him. Jones doesn't have a great arm but an average one in terms of pro level arm talent. He makes up for any strength deficiencies with throwing guys open with regularity (as much as Alabama receivers were “covered”). A classic I’ll throw it up and you go get it type of passer. I expect him to get drafted within the first twenty selections even if his athletic traits don’t merit it. The other traits certainly make up for it.
Current Comp: Matt Ryan
Draft Projection: First Round
2020 Statistics: 311 / 402 (77%) 4,500 yards 41 touchdowns and four interceptions
7. Jamie Newman Wake Forest / Georgia
- Speaking of a lot of rust, Newman is trying to shake it off after opting out of the 2020 season entirely due to the pandemic. He initially transferred to Georgia from Wake Forest but opted out during fall camp. The 2019 tape is probably the most relevant for him compared to the other quarterbacks on this list. Newman has all the tools to make it and the physical makeup to go along with. There are accuracy issues, however that carried over to the Senior Bowl week. He’s talented for sure but how much is the layoff going to hurt him? He still has some development left in him so a team has to be willing to sit him for a couple of years.
Current Comparison: Cam Newton
Draft Projection: Fifth to Sixth Round
2020 Statistics: DNP
8. Kellen Mond Texas A&M
- Mond saw a lot of improvement as a second year starter in Jimbo Fisher’s pro style system. He always had the prerequisite athleticism to go along with some spotty inconsistencies in mechanics but he improved in that area. Possesses an above average arm to make the required throws at the next level. There was speculation that he wouldn’t improve without his top receivers but that was a premature conclusion. Jimbo designs his offense as a counterbalance to this generation’s hurry up and spread defenses out and it has helped Mond develop better instincts as a passer. He’ll need continual development as a backup before eventually becoming a starter in the NFL so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he slips a bit in the draft but his stock is pointing up after 2020.
Current Comparison: Colin Kaepernick
Draft Projection: Fifth to Sixth Round
2020 Statistics: 188 / 297 (63%) 2,282 yards 19 touchdowns and three interceptions
9. Feleipe Franks Arkansas / Florida
- Franks transferred to Arkansas after suffering an injury in 2019 that resulted in the aforementioned Trask taking over the reins. 2020 was his best season yet and he showed steady if not spectacular development every season in his career. However, I do have concerns about the viability of the Briles spread offense translating to the NFL level. He’s a big guy with some medical red flags due to the fracture he suffered. It remains to be seen if any long term effects will be hampering him. He will likely start his pro career as a practice squad candidate before ascending to a backup role where it’ll ultimately settle in for him.
Draft Projection: Sixth to Seventh Round
Current Comparison: Josh Freeman
Potential: Nick Foles
2020 Statistics: 163 / 238 (69%) 2,107 yards 17 touchdowns and four interceptions
10. Davis Mills Stanford
- Mills is the most intriguing “buy low” candidate in this class due to an improved 2020 campaign after years of battling through leg injuries. The former five star recruit finally showed out in a truncated Pac-12 season and flashed enough tools to merit a late round flier by some team. However, the medical red flags are glaring so the team that drafts him will have to be careful.I do have some concerns whether or not the leg injuries have robbed him of whatever athleticism he had. Mills has a good enough arm but not one that popped off the screen. He’s a master of the short to intermediate attack and is well prepared due to the Stanford offense being old school.
Draft Projection: Fourth to Sixth Round
2020 Statistics: 129 / 195 (66%) 1,508 yards seven touchdowns and three interceptions
11. Sam Ehlinger Texas
- Ehlinger has improved every season but still struggles with bouts of inconsistency in the pass game. He was decent at the Senior Bowl. A big physical presence in the run game ala Timothy Tebow. The former Longhorn isn’t afraid of contact, that’s for sure. He needs to improve his pocket awareness and has an above average arm. A team like the Patriots could be intrigued by his athleticism to consider a position change to a hybrid tight end / utility fullback type of role if the quarterback thing doesn’t work out. The senior tape is a lot cleaner than the junior film mechanically even with the resulting losses from the pandemic. Still, he was a victim of the OC upheaval that went on at Texas during his career.
Current Comparison: Drew Lock
Potential: Jake Locker
Draft Projection: Seventh Round to Priority UDFA
2020 Statistics: 194 / 322 (60%) 2,566 yards 26 touchdowns and five interceptions