Examining the top quarterbacks in this year’s NFL Draft

Examining+the+top+quarterbacks+in+this+year%27s+NFL+Draft

Manit Patel, General Assignment Reporter

With the NFL Draft tonight, we are staring at perhaps the most polarizing quarterback class in the history of the league. For the first time in history, four quarterbacks could be drafted with the first four picks. As much as there are top prospects, the potential of late round gems is definitely there as well. Headlined by generational prospect Trevor Lawrence, the quarterbacks of this draft will shape the future of the league for years, for better or worse. What we’re going to do is go over the big names in the draft, as well as a few under the radar guys you should know about.

QB1: Trevor Lawrence, Clemson University

Everything about Lawrence just screams future star. He has the size, coming in at 6-foot-6, 220 pounds. He led the Cartersville (GA) High School Hurricanes to a 41-game win streak from his sophomore to senior years, losing a total of three times for a 53-3 career record. He bettered that at Clemson losing only twice in three years. 

Wins and losses aside, Lawrence is as impressive as it gets when it comes to throwing the ball. He has great arm strength with the arm talent to make throws some starting quarterbacks in the NFL today can’t make. As if pure arm acumen alone wasn’t enough, Lawrence is mobile and can run if needed, as expressed by his 17 rushing touchdowns over the past two years. 

Questions about his work ethic and commitment to the sport arose recently when he said in an interview that he could “live without football”. In my eyes, that only makes him a better player. He’s playing because he truly loves the game. That makes him a more dangerous player.

Lawrence is undoubtedly going first overall to the Jaguars, who will land “the guy” to bring them to the promised land. He’s got expectations to be great. The loftiest since Andrew Luck entered the league. But he’s the kind of player who’ll deliver on those expectations.

QB2: Justin Fields, Ohio State University 

I’ll explain why I like Fields more than Wilson later on, but for me, Justin Fields is the second best quarterback in this draft. Pure potential aside, Fields is probably the rawest quarterback on this list save for Trey Lance. He has so much upside that we haven’t seen yet, and I believe given the right system, he’ll reach that upside.

The various knocks on Fields’ game include a lack of pocket awareness and inability to anticipate where receivers will be, or when they will be open. He’s also been mentioned as “someone who can’t get past the first read.” However, all of that can be fixed by good coaching, and it’s not really a fundamentally world-ending issue. 

Now the reasons I have him higher than Wilson are because he’s played top talent and performed, and he’s a better athlete. In today’s NFL where quarterbacks are supposed to make more on the run throws and all, Fields excels at exactly that. His sub 4.5 40-yard dash says it all. He’s tough, he has escapability and can make throws very few quarterbacks in this class can make. If you need any proof of either, look at his game tape against Clemson in the College Football Playoff Semi-Final this year. He shocked the world and outshined Trevor Lawrence when it mattered most.

Fields’ best fits would be New England, Detroit or San Francisco, however, there have been rumors that New Orleans could make a play for him too. While I think Fields will end up a Patriot, as a Lions fan, I would be remiss to mention that Jared Goff isn’t the future, and a higher ceiling quarterback who sits for a year or two would only make his development better. 

QB3: Zach Wilson, Brigham Young University

Zach Wilson is everyone’s favorite trendy prospect. Personally, I’m fond of the “Mormon Manziel” nickname and really do think it translates to his game. Notice how I didn’t mention anything off the field. 

Wilson has a dynamic on the field and that sixth sense of escaping the pocket when there’s a pass rusher. His pro day film and the throws he made were stunning. Although there were no defenders, Wilson showed off his on-the-run throw acumen, as well as his ability to hit tight windows. My knock in Wilson is just the lack of big games he played in. While BYU could reportedly have scheduled a game against Oregon or USC, they elected against it, playing undefeated Coastal Carolina instead. While it wasn’t his best game, there were some uncalled penalties and unsatisfactory offensive line play that really prevented him from reaching his capabilities.

Overall, Wilson compares to a more athletic Josh Allen, who can extend the play a little better. While the Jets are all but certain to take him, I think he could work well for them, however, it’s a matter of whether or not they can surround him with a better supporting cast then they did with Sam Darnold. If they aren’t able to, Wilson will be a bust.

QB4: Trey Lance, North Dakota State University

Lance is a relative unknown to the casual football fan. Hailing from the same University as Carson Wentz, Lance has a ceiling that is much higher than what was projected for Wentz.

Trey Lance played all of 17 games in his college football career, not losing a single one. While the game tape shows Lance for what he is, a raw player with the ability to extend the play and make throws very few NFL quarterbacks can make. In his only full season, Lance ran for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns, which is a boon to an offense who knows how to use that playmaking the right way. Statistics aside, any team that drafts Lance is betting on him hitting that ridiculous upside that he has. 

Currently, the rumored teams for Lance are Denver, San Francisco, Detroit, New England and Washington. Of those six, I’d say San Francisco, New England or Washington would be the best fits and the best spots where Lance can truly develop his game.

QB5: Mac Jones, University of Alabama

Of the five quarterbacks listed so far, the most intriguing over this entire draft process has been Mac Jones. Jones came into his own this year, following the departure of Tua Tagovailoa. All he did was lead the country in passing yards and completion percentage (which wasn’t close). 

The analysis on Jones is about as typical for what you see for Alabama quarterback’s in the past. He had a great offensive line, excellent defense, and high level weapons all around him, in Najee Harris, Devonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle and John Metchie. While all four players had exceptional years when healthy, realistically, they weren’t forced to make insane catches to get the ball, and rarely were they overthrown. 

Mac hit his windows and it showed with his ridiculous 77.4% completion percentage. Jones projects as a better, more adept version of Jake Fromm, who initially was one of the top prospects in his class, and ended up falling off. Jones possesses a strong arm and can make accurate throws while being on the run. His pocket progression is also amongst the best in the draft, as he consistently got through to his third or fourth read many times last season.

Jones has garnered interest from many teams, with San Francisco, Chicago, New England, New Orleans, and honestly, all four spots would work for him, as he is a product of a system, and I could see him thriving in any of those four destinations.

QB6: Davis Mills, Stanford

Mills is relatively unheard of unless you’re from the West Coast. He entered college as a five-star prospect only to have his career turned up and down by a litany of injuries.

Mills was the highest rated high school quarterback prospect in a class that included Tua, Mac, Jake Fromm, Tate Martell and Kellen Mond. However, the injuries really battered him. He struggled to make reads through his full progressions in college and was on and off as a starter. However, he has potential if he sits a year and can learn a system prior to being thrust into a starting role. His pro day film looked exceptional, and he made some bad windows look really good.

This is where things start to get interesting. While Mills has received interest from numerous teams, Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Chicago being on that list, whoever drafts him has to have a current starting quarterback. In my opinion, Mills is not ready to start this year and needs to sit and learn prior to starting. He’s a first round talent, but will most likely end up a day two pick. However, potential high with him, and should he hit that ceiling, he could be a top NFL quarterback. 

QB7: Kellen Mond, Texas A&M University

Mond is another project prospect. Coming from Texas A&M, Mond knows what it’s like playing top SEC defenses on a consistent basis. 

He strikes me as a Colin Kaepernick-esque player with less range in his running game. Mond showed touches of improved accuracy and pocket progression throughout the year. In the Senior Bowl, Mond was able to showcase a lot of that improvement, in a week of practice with NFL coaches, as well as the Senior Bowl game. 

Mond projects to be a day two pick, with no certain suitors for his services, however, he could be drafted into a situation where the quarterback is aging, and he could develop and learn prior to fully taking over the reigns. I like Pittsburgh and Indianapolis for him personally.

QB8: Kyle Trask, University of Florida

While I do like Trask as a prospect, his frame and his statistical numbers were absolutely off the charts — he had a lot of good receiving help that truly made up for where he lacked in terms of quarterback play. 

Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney are two of the best weapons in this draft and Trask used them to his full advantage. I personally think he’s a better pocket passer than Fields and Lance, only because he lacks the mobility that they possess, and he was rarely seen escaping the pocket last year. 

However, that pocket passing ability is extremely eye-catching to teams that want a quarterback with that style of play. Similar to Mond and Mills, I see Trask as a day two developmental guy, who sits a year or two before taking the reins. Indianapolis and Chicago are two top spots for him should they deem fit.