As we get closer to the 2021 NFL draft, teams are nailing down their final grades on prospects. But they continue to struggle with their evaluation of the quarterback position, which has been fluid for months. Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence has been the presumptive number one overall pick, but the evaluation of the other QBs in the draft has varied from person to person.
While plenty of teams are in the hunt for a franchise QB in the 2021 NFL draft, each team's evaluation could change the order in which the top prospects are selected during the draft. While teams that hold the top picks have the luxury of picking the QB that best fits their system, others will have to be content with taking the best available option left with their pick.
But which QBs are ready to start in the 2021 season-opener and which need time before taking over their team's offense?
2021 NFL draft: The Top 5 QBs
Below, we take a look at the top five QB prospects in the upcoming NFL draft.
#5 - Mac Jones
Mac Jones led a record-setting Alabama offense to a national title but is still doubted by scouts ahead of the NFL draft. QBs usually receive the bulk of the credit when a team boasts a stellar offense. But Jones is often mentioned after wide receiver Devonta Smith and running back Najee Harris as the leaders of the record-setting Alabama offense.
Jones is a solid QB and can pass the ball efficiently but he likely won't be a perennial MVP candidate. He could, with experience, become a good game manager but won't be the X-factor on a team's offense. If Jones can be surrounded by good wide receivers, like at Alabama, he could challenge for MVP honors, but it’s more likely that he'll spend his career as a solid starter and a fringe Pro Bowler.
#4 - Zach Wilson
Blessed with a great arm and terrific vision, Zach Wilson has rapidly ascended the NFL mock draft boards in the past couple of months. Wilson is capable of making some outrageous throws but has perhaps been overhyped due to his arm-strength.
Wilson reminds me of Carson Wentz in that they are supremely gifted but not capable of overcoming bad situations. Wilson will need time to adapt to the faster-paced game in the NFL and will likely be turnover prone early on as he learns the limitations in his game. Whoever drafts Wilson will be acquiring a potential star rather than a starter in the upcoming season.
#3 - Trey Lance
The most intriguing quarterback prospect in the 2021 NFL draft is Trey Lance. Standing at 6'3" and weighing 227 pounds, Lance has the physical traits of an elite quarterback. He was terrific in his time with the North Dakota State Bison. In the 2019 college football season, Lance rushed for over 1000 yards and threw 28 touchdown passes with 0 interceptions. Lance played only one exhibition game in the 2020 college football season as the coronavirus pandemic forced the Bison to cancel their football season.
NFL draft scouts have pointed out that Lance played in a simplistic offense on a stacked roster against far less talented competition. So evaluating him based on tape is difficult as it could be a false indicator of his actual ability. But if Lance's accuracy and rushing ability translate to the NFL, he’ll immediately be one of the better dual-threat QBs in the league. Lance truly is the 2021 NFL draft’s boom or bust prospect.
#2 - Justin Fields
The NFL draft is stacked with QBs with elite arms but Justin Fields is the standout in that impressive group. The Ohio State Buckeyes QB combines power with accuracy and has a strong collection of great performances against tough competition.
Zach Wilson has surprisingly usurped him as the second QB pick in some mock NFL drafts, but I can’t overlook Fields' impressive college resume over two seasons. While his arm strength and accuracy are undeniable, Fields has also shown great leadership in his time with the Buckeyes. Fields’ only weakness seems to be his inconsistency, but he is still only 22. Going into the NFL draft, Fields has seemingly been overlooked by scouts in favor of Trevor Lawrence despite being every bit as impressive over the last two seasons.
#1 - Trevor Lawrence
Long before he declared for the NFL draft, Trevor Lawrence was described as a generational prospect. In three seasons at Clemson, Lawrence has been stellar week in, week out. Lawrence has no significant weakness in his game. He has elite arm strength and accuracy, he's extremely mobile with the ball in his hands and he's great at reading defenses and making the right plays.
The only risk with Lawrence is that he played in a weak conference and will probably need some time to adjust to the speed of the NFL. Urban Meyer, one of the finest college coaches of the past decade, now heads the Jacksonville Jaguars, who hold the #1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft. It is unfathomable that the Jaguars will pick anyone but Lawrence, who is destined to be a star in the league.
Also Read: Complete 2020 NFL Draft Results