The quarterback position is the most important in professional sports and perhaps the most difficult to play. NFL teams that do not have a franchise passer are almost unable to be an annual contender while those that do seem to go to the playoffs every season. The 2021 draft class offers strong talents at the top that could step in and become franchise-altering players. While there is some depth afterward it is rather thin so teams that want a quarterback have to take them early.
13. Sam Ehlinger, Texas
A three and a half year starter and team captain, the former four-star recruit was the face of Texas football for most of the Tom Herrman era in Austin. Ehlinger is aggressive from a clean pocket, hanging in and keeping his eyes downfield. His arm is big enough to push it downfield and he is able to drop passes over the shoulder and into the bucket of receivers. A solid athlete, he runs hard like a fullback, finishing runs by lowering his shoulder. Ehlinger displays occasional escapability, extending plays and even finding targets on the move. A lack of zip and velocity prevents him from driving the ball into tight windows over the middle. His throwing motion is elongated and hurts his timing. Ehlinger processes information slowly which gets him in trouble when pressured. He is not consistently accurate to any area of the field and especially lacks accuracy coming off of his first read or after getting forced off his spot. Ehlinger does not project as a rosterable quarterback due to his inaccuracy and slow processing. A quarterback run-heavy offense with frequent run-pass options would suit his skill set.
12. Ian Book, Notre Dame
College football fans are well aware of the three-year starter for the Irish. Book is an undersized quarterback who operates exclusively from the shotgun behind a strong offensive line. He is very active behind the line of scrimmage, running around and breaking contain, playing, what could be described as frantically. This allows him to extend plays and find his check-down or pick up yards on the ground. The downside of his playing style is that he takes plenty of unnecessary sacks. Book is a capable scrambler with good athleticism. He has active feet and smooth hips in the pocket allowing him to set up to throw to either side of the field. His throwing motion has a long windup. A lack of arm strength prevents him from pushing the ball vertically and into tight windows against zone coverage. Occasional anticipatory ability and full-field reads are promising. Book often struggles to read simple concepts that put one defender at odds and fails to see deep zone defenders breaking on routes. His inability to hit targets consistently to all three levels of the field is worrying. Deep passes are often off the mark by yards, throwing them short and inside. Book does not project as a rosterable quarterback due to his frantic nature and inaccuracy. The abilities to pick up yards on the ground and find his check-down are what is most redeeming about his game.
11. Kyle Trask, Florida
The redshirt senior did not get to start a season as the starter prior to 2020 since high school where he sat behind D’Eriq King for a considerable amount of time. Trask is comfortable distributing the ball over the middle and can leave some air under slot fades. He is best in rhythm when his back foot hits and he is able to get the ball out. When he is forced to go through his progressions or move off of his spot, he struggles to set his feet leading to inaccurate passes. His arm is not very strong and he has many deep and intermediate passes flutter or die on him. Trask struggles to drive the ball on a line. Often, he gets greedy and locks in on a receiver running deep leading safeties and other defensive backs to the football and allowing them to create turnovers. The Texas native does not extend plays at a high level as he has subpar escapability. Trask projects as a pocket passer on a practice squad or bottom end of the roster. His resume and stats will get him drafted higher but he lacks the desirable traits to make it worthwhile developing him.
Value: 7th Round
10. Feleipe Franks, Arkansas
The former Florida Gator transferred to Arkansas to be the Razorbacks signal-caller in 2020. An experienced player, he racked up 33 starts in the SEC. Franks possesses many of the physical tools required to play quarterback in the NFL, he has the size and arm strength teams are looking for. He can vary his velocity, driving the football or throwing with touch if needed. Finding escape lanes and extending plays comes naturally for Franks, he can pick up yards with his feet and shows accuracy on the move. His big issue has been a lack of consistency and decision-making as he has multiple occasions per game where he puts the ball in danger, looking like he has little understanding of defensive and offensive intent. In addition to that his usually sound mechanics fail him frequently, leading to inaccurate passes when he does not set his feet. Franks projects as a developmental quarterback with great upside due to his athleticism and ability to make plays out of structure. It is a big gamble to bet on his play getting more consistent and a team would ideally put him on a practice squad early on as he can not be trusted to run the offense.
Value: 7th Round
9. Shane Buechele
Beginning his collegiate career at Texas, Buechele started 19 games for the Longhorns before getting beat out by Sam Ehlinger and transferring to SMU where he was the starter for another two seasons. Buechele is a smart quarterback who does not take many risks out of structure, checking the ball down to stay on schedule. He protects the football, throwing it out of bounds if he has to. Buechele can go through his reads quickly and flashes anticipatory ability underneath. Against zone, he finds space and leads his receivers there. He is accurate underneath and can execute bootlegs to his right. In the pocket, Buechele is capable of extending and stepping up despite being an average athlete. His toughness is apparent when standing in and taking shots after delivering. Buechele is physically limited as he lacks arm strength to drive the ball into tight windows or downfield. He is an undersized, average athlete who will not make much happen on the move. On passes to deep areas of the field, he struggles to connect with his receivers as his ball placement is very conservative. Buechele projects as a backup quarterback who coaches will like for his intelligence and leadership. He can get a team out of a game and step in to operate an offense. Buechele will never add a playmaking aspect to the offense and limits it severely due to his inability to push the ball vertically.
Value: 6th Round
8. Davis Mills, Stanford
The former five-star recruit got 11 starts under his belt in Stanford’s pro-style offense before declaring for the NFL Draft. Mills possesses an NFL arm to drive passes over the middle and to the outside, generating velocity on the football. His best throws come over the middle as he flashes tight window passing ability and occasional anticipation, releasing the ball right before his receiver clears a defender. Mills has very inconsistent accuracy and repeatedly struggles to hit his receivers deep downfield, leaving yards on the field. Many of his passes over the middle are high, giving his teammates no chance to protect themselves as he leads them into defenders. He puts the ball into traffic too often, forcing deep passes and failing to understand and identify basic defensive concepts such as man or zone as well as basic coverage shells on a consistent basis. Mills projects as a developmental third-string or practice squad quarterback who has the arm but severely lacks the required consistent accuracy and decision making to play at a passable level in the NFL.
Value: 6th Round
7. Jamie Newman, Wake Forest
The one-and-a-half-year starter at Wake Forest, transferred to Georgia ahead of the 2020 season and opted out. Newman has many intriguing physical traits such as his big arm, stature and running ability but leaves a lot to be desired beyond that. His accuracy only flashes and is inconsistent, causing him to miss many easy throws and leading his receivers into dangerous spots. He sometimes shows the ability to go through reads but is often slow to process, at times even looking like he does not know what is going on which can hurt him when he is blitzed or goes up against exotic looks. His pocket movement and presence are not natural at this point and are his biggest area of concern. Newman projects as a developmental prospect who should not see the field until he shows significant improvement. Given his many concerns, it is a longshot that he will reach his potential but he is nonetheless worth a shot on day three of the draft given the positional value of the quarterback position.
Value: 6th Round
6. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
A&M’s starter since being a freshman, Mond has exciting physical tools. He possesses an NFL arm with velocity and the ability to drive the football when his feet are set. In a straight line, he can run for extra yardage. Mond is accurate when in rhythm, displaying nice ball placement away from defenders. He can make tight-window throws and likes to operate over the middle. When pressured he really struggles. Mond is frantic in the pocket and does not set his feet leading to inaccurate passes. His decision-making is equally affected by pressure as he forces passes to his first read. He will need to have a built-in check-down for such occasions. Mond projects as a backup quarterback who has a good arm and accuracy to develop. Operating a complicated passing offense in college should help him get up speed with an NFL playbook quickly. The question around him remains if he can improve under pressure and off-script. If not, the team drafting him could give up on him fairly soon.
Value: 5th Round
5. Mac Jones, Alabama
A one and a half year starter for the Crimson Tide, Jones won the national championship in 2020. Jones is an aggressive gunslinger who is willing and able to air the ball out despite his mediocre arm. He is accurate when kept clean and can find and exploit matchups. Showing a good understanding of defenses, he makes anticipatory throws and excels at throwing timing routes. He will be limited to winning within the structure of an offense for the most part as he lacks the mobility and arm talent to extend and make plays on the move. His pocket presence also needs work and playing behind a bad line could become an issue. Jones projects as a starting quarterback in the NFL who will always be reliant on his surroundings. He will execute a well-designed offense with quality weapons well but won’t be a consistent playmaker if he isn’t given help. Jones will be appealing to contenders looking for a signal-caller.
Value: 3rd Round
4. Zach Wilson, BYU
After struggling early in his career, he broke out in 2020, totaling 3,692 passing yards, 33 touchdowns and only three interceptions, leading the Cougars to an 11-1 record. Wilson’s game is dependent on how consistently he can get his feet set and use his lower body to help him control the football as when he does this, he is very accurate. Wilson can use different arm angles and is able to operate a short passing attack with rollouts, screens and quick game elements. He is a good athlete who can avoid defenders to extend plays and pick up yards as a scrambler. While generally playing poised he struggles to read defenses, leading to turnovers and missed opportunities. Wilson projects as an eventual starting QB in a west coast offense thanks to his accuracy and mobility. To take his game to the next level he has to improve his footwork and become better at reading and understanding defenses on a consistent level.
Value: 1st Round
3. Trey Lance, North Dakota State
In his sole season as North Dakota State’s starting signal-caller, Trey Lance showed exciting physical traits. He has a big arm with which he can make all the throws and is a threat as a runner. Lance makes protection calls, operating in a pro-style offense. His decision-making is too conservative at times causing him to be gun shy, not making throws he will have to make at the next level. Most of his weaknesses can be improved by getting him more playing time as he already makes some impressive reads and protects the football at a young age. Lance is generally accurate but does not have all-day accuracy yet which comes back to his occasionally inconsistent footwork. Lance projects as a starting quarterback at some point in his rookie season who will have some growing pains early on but will always be able to fall back on his swagger and his physical traits. If he lands with a coaching staff that is able to develop him he could reach his high ceiling that could make him one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
Value: Top 10
2. Justin Fields, Ohio State
Coming off of one of the best two-year runs for any quarterback in Ohio State history, Fields looks to become the face of an NFL franchise. He is an exciting athlete with playmaking ability from within and outside of the pocket. When he is given space, he takes off or extends plays thanks to his much-improved pocket presence. Fields is automatic hitting targets on the move with very sound mechanics on bootlegs. He can drive the ball into tight windows over the middle but also displays touch on deep passes, leaving plenty of air underneath the ball to let his receiver run underneath it. His accuracy outside of the hashes is great but he lacks consistent velocity in that area which should be fixed by condensing his throwing motion. Fields plays very confidently, maneuvering in the pocket patiently and pushing the ball vertically after setting his feet. This confidence can get the better of him at times when he gets greedy and forces passes into coverage. He is not an instinctive passer and looks like a slow processor at times, taking time to pull the trigger due to a lack of anticipation and missing open targets underneath. His timing is often off as he is too late getting to receivers, much to their detriment as they take hits from defenders. Fields projects as a starting quarterback who has shown improvement in every season of his career. His athleticism and arm talent can bail him out of bad situations that he gets himself into. He has to improve his timing and decision-making to reach his ceiling as a quality starting quarterback. His best fit is in a timing offense that utilizes his accuracy on the move and lets him take shots downfield without limiting his playmaking ability off-script.
Value: Top 10
1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Arguably the best collegiate quarterback of the last decade, Lawrence came to Clemson with sky-high expectations to which he lived up with three playoff appearances and one national championship. He is incredibly gifted with arm talent that will be some of the best in the league. Lawrence looks almost effortless making any throw to any spot on the football field. He is accurate on the move and in the quick game underneath. To the back-shoulder, he throws pinpoint accurately. Occasional inconsistencies arise when he has to come back to the opposite side of the field. Lawrence plays with rare poise and confidence in the pocket, never getting phased by free rushers in his face, keeping his eyes downfield and making throws. He consistently extends plays inside or out of the pocket. The Georgia native flashes tremendous anticipatory ability when he has to because of pressure. For the most part, he likes to see his receivers get open which causes some passes to be a tad late. He identifies zone coverage and finds his zone beater quickly. Lawrence leaves the ability to manipulate second-level defenders with his eyes to be desired, however showing that he can hold safeties at the third. His confidence and playmaking instincts get the better of him when he gets too aggressive and puts the ball in jeopardy. 17 interceptions are an impressively low number, given the throws he attempts. Ball handling in the pocket can be an issue as he puts it on the ground too much. Lawrence is a tremendous athlete with speed and vision in the open field. He can even break tackles. Like when he came into college, Lawrence will arrive in the NFL with high expectations. He projects to be a quality starter his first season in the league who wins on and off-script with his playmaking ability and special arm talent. His negatives on mental aspects of the game as well as inconsistencies seem like nitpicking at this point and should be improved upon with more experience. Lawrence could be a top-tier quarterback in the league with a few years under his belt.
Value: Top 3
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