2021 NFL Draft Rankings: Quarterbacks Part 1

  • 2021 NFL Draft
  • 2021 NFL Draft Prospects
  • Justin Fields
  • NFl Draft
  • Trevor Lawrence
  • Trey Lance
  • Zach Wilson
By Tyler Lawrence February 23, 2021 0 Comment
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In the 2021 NFL Draft, there could be a record number of quarterbacks taken in the first round alone. No player in any sport is more responsible for their team’s wins and losses than that at the quarterback position.

It’s the one position in professional sports that can completely change a team’s culture. From 1968 to 1992, the Green Bay Packers made a total of two playoff appearances over the span of 24 years.

In 1992, the Packers’ Ron Wolf traded a first-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for a wild Mississippi kid with a cannon for an arm. Of course, that kid turned out to be a three-time NFL MVP, three-time All-Pro, 11-time Pro Bowler, and Hall of Famer: Brett Farve.

From 1993-2008, the Packers posted a regular-season record of 160-93, made 11 playoff appearances, and twice ran all the way to the Super Bowl, winning Super Bowl XXXI. That’s the sort of impact a franchise quarterback can have.

Today, the quarterback carousel is already spinning with the Rams-Lions blockbuster deal that sent Matthew Stafford to Los Angeles in exchange for Jared Goff and some draft capital. There are many more quarterback changes expected to occur in the 2021 offseason, but for teams with high draft picks, there is a wealth of talented players ready to hear their name called.

Here are the draft rankings for the top quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft:

1. Trevor Lawrence – Clemson

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Not only was Trevor Lawrence the most highly sought high school player in 2018, but he’s the most highly sought player in college as well. He is a unanimous selection to go first overall to the Jaguars, and there probably isn’t enough draft capital in the entire NFL to sway Urban Meyer to give up his future franchise quarterback.

Trevor Lawrence boasts all the tools of a franchise quarterback and more. Standing 6’6″, 220 pounds with long blond hair that sways in the wind, Lawrence possesses the size scouts covet without much injury history. Athletically, he brings mobility similar to Justin Herbert at his size to extend the play or be used in designed runs such as read-options.

Lawrence can make every throw in the NFL. He understands timing routes and can make the deep out and corner throws outside the numbers with ease. Lawrence is accurate in throwing lanes and puts the ball on the money where only his player can make the catch. He quickly moves through his progressions, though it looks like most play designs have a two-player progression and if it’s not there, then extend the play or run.

While his build and arm talent are worthy of 1st-round consideration, it’s Lawrence’s maturity and leadership qualities that set him above the rest. Lawrence is graduating as a junior with a degree in marketing and is an Academic All-American. He won a CFB National Championship as a true freshman and has handled all the hype through his career admirably.

Good players train, study film and improve themselves every day. Great players do that but have an aura around them that gets players to buy in and believe that no matter the situation, they have a chance to win. Lawrence has that aura about him. The Jaguars are set to take over the AFC South for years to come.

2.  Zach Wilson – BYU

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Zach Wilson enjoyed a similar rise to Joe Burrow’s from just a year ago. Wilson wasn’t on anyone’s radar in 2019, when he completed 199 of 319 passes (62.4%) for 2,382 yards and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore.

In 2020, Wilson only threw 17 more attempts but generated 1,310 more yards and 22 more touchdowns. His final stats were 247/336 (75.5%) for 3,692 yards and 33 touchdowns against just three interceptions.

What happened?

Wilson found a way to improve multiple parts of his game. Also, the playcalling at BYU helped take advantage of his strengths.

Specifically, Wilson’s footwork aligned perfectly with throws to different parts of the field. This helped boost his accuracy overall. He boasts the arm strength to fit the ball to the long side of the college football field. He won’t need to do that at the next level with shorter hashes.

Wilson also showed great ability to anticipate throws. Often, the ball left his hand before the receiver made his breaks. Wilson also uses his eyes and body language to move linebackers out of passing lanes. Even better, he throws accurate, tight spirals.

Wilson represents a shifty, mobile quarterback who doesn’t take hits and who throws from awkward platforms to get the ball out in time. In all, Wilson looks intelligent and confident in his abilities as an eventual NFL quarterback — and for good reason.

That said, some believe there may be character concerns and immaturity issues. His uncle owns Jet Blue. The fact he never had this level of success earlier in his career gives pause, too. Wilson sometimes sits on his progressions longer than he needs to, and his frame may be more fragile than you want. He could (and should) add weight to his 6’3″ frame to bulk up for a 16-game season.

Overall, Wilson is one of the “Big 3” in the 2021 NFL Draft who will go in the top five. Many think he leaped Justin Fields, and with the tools Wilson showed, he should. He never once looked rattled and is primed to succeed at the next level.

3. Justin Fields – Ohio State

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When the year started, many didn’t believe the gap between Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence was that big. Now, not only is Fields even deeper in Lawrence’s shadow, some might not even consider Justin Fields the second-best quarterback in the draft anymore.

It’s likely Fields will hear his name called in the top five of this year’s upcoming draft, but it’s looking more and more like Zach Wilson will be the second quarterback selected.

Fields started his collegiate career at Georgia backing up incumbent quarterback Jake Fromm. At 6’3″, 228 pounds, Fields looks more physically imposing than Fromm and might have been more talented overall, but the Georgia staff decided to keep continuity from their National Championship team in 2017. This prompted Fields to enter the transfer portal, and he was granted immediate eligibility, citing racial slurs from a member of the Georgia Bulldogs baseball team.

Fields then found success for two years at Ohio State. Following his 2019 sophomore season, Fields finished runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. Fields’ teams made the CFB playoffs in both of his seasons, losing in the first round to Clemson in 2019 and losing in the National Championship to Alabama in 2020.

Fields slings the football with a great amount of velocity to fit in tight windows without sacrificing accuracy in the process. He makes smart decisions, limits turnovers, and throws his receivers open. He’s extremely mobile as a runner and is tough and willing to fight for extra yards when necessary.

On the flip side, Fields’ biggest knock is his comfort (or lack thereof) inside the pocket. Defenses that can pressure him will rack up sacks and cause issues with his accuracy and timing. He struggles to feel the blitz and thus fails to get the ball out in time, whether to the check down or hot read.

4. Trey Lance – North Dakota State

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I don’t know what’s in the water in Fargo, North Dakota, but that city flat-out breeds quarterbacks and National Championships.

Three consecutive quarterbacks (Carson Wentz, Easton Stick, Trey Lance) will have been drafted from North Dakota State, which is rare for a Division-2 school. It’s even rarer when two of them will be drafted in the first round, potentially in the top five. Wentz went No. 2 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, and now Lance looks to join him in that elite category.

Lance is talented for sure, but a top-five pick may be a bit rich. Quarterbacks, however, always seem to go earlier than anticipated, so there’s a chance Lance rises on draft night. To me, Lance should be drafted in the back half of the first round. He has great size at 6’3″, 220 pounds with the arm to challenge defenses deep down the field. At times, Lance gets aggressive in attacking defenses, and he’s not afraid to use his feet, either. He won’t take sacks easily.

One of the biggest pluses for Lance is that he doesn’t turn the ball over. In 2019 at North Dakota State, Lance threw 28 touchdowns without a single interception, posting a quarterback rating of 180.6.  The issue? North Dakota State overpowered everyone in Division-2 football, blowing out nearly every team en route to a 16-0 championship season.

Lance wasn’t asked to move through progressions and was occasionally quick to remove himself from the pocket. Furthermore, he never needed to throw into tight windows because his receivers found themselves wide open so frequently. He doesn’t have much playing experience either, especially since he just played a one-game season.

In the end, Lance possesses raw talent that needs to be developed. As talented as Lance can be, he is a project that likely will take multiple years to develop. His best-case scenario is going to a team with an aging, talented quarterback. There, Lance could learn and receive backup reps while he develops.

Sitting behind the likes of someone such as Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, or Tom Brady, who could still play a few more years, would really set up Lance for success.

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