For the last of our positional breakdowns in the 2021 NFL Draft, we'll discuss the most debated position, the quarterbacks. For this list, I have valued starter traits over a more complete game coming out of college if I didn't foresee the ability a draft prospect's ability to be a long-term option at an NFL team.
For this group of signal-callers, I believe there’s a big four, who deserve to go in the top ten of the 2021 NFL Draft. That's because of their superb athleticism and arm talent. Then there’re two guys who are in a tier of their own and should go in the late first and mid day-two windows, respectively. After that, there’s a big drop-off to prospects who aren’t close to being ready to start but have the wherewithal to develop and flourish in the right environment.
So without further ado, let’s have a look at the top ten quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft.
#1 2021 NFL Draft Prospect: Trevor Lawrence (Clemson)
6' 5½", 220 pounds; JR
Enrolling at Death Valley as the no. 1 national recruit after beating Deshaun Watson’s key records in the state of Georgia, Trevor Lawrence has been the consensus first overall pick for the 2021 NFL draft, pretty much since the end of his freshman campaign.
'Football Jesus' was inserted four weeks into the 2018 season and had a freshman campaign for the ages, completing 65.2% of his passes for 3280 yards and 30 TDs compared to just four INTs on 8.3 yards per attempt.
In 25 games in the last two seasons, the 2021 NFL Draft prospect combined for 6818 yards and 60 touchdowns, compared to 13 interceptions, averaging 9.3 yards per attempt.
Lawrence also increased his completion percentage and passer rating every season. The 2021 NFL Draft prospect won the ACC all three years with Clemson, won a national as a freshman. He made it to another championship but came up short in the CFP semi-final last season.
Nevertheless, Lawrence is a special arm talent and has all the clubs in his bag to layer the ball, put different arcs on it or straight up drive it to any spot on the field, while his heels don't click and cleat or grab the turf.
The 2021 NFL Draft prospect has no issues with opposite-hash throws, completing the most throws than most college quarterback even attempt, and he is very comfortable attacking all areas of the field. That could enable his future offensive coordinator to run basically any concept because the whole field is open to him.
Lawrence throws his guys open with perfect ball placement and allows his playmakers to make plays for him. The 2021 NFL Draft prospect excels in putting the ball in certain spots for his big-bodied receivers along the sideline. He did that consistently in the 2019 national title game against Alabama when he had Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross alongside him.
However, the 2021 NFL Draft prospect also has the zip on the ball to thread in seam routes before the safety can get there. He already has good anticipation of letting the ball go before receivers even get into their breaks. He can be see him putting the ball on receivers just when they bring their heads around on curl routes routinely.
The 2021 NFL Draft prospect shows great patience to let plays develop before getting the ball right when his receivers are about to get open. He is not fazed by color in the backfield, and he can made defenders look silly for coming in too hot when he gets away vertically.
There are some absolute dimes off his back foot and the touch with which the ball comes out of his hands despite getting hit, which is remarkable. The 2021 NFL Draft prospect's stance is balanced and his feet are light, so he can reset them quickly while not losing any velocity on his throws. You see a bunch of lasers after having to move around and finding receivers later in the progression.
Lawrence is quick and can flip his hips through in a whippy fashion. He can roll out or escape to his left and twist around to get the shoulder pointed at the target to fire lasers. And the heat on the ball doesn’t change much even when he is on the move.
The 2021 NFL Draft prospect can throw spirals with one foot off the ground and can drop the ball off late to slide routes or somebody sitting down on scramble drills. Contrary to his rather slender frame, Trevor Lawrence is highly athletic and flat-out fast.
He scored on a 67-yard rushing touchdown against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, a defense that was loaded with NFL defenders. He has the burst to beat edge defenders who try to play in-between both options on zone-read plays. Lawrence also helps on lanes on the inside because of his prowess in keeping the ball.
When he gets in the open field, he does a good job of setting up blockers in space and cut underneath them. While Lawrence clearly has all the athletic tools and arm talent you would ever want to see, what truly stands out is the poise he displays in big moments.
He seems more like a ten-year NFL veteran when you see him out there on the field. That is because he is consistent with his play and does not panic in sub-optimal situations.
The 2021 NFL Draft prospect had the fewest turnover-worthy throws of any college starter in 2018 as a true freshman, to go with a passer rating above 100 when pressured. He usually keeps his other hand on the ball when he moves around, and his eyes stay downfield. And it’s those little details, like being crisp with his ball-fakes (in play-action) and footwork after holding the ball in the running back’s belly.
There aren’t a ton of issues with Lawrence. But the biggest one probably is that he trusts himself to fit in some throws that simply nobody can, especially when he is late on several occasions. He’s not hesitant in his decision-making, but he may miss an underneath defender because of that.
I think what gives him the biggest trouble at this point are more advanced coverage rotations post-snap. Lawrence has a bit of an elongated stride as a thrower and needs space to step into, which makes it tough to get the job done with pressure up the middle.
Moreover, that combined with a tendency to get his eyes locked in on a receiver at times allows savvy defenders to follow him to the ball. You look at the Clemson offense – there were a lot of lay-ups with screens, RPOs and other YAC stuff - as he led college football with 686 yards off screen passes last season.
Lawrence was on the better team every single conference game except for the two national title games he was in. In the three games where it was even or the other team was more complete, he was outplayed by the opposing quarterback (Joe Burrow and Justin Fields twice). If not for miscommunication at the end of their 2019 game against Ohio State, Clemson would have lost all three games.
I think it’s a little crazy to think that Lawrence is arguably the only player in the 2021 NFL draft who doesn't have any noticeable weaknesses in his game. But there are things Lawrence still needs to get better at.
There’s another quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft class, who I believe isn’t too far off. Nevertheless, Lawrence is a can’t-miss prospect, in my opinion. He has elite height, arm talent, athleticism and leadership qualities.
That’s why Lawrence has been the number one pick ever since we saw him carve open the Alabama defense in the national title game when he was only 19 years old. I don’t think the 2021 NFL Draft prospect is quite an all-time great prospect as Andrew Luck at the quarterback position was. But Lawrence is the next name up in terms of who I have closely watched. With stability around him, he has an NFL Hall of Fame ceiling.
#2 2021 NFL Draft Prospect: Zach Wilson (BYU)
6' 3", 210 pounds; JR
Barely a top-1000 overall recruit in 2018, Zach Wilson kind of came out of nowhere this past season and took the college football world by storm.
His first two years at BYU, he played in nine games each and put up modest numbers – 63.7% completion percentage for 243.5 yards in his starts with 23 touchdowns compared to 12 interceptions – as part of a run-centric Cougars offense.
In 12 games last season, he completed 73.5 percent of his passes (second behind only Alabama’s Mac Jones) for 3692 yards and 33 touchdowns, for a ridiculous 11 yards per attempt, and only three interceptions, to go with another 254 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.
BYU traditionally have been a ground-and-pound rushing offense and they came out smashing Navy’s defense in a blowout win in the season-opener, but from that point on, Wilson has emerged as a Heisman candidate and now seems to be the consensus number two overall pick.
This young man has experience operating from under center, the pistol and shotgun. He ran a lot of play-action at BYU, with his back to the defense, staying in the pocket and on bootlegs, consistently carrying out play-fakes. He has such great command of the football and it’s so easy for him to spin it.
He uses a lot of torque, to create that velocity and the ball really expoldes out of his hands. Wilson is an incredibly natural thrower, has the arm strength to deliver absolute lasers across the field, but also the touch to loft the ball over a trailing defender and or the second level on dig routes.
Wilson can use different speeds on the ball, while having lightning-quick feet and release. The quick game should be called very quick with him, and he make those underneath placement throws, where the defense basically can’t do anything about it, on square-ins, hitches or slide routes off motion, because of leverage advantages.
One of the things that really make him special, is the fact he can throw off different platforms and with different arm angles like nobody else in this draft. Often times he just gets the ball out with a quick flick of the wrist, and he can throw with very little space or his feet cock-eyed. Another spect that really stands about Wilson is the way he can throw receivers open with ball-placement, away from the leverage of defenders.
That is meant in the most positive way – he is already a professional jump-ball thrower. He is in perfect position for his guys and rarely risks turnovers with them, as well placing balls to the back-shoulder, when his receiver can’t stack vertically. And on some of those on-the-move throws, he forces receivers to work back to the or even slide for it, to avoid the chance for defenders to make plays on it.
It led to a bunch of big plays through the air, as he completed an FBS-high 62.5 percent of his passes of 20+ yards and had a PFF grade of 99.9 on those. Yet, at the same time you see him actively pull the ball down, because he understands it isn’t a chance worth taking, which led to a turnover-worthy play rate of only 1.2 percent, despite the vertical prowess.
When you zero in on Wilson, you can clearly see his processing of information and the plan he has before the snap, in terms of manipulating single-high safeties to open windows and freezing defenders, or opening up seam shots by forcing safeties to widen in two-high coverages. While he did have great protection, in terms of reading defenses and making more advanced decisions, he was asked to do more than any of these guys that are in the first-round conversation. And his pocket presence and footwork are certainly the best among the top four.
Wilson plays with a certain confidence and own pace. He work his way through progressions and has that internal clock, to know when he has to move. Wilson may not be quite as fast in a straight line as these are other three big names, but I think he has the best quick-twitch athleticism, to avoid rushers and extend plays, as you see him start and stop, in order to make free rushers miss consistently. When he gets out, he can really scoot and is very fleet-footed as a runner, hesitating and going past defenders in the open field effectively.
He can shake guys and is not afraid to get hit. The BYU coaches used his mobility on plenty of QB draw plays, but he is even more dangerous at extending plays and launching bombs. You see him make more big-time throws rolling one way (mostly to the right) and attacking the opposite side of the field than any other passer.
Wilson has that innate vision for secondary plays and sees windows opening up off script, to where defenders are attached with receivers and an area is vacated. And the Cougars coaching staff seems to have a lot of trust in the guy they have under center, judging by how often they go for it on fourth down and the results usually say they are right, going 12 of 22 on the season.
He threw a 78-yard touchdown on the very first play of the Houston game and iced it with a dime on a fade route for a TD on third-and-10, he made some ridiculous throws in a blowout victory at Boise State, shredded UCF in the Boca Raton Bowl and even in what people call his worst game of 2020 – at Coastal Carolina – he made several big-time throws and his team came up a yard short on the final drive in Kevin Dyson-fashion.
However, Wilson did have the luxury of playing behind of the elite offensive lines in college football and wasn’t even hit once through the first three or four games of the season, plus there were some great chances for big plays off those run fakes, because of how much they pounded some teams on the ground. One of the few things I believe Wilson needs to improve upon is protecting his receivers from big hits by not leading them into zone defenders at times, and when he has a rusher in his face, his feet are locked into the ground usually.
He is a little rushed with his footwork as he reads the field and every once in a while, he will leave the back-foot outside of his frame rather than bringing it up, as he comes forward and that’s when the ball can come out low. Wilson barely won the starting job in 2019 and certainly benefitted from lower level of competition in his only high-level season, when you compare it to these other guys at the top.
There are some durability concerns with Wilson, because he isn’t the physical specimen some of these other guys at the top are. He underwent labrum surgery in the spring of 2019 and then missed four games with a broken thumb during the upcoming season.
Wilson put on an absolute show at the BYU pro day, highlight by that final moonball off a scramble, but also just how the ball exploded out of his hand and how automatic everything looked, to go with making all these throws from different platforms and arm-angles.
Obviously you should never get too enarmed with what guys do at these scripted workouts, but you see all of that on tape as well. We can talk about how little he was under pressure behind that phenomenal BYU offensive line, but he didn’t have the greatest weapons around him, especially missing his security blanket from the year prior, in tight-end Matt Bushman.
Wilson is often punished for a weak schedule by a lot of the mainstream analysts, even though the Cougars had nothing to do with those bigger games having to be canceled due to COVID protocols. Wilson to me is a phenomenal talent and should be a problem in basically any offense, where it’s a zone-run based approach, where they move the pocket and he throw bombs on the move, or using his quick release in more of a spread, RPO-based attack.
#3 2021 NFL Draft Prospect: Justin Fields (Ohio State)
6’ 3”, 225 pounds; JR
Justin Fields competed with Trevor Lawrence for the top quarterback recruit in the country in 2018 and had to sit on the bench his one year at Georgia behind Jake Fromm, where he showed sparks in special packages. He decided to transfer after the season due to some alleged racial comments and instantly became a Heisman trophy front-runner.
As a sophomore, he completed 67.3% of his passes for almost 3300 yards and 41 touchdowns to go with just under 500 yards and another ten scores on the ground, while having thrown just one interception until the CFP semifinal against Clemson, where he was picked off twice.
In eight games last season, he completed just over 70 percent of his passes for 2100 yards and 22 TDs versus six INTs, plus just under 400 yards and five more TDs rushing. He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection, won the conference and faced Clemson in the playoff both years, winning the latter one and making it to the national title game, even though the Buckeyes were outmatched against Alabama.
With the build of a Greek god, Fields has the zip on the ball to make far-hash drive throws and drill seam routes with safeties in range constantly. He had a perfect TD-to-INT ratio in the red-zone in 2019 at 24-to-nothing, which a lot of that success was in part thanks to him throwing absolute bullets, if his receivers just had a step or a window to put it into.
You routinely see him place the ball away from a defender in the hip-pocket of his targets or away from where they are leaning towards. Fields also clearly has the arm strength to push the ball down the field and was one of the most lethal deep ball throwers in the country these last two years. If you have a deep safety trying to play flat-footed against him, he will punish that guy with bombs on post routes routinely.
At the top end, Fields arguably has the best accuracy from a clear platform of all QBs in this draft, especially on the deep ball, but also firing passes into voids in zone coverage, where he protects his receivers from running into collisions. I love his location on comeback routes, where he really forces receivers to work back towards him, to avoid any doubt.
You can see the ball-placement to allow receivers to get vertical right away or not have to slow down at all. Overall, he produced only 18 turnover-worthy plays in his career and significantly decreased his number of fumbles last year, from nine to two (14 versus nine games).
When he is on, he’s very hard to stop, which we saw in 2019, when he had five different games, where he threw four touchdowns and no picks, or when he went off for six TDs against Clemson in the CFP semifinal at the start of the year, beating tight coverages with rifles and hitting his receivers streaking free downfield, despite getting a huge shot at his ribs early on and having to kind of gut it out.
Fields is very sturdy inside the pocket, with quiet feet and little wasted movement. He can put the ball out in front with his feet planted into the ground, as there’s trash around his legs or he has a free blitzer charging at him. He had one of those for a touchdown mid-way through the national title game, where he laid the ball to the back-pylon, as his slot receiver was still giving the safety a little stutter.
Fields truly has Deshaun Watson's quality, where he can make the unblocked rusher miss or shake off a sack attempt due to his strong base. He can extend the play and often times take off for key scramble yardage. He consistently finds ways to escape and has the acceleration, to not get caught from behind on too many occasions, plus a sweet spin move.
Fields can move the pocket with bootlegs (from pistol in college) and rollout, where can put a lot of velocity on the ball, in part thanks to going from sidewise to vertically, in order to flip those hips. He can power the ball to the sideline off the wrong foot or lob it over defenders, who have to respect him as a runner and kind of sit down.
He made a ridiculous play against Penn State last year, where he almost stumbled to the ground and still somehow got the ball to his tight-end on a leak route with two defenders right in his grill. And he is a dangerous threat to pull the ball on zone-read plays and quickly picks up chunk plays. He has legitimate 4.4 speed (which he backed up at the Ohio State pro day), routinely leads defenders to the wrong side of blocks by aiming that way initially and has a strong lower body, to gain yards through contact.
However, there are some issues with Fields’ mechanics. He can get pretty narrow with his base and a little floppy with arm angles. He doesn’t really create opposites between his upper and lower half, which limits his hip rotations and forces his arm to do all the work. Because of that, his release points differentiate a lot and he kind of guide the ball to receivers, rather than fire it there.
I don't like that there’s this narrative out there about Fields not being able to work through progressions because I have seen him get to number three and four even. For me, it’s more about poor eye discipline, to where the pattern is designed to go to number one on deeper-developing routes, but he leads defenders there and especially stays on it, when the picture changes post-snap.
His footwork tends to get sluggish and slow, while he is processing information mentally, or there’s an extra little bounce, which leads to being late on throws. Blitz recognition was a problem for Fields in 2020 and he has to learn living for another down, not forcing something when he’s already wrapped up basically.
You look at Big Ten title game against Northwestern, where the Buckeyes had to win almost despite his mistakes, but even more so against Indiana mid-season, where the Hoosiers through some complex blitzes at him, he couldn’t really decipher what they were showing, he was way late on a lot of throws and made some desperation heaves, which led to him throwing three picks and letting their opponents hang around. Even though, in his defense – there constantly were fuck-ups in protection.
As I already mentioned, Fields brings a lot of the positives and negatives that Deshaun Watson had coming out of Clemson, where he can be in the zone and make one big play after the other, but there’s also a lack of decisiveness and he has to learn when a play is over. There will be days, where Fields just won’t be totally on his game.
There’re some inconsistencies in mechanics and in terms of being disciplined with his eyes. So I expect there to be some growing moments early on in his career, but his play-making ability and competitiveness will get him over those things. I believe there is some separation between the top two quarterbacks and Fields, but I have no idea how he has seemingly been sliding down draft boards and why nobody else seems to get looked at as closely as him.
He is a special athlete, with tremendous arm talent and somebody, who can routinely win out of structure, but what really stood out to me when I watched his tape in detail was how much he get the job done from within the pocket.
#4 2021 NFL Draft Prospect: Trey Lance (North Dakota State)
6’ 4”, 230 pounds; RS SO
With offers from the Big Ten to play linebacker or safety as barely a top-2000 overall recruit, Trey Lance banked on himself as a quarterback for North Dakota State. Barely seeing the field as a freshman, he ended up with a redshirt.
In his first and only season as a starter, he became the first ever freshman to win the FCS Walter Payton award, combining for 42 total touchdowns and just one turnover (fumble), which came on his 16th snap of the season.
The Bison finished with another perfect record and national title, as Lance completed 67% of his passes for 2786 yards, averaging 9.7 yards per attempt. The FCS didn’t play a season in 2020, but NDSU took part in one showcase game against Central Arkansas, which they won as well, even though his first pick in college.
Unlike most quarterback prospects we see come out these days, Lance wasn’t in one of those spread, RPO-oriented offenses, but rather made throws down the field and created big plays in a pro style attack, with a lot big personnel and play-action off it. In that Bison offense, he has experience with a multitude of slight of hand fakes and carries those play-fakes nicely to enhance their effect.
Lance has an absolute cannon of an arm and you see that confidence in his it, even when he’s a tad late on throws, to still bang it in there. He displays such easy zip on the ball and the raw power, to drive it in-between the safeties against two-high shells consistently, as well as making those high-difficulty far-field NFL throws on deep outs from the opposite hash.
He can complete 15-18 yard comeback routes with both feet off the ground, as you go through the tape. However, he can also put a lot of arc on the ball and have it land in the bucket of his receivers on vertical shots, where he consistently follows through and sticks his pinky-finger out, to put that loft on it. His 11.5 yards depth of target in 2019 was higher than what any other quarterback had last season.
I love what he does on play-action, in terms of hiding the ball and not losing much time getting it out of his hands, where he can set those feet quickly and then transition that weight back forward, as he decelerates and creates a very clean platform. The way he can stop his weight, when he gets to the top of those drops, after having his back turned to the defense, and set up his throws, is phenomenal. Yet he also has no issues throwing the ball on the run, where I really like how he slightly throttles down and you see him at times throw the ball with his feet parallel to the line of scrimmage, as he is still rolling out.
Lance has a really good grasp of the offense, in terms of what they want to set up and how he wants to lead defenders with his eyes and body language. He is very in tune with the progression and drop-backs, letting the ball go on time consistently, plus he trusts his receivers to anticipate throws before they really even get into their break.
He has experience with full-field reads and seems to clearly have the football IQ to learn a more advanced offense quickly. According to the NDSU coaches, he was responsible for the all their checks in protection. He has those sudden shoulder turns, when he progresses from high to low or decides to check it down to his back or outlets. And in single-high rotations, you see him freeze that safety and connect on skinny post routes with no issues.
However, while he can throws from a clean pocket, he has such a strong lower body, to get away from rushers and make something happen. I’ve seen him literally shake off an unblocked defender from the edge, who had jumped on his back, and throw a touchdown. Lance brings supreme athletic skill-set for the quarterback position.
He was heavily involved in the run game on QB power, draw plays and as a scrambler of course, where he is a load to bring down and has the speed to run away from pretty much anybody on the field against FCS competition, but is also kind of shifty and has defenders slip off him. And he finishes strong, as you actually see him truck some defenders at the end of his runs.
In 2019, he had five games with a rush of at least 30 yards. In the FCS Championship in the snow at the end of the season, Lance basically was the Bison’s lead-back, with 30 carries for 166 yards. The one that really comes to mind is a 44-yard TD scramble on a 3rd & 23 to start the fourth quarter and basically win the game.
While Lance did have a phenomenal year as a starter, his process of working through information is still a tick slow and he had a few plays that he got away with, that could have easily resulted in turnovers. When you talk about taking shots down the field, it really is just throwing the ball to where the receivers should end up no matter if he’s covered or not at times.
In the Bison offense, Lance had quite a few big completions served up on a silver platter, where he had somebody wide open wheeling out or turning upfield late on the original side of a play-fake. Much like another former North Dakota State quarterback in Carson Wentz, Lance puts himself at risk for injury on several occasions with the way he engages contact as a runner, which has to be coached out of him to some degree.
He has a tendency of having the ball’s nose point to the ground too much on underneath throws in particular, which I think comes from his tendency to break that arm angle, as he tries to shorten his motion. I’d like to see him improve that feel for pressure off the edge and climb the pocket more routinely. And he was certainly “protected” in that Bison offense, where he had the offensive line in the conference by far and they had the best team overall.
Lance attempted more than 23 passes just once during his only season as a starter and had a very shaky performance in his only game of 2020 against Central Arkansas, in which he threw his only career, missed a wide open touchdown early and allowed inferior competition to hang around.
However, you have to put that performance into some context, considering they really only had one week of preparation and their opponents at least had already played three games. At his pro day, the ball really jumped out Lance’s hands and you saw him drive the ball with a lot velocity, without getting off the ground too much, with tightened up footwork and release, even though there were still some missed throws downfield.
Mainstream media is just so quick to jump to conclusions and makes these general statements, without ever actually having to watch the tape and study offenses, Yes, 17 career starts aren’t a lot for Lance and he will have some developing to do against more complex defenses in the NFL and things like that.
But in terms of working inside the structure of an offense, the footwork, the big-time throws he can make and then how dangerous a runner he is on top of all that, I think he can a successful starter as a rookie in the right offense. In particular, I think he would be a perfect fit for one of those Shanahan-type of systems, where he is put on the move with bootlegs and they let him launch the ball deep.
#5 2021 NFL Draft Prospect: Mac Jones (Alabama)
6' 3", 215 pounds; RS JR
A three-star recruit in 2017, Mac Jones did pretty darn well filling in for Tua Tagovailoa over the second half of 2019, completing just over 70 percent of his passes with an average of 11.6 yards per attempt and 11 touchdowns, compared to two interceptions in his four games as a starter.
He especially shone in Alabama’s bowl game versus Michigan, when he went for over 300 yards and three TDs, with no picks. Last year, he beat out another five-star recruit in Bryce Young and put together a season for the ages, which nobody expected.
Jones set NCAA records for completion percentage (77.4%) and (college) passer rating (203.1) throwing for 4500 yards and 41 touchdowns, compared to only four interceptions, while averaging 11.1 yards per attempt in 13 games. He lit up some of the top defenses in college football against Georgia, Texas A&M and finally Ohio State in the national title game, while finishing second behind only his top receiver Devonta Smith in the Heisman voting.
While he did have to wait his turn, Jones took full advantage once he got a chance. He has a pretty quick release, which fits well with Alabama’s screen- and RPO-heavy offense, where he could get it out to his playmakers and let them go to worst. However, he is at his best on those rainbow deep balls and he also excelled on touch throws to layer the pass in-between zones.
On passes of 20+ yards last season, Jones went 33-of-56, including 17 touchdowns and a nation-leading 25.4 yards on average per attempt, as well as an FBS-best 1355 total yards off those. I think Mac’s arm is much better than it gets credit for, always pretty much throwing a perfect spiral and he made a lot of pro-level throws. He is extremely consistent and sharp with his footwork, anticipates throwing windows and let’s the ball go, so it arrives there right on time, rather than when he sees the receiver enter it.
What I really appreciate from a technical standpoint is how he always follows through accordingly. He displays some beautiful ball-placement, in order to throw receivers open, while minimizing the risk, with a bunch of them over the top of a trailing defender, perfectly in stride or with some loft on it, to allow the target to elevate on passes right over the helmet of the opponent.
Something that is routinely underrated about Jones is when he has a receiver open, he does not slow them down and still puts the ball at places where they can maximize yards after catch. Jones does that consistently, and he really takes care of the ball, with only four picks and two fumbles last season. He is also slick with his eyes and head-fakes as he manipulates safeties and opens up seams in the coverage, and he adds in some violent pumps, to sell double moves.
While he won’t blow you away with his athleticism or ridiculous scramble plays, Jones showcases great, subtle pocket movement and the ability to make his linemen look good, or just to buy that little bit of extra time, by sliding or shuffling around. He does not shy away from hanging in there and taking shots, in order to deliver the ball down the field either though.
The former Alabama signal-caller has some of the best cross-over steps, when moving laterally and creating a new platform, while staying in a throw-ready position throughout, and shortening the distance to the target. On the move, he can maintain a tight spiral and lead receivers away from the coverage. And while he might not break off any long runs, he can pick up the necessary yardage on third-and-five or whatever it may be.
For me, it is his processing ability however, which is unmatched in this class – being able to work through progressions like a machine and that’s how I would also describe him as a thrower, with ultra-consistent accuracy. His completion percentage on passes within ten yards was at 85.1 percent.
He recognizes when one of his receivers has a leverage advantage or defenses give too much cushion, as they blitz the original underneath defender and a safety caps over the top or there’s just a late rotation. And he does a great job of making his targets slow down and protect them from hits. You listen to his former offensive coordinator Steve Sarkasian talk about how quickly he was able to install new parts of the offense with Jones.
The way he would learn to master what they do, it makes you feel very good about Jones being able to get him ready to play at the next level as well. And then during Senior Bowl week, you saw that attention to detail, the ability to take information and respond to it, the accuracy and just the command he had once again in that environment with NFL coaches.
However, Jones simply does not have the Howitzer some of the other guys in front of him do and that’s why you don’t seem deliver on power throws as routinely. If you put him next to those other guys or have them all run next to each other, he is not going to look good.
The Alabama QB certainly benefitted from supreme offensive line and skill-position play around him, with guy streaking wide open behind the defense at times, while having a Heisman Trophy wide receiver. But more importantly just barely getting pressured. Steve Sarkisian schemed open receivers for easy YAC throws on mesh concepts and screens more so than any team in the country.
Jones might have had 1000 yards alone off just waiting and dropping the ball off over the middle on shallow crosser, with what Devonta Smith and others did after the catch, and he was second to only Trevor Lawrence with just 600 yards off screens. Smitty also bailed him out a few times, by working back to the ball aggressively and wrestling the ball out of the hands of a defender.
Mac Jones clicks his heels a little too much and a times you see him end up throwing the ball with his feet planted to the ground and not aimed at the target, when he comes back to his outlets. Overall, he gets to his checkdown too quickly at times, not allowing something to develop first.
I never thought this would be the case for such a vanilla guy like Jones, but he has been overhyped this offseason. At his pro day, you saw him underthrow some of those deep balls – which you also see a few times on tape. And there are some balls that nose-dive in front of receivers on out routes from the opposite hash.
While it had to be mentioned, especially when it comes to elite protection, I don’t really get how the main negative for Jones is that he had so much talent around at the skill-positions, when compared to Tua a year ago, he really only had one of the four first-round receivers for the majority of games, considering Jaylen Waddle broke his ankle four weeks into the season.
For me, it’s much more about the lack of elite physical ability, compared to the big four. I believe Jones is kind of in a tier of his own, as a fringe-first round pick, with plenty of separation to the next name. His ability to process information pre- and post-snap, the consistent accuracy and the ability to run an offense effectively will make him a long-time quality starter.
He doesn’t have that kind of talent to create on his own and save an offense, when the original play breaks down. I thought him potentially being the third overall pick is pretty crazy, but I’d have no problem if a team brought him in with a pick in the mid-to-late first round, which already had a lot of pieces on the roster.
#6 2021 NFL Draft Prospect: Kellen Mond (Texas A&M)
6’ 2", 205 pounds; SR
The number one dual-threat quarterback in the country in 2017, Kellen Mond started his freshman season as a backup, but took over for eight games, once Nick Starkel got hurt, putting up very modest numbers.
In the last three years, under the guidance of head coach Jimbo Fisher, Mond has completed just over 60% of his passes for 8286 yards and 63 touchdowns, compared to 21 interception, to go along with another 1269 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground.
With those numbers, he joined a prestigious group of SEC quarterbacks, as the only one not named Time Tebow or Dak Prescott, to record over 9000 passing and 1500 rushing yards in his career. Moreover, he has won three straight bowl games, including the Orange Bowl against North Carolina at the start of this year.
Mond presents a very athletic frame, with broad shoulders and no ounce of fat on his body. Texas A&M still relies heavily on the run game and play-action shots off it, but Mond has become a much more surgical passer over his time at College Station, who can take his offense down the field with a bunch of underneath throws.
He has his ten-inch hands that allow him to really control the ball, and his whole throwing process, from set-up, loading up and releasing has become pretty much automatic for him. When you look at him aesthetically, you would expect somebody that relies on running ability, but Mond shows great accuracy and touch from within the pocket.
He can make quick reads and decisions, and he gets the ball there in a hurry as well, often times before his man has even planted his foot, as he really eats in that 10-12 yard range over the middle, zipping in a bunch of dig routes. But it’s also being able to put the ball on the money with his feet square from the mesh on RPO concepts.
Mond has the velocity on the ball to fit it into some tight window, to where weaker-armed throwers might have robber defenses undercut throws, but this guy can get it in there, or drill in a seam, just in front of a trailing defender and in front of the deep middle safety. However, it’s also simply throwing away from leverage, like completing spot routes, out of reach for the corner on the backside of the receiver, or taking advantage of cushions.
He does an excellent job of laying the ball over underneath defenders if that’s what’s required. Mond makes a ton of impressive anticipation throws under pressure from the pocket, without being able to get his feet in position. That’s what you really stood out to me, when I watched the tape. Plus, he increased his completion percentage all four years with the Aggies, with 63.3 percent as a senior.
Mond is very sudden with the way he gets his shoulders pointed at another target, as he is going through his reads. He can have his whole body pointed at a receiver and then in one motion get the ball to the next man in the progression, without stepping into the throw, as he has a rusher barreling at him. He produced a ton of chunk plays to the back, when he is left uncovered on blitzes and they have room to run.
You see him quickly getting it over to outlet, even after having pulled down the ball over the middle initially. However, while his development as a dropback passer is what has me looking at him as a completely different player than what I saw the years prior, he still has that great athletic ability to save broken plays.
Mond can use his mobility to set up opportunities downfield and buying extra time, like backing out and getting wide, with the power to drive throws to the sideline off the wrong foot while rolling to his right. And you see him throw those high-arcing deep balls, setting up after rolling the pocket. Yet, he also has the speed to gash defenses if they open up space in front of him.
He is a threat to beat opponents around the edge when the end crashes and can kind a little one-two step to get away from guys, or give force defenders a head fake on speed options, to make them commit to the back and be able to take the inside lane. Mond has shown the ability to step up in big games on several occasions.
In 2019, he won a game versus LSU in seven overtimes, where he found three different receivers twice in the end-zone each and ran one in himself. Last season, he brought the Aggies back down by seven against Florida in a shootout, throwing a big-time touchdown on a post route to even the score and then put them in position for a game-winning field goal. He comes in with over 1500 total dropbacks in the SEC and then earning MVP honors at the Senior Bowl game, where I liked what I see in terms of decision-making and driving the ball.
Nevertheless, Mond is pretty mechanical, almost robotic as a thrower. He is very to the book with his game and doesn’t show much creativity. I would like to see him use his athleticism more to extend plays or just take off himself. He’s a bit of a sitting duck back there at times, where I just want to scream “Get out!” or “Move!”. He doesn’t have the greatest feel for defenders around him and how to find creases to step into.
Sometimes he does have the chance to get his shoulder pointed at the target, but he just lets it go anyway with his feet parallel and doesn’t have enough force behind it, to allow defenders to undercut deep out routes and stuff like that. While there’s impressive moments in terms of understanding defensive rotations and reading body-language of safeties, there are also some head-scratching plays.
At times, he fails to come up with the right solution against very simple, straight-forward shells, that you wouldn’t expect from a three-and-a-half year starter. For example, throwing speed-outs to his wideout from a reduced split, with a corner in three-deep responsibility and outside leverage. But nobody else in his area can drive on it, thanks to the angle of his hands on the ball.
Mond has some issues when the picture changes post-snap in general. On passes of 10+ yards, he only completed 44.6 percent of those this past season and he had 22 career fumbles in 44 games.
I did not expect this at all, because a year ago, I would have probably said he’s a fifth- or sixth-round pick, but while there is certainly a drop-off to the big four and Mac Jones. I think Mond is clearly the most intriguing option after those names. The growth he has shown in terms of playing with timing and accuracy from within the pocket and then having that legitimate dual-threat ability is something nobody else outside the top five has shown for extended stretches in my opinion.
You saw it against Alabama last season, where he threw a bad pick-six, as the Aggies were certainly outmatched, but then he went on a tear, where he completed 13 of 18 passes and finished strong with a touchdown. Mond can really be a fit for any offense, whether it’s making quick reads in a West Coast-type of passing attack, getting him on the move in more of a zone and bootleg approach or really using his running ability in an offense that includes more designed or option quarterback runs.
#7 2021 NFL Draft Prospect: Davis Mills (Stanford)
6' 4", 220 pounds; SR
The number one overall quarterback recruit in the country in 2017, over Tua Tagovailoa among others, Davis Mills redshirted his first year at Stanford and then was a barely used backup, attempting two and completing zero passes the following season.
In year two, he started six games once K.J. Costello got hurt and set the school record with 504 passing yards against Washington State. After Costello transferred to Mississippi State during the offseason, Mills kept that starting gig, missing the season-opener due to COVID protocols. After starting the other five games. Over his 11 total starts, he completed 66.4% of his passes for 3353 yards (304.8 per game) and 18 touchdowns, compared to eight interceptions. He was a team captain and honorable mention All-Pac 12 selection last season.
This young man is a quick-rhythm passer, who has a plan before the snap and takes what defenses give him by alignment, to go along with maybe the most rapid release in this class. Mills displays excellent anticipation, to routinely release the ball before receivers get out of their breaks on curls, digs and out routes, and he is very in sync with the timing and drops of the Stanford offense, getting the ball out right as that back-foot hits.
That does not change, when he has to turn his back to the defense on play-action, as the ball arrives at the target, just after that guy plants that outside foot on dig routes for example. Mills quickly plants his feet in the ground and grabs a ton of turf with his cleats, to set his base when the ball needs to come out early or he is still in the movement off play-action.
He has enough zip to fit the ball in there to his wideouts on quick in-breakers, with a linebacker drifting out that way, but also usually protects his targets on throws over the middle, by putting it on their chest or even slightly behind them, to not lead them into big hits.
Mills can also deliver with touch, to make those layered throws over a linebacker gaining depth, as well as over the head of trailing defenders down the field, often times by an inch or two. There’s some perfect go-balls right in stride on tape, even with a defender right there in the receiver’s hip-pocket, and some of those back-shoulder balls, where an underneath defender just can’t get a hand on it, which are just beautiful.
When he has to come back later on routes back towards him, he aims the ball at the feet of receivers, in order to not allow defenders to make a play on it. According to PFF, Mills had an adjusted completion percentage of 78.8 percent last season.
Coming from Stanford, Mills has experience operating in a pro-style offense, with different depth of drops from under center and play-action, to where he shows the fluid flip of the hips, to rapidly bring them around on throws to the left, after faking the run that way initially. Mills recognizes when a corner is squatting in cover-two and the safety doesn’t widen quickly enough, in order to punish them on routes down the sideline, which he can really rip.
He routinely attacks voids in zone coverage with stick routes and you see him work in those next-level type of look-offs. When he is forced to move off the spot, Mills doesn’t forget where his receivers are supposed to be and comes back to them, and he’s very aware of where the sticks are, depending on down and distance. Plus, when you look at his raw numbers, they could have looked quite a bit better, if you consider he had one of the highest rate of dropped passes last season, at 11 percent.
Mills has some elusiveness in the pocket, reducing the near-shoulder and sliding through creases, to find a new platform to throw from. He makes some impressive throws with his shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage, as he runs up to it. And when he decides to tuck it, he has some shiftiness and pretty good straight-line speed to him. You saw that in the fourth quarter of last year’s Washington game, where he banged a defender out of bounds, when it originally looked as if that guy was going to take a fumble by running back to the house.
With that in mind, we have to consider that Mills still has very limited experience, having logged only 12 career starts and just under 500 dropbacks. Moreover, he has committed 17 turnover-worthy plays over that relatively short stretch. He is inconsistent with his releases and position of his feet, when he just feels a little bit of pressure or push up the middle, either fading away and having the ball nosedive on him, or raising up and kind of pushing the ball out, which leads to overthrows on targets over the middle.
There were some troubling misses and forced balls in the UCLA game last season and he had a really bad pick against Cal in 2019, when he overthrew his tight-end on a crosser by like five yards and the safety behind it, in a two-high look, made a diving grab on it. His brings his arm back pretty far and balls tend to sail on him at times, which leads to misses on some routine screen passes and stuff like that.
Mills can be a bit of a statue back there, who lacks the burst to escape the rush more often than not, and on deeper concepts, he is not nearly as willing to pull the trigger, while allowing safeties to cover multiple routes in the end. While he hasn’t in one of those college-y spread offense, with a ton of bubbles and RPOs, Mills did throw a lot of screen passes to his backs and some tight-ends.
The fact that Davis Mills is receiving some first-round buzz is absurd to me. If anybody outside the top-five should, it’s Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond – and that’s very rich for me. However, there are certainly things to like about the Stanford QB, in terms his quick release, the accuracy from a clean pocket and some of the manipulation of the defense he has flashes in very limited time on the field.
I believe he certainly needs some time to clean up his mechanics and improve his play under pressure, but I could see him starting down the road, if put in the right situation. For me, Mills’ best fit would be in an Erhardt-Perkins offense, where they attack defenses horizontally and kill them with paper-cuts, because he can just recognize where to go and get the ball out right away.
#8 2021 NFL Draft Prospect: Jamie Newman (Georgia)
6' 3", 235 pounds; RS JR
A top-20 dual threat quarterback back in 2016, Jamie Newman redshirted his first year at Wake Forest and then was backing up Sam Hartman in 2018, until the former got hurt in the NC State game. Newman led a comeback over the Wolfpack, before leading the team to a 3-1 record as a starter the rest of the way.
In 2019 – his only full season as a starter – he completed 60.9% of his passes for 2868 yards and 26 touchdowns, compared to 11 interceptions, while adding another 574 yards and six scores on the ground (180 carries) in 12 games, making him an honorable mention All-ACC selection. In the next off-season, he transferred to Georgia as a graduate student but opted out for the year.
This guy can really spin the ball and is looking to push it down the field, where he drops a numbers of dimes. Newsome keeps that front-toe open to not force much of a wind-up and when those deep balls arrive at the target, it always seems to be helmet or higher, which allowed his tall receiving corp at Wake Forest to take advantage of it, with defenders not being able to swipe through the ball a lot.
Overall, he completed 28 of 63 passes of 20+ yards for just under 1159 yards and 10 touchdowns, compared to three INTs. Off those go-balls, he has also been very effective on timing-based routes on the outside, with hitches and curls off the receivers pushing vertically. He has very soft feet operating from within the pocket and can hold safeties with his eyes, to set up opportunities at either sideline.
He can arc the ball over defenders on deep balls, where they almost go straight up and down, but also seemingly power it through a wall, when he drives it down the seams. Despite not having a lot of talent around him with the Demon Deacons in 2019, Newman came through for them routinely and at one point had them inside the top 25 with a 7-1 record.
While the 11 interceptions would suggest that Newman just throws the ball up for grabs, PFF actually says that only 2.7% of his plays were turnover-worthy. When he puts it all together, it can be a beautiful thing.
Newman has the tools and was put in position to make throws off platform routinely, with his feet parallel to the ground or releasing off the wrong foot. He can put some passes on the screws, whilst alreading getting wrapped up by a defender, and has a very strong lower body in general, to get defenders off himself late.
The Wake Forest offense was helpful for Newman to some degree, but they also asked him to make throws from weird settings. There were plenty of RPOs, with glance routes and those built-in pump fakes, but then also having to make them while walking up to the line of scrimmage on those weird RPO mesh points they have.
So when you evaluate the consistency with his base and release points, you have to consider some of the odd spots he was forced into and how he couldn’t get his body pointed at the target a lot of times. You can’t underestimate Newman’s impact as a runner.
He was less than 50 yards shy of leading his team in rushing yards in 2019. Wake Forest used his running ability quite a bit on zone reads and quarterback draws – oftentimes with a lead blocker in front. Has some shake to him, to make defenders miss in the open field, but then finishes runs in a very physical fashion, to where he can bounce off tacklers and slide over guys at the goal-line, when a pile is built in front of it. Against North Carolina, he scored a touchdown, where he gained about four yards through contact with multiple defenders draped all over him.
Nevertheless, Newman was a completely different player it felt like once his number one receiver Sage Surratt went down and then he obviously transferred to Georgia, but we never got to see him play for the Bulldogs. He doesn’t fully rotate through, but rather kind of pivots off that front-foot and chucks it out of there at times or gets it out with more of a flick of the hips often times.
I’d like to see him bring that weight forward a little more. He also pads the ball a lot before releasing it and because of that the arm-angle tends to break. You see him literally fall backwards at times, when he feels rushers crashing in on him, but then other times, he doesn’t take the space to step up, with somebody coming off the edge.
There are too many wasted steps, with kind of tippy-tap footwork and gathering. The pocket movement isn’t very effective and he lacks some awareness for the rush around him, while needing to speed up that internal clock and not taking as many sacks, when nothing is really there.
Newman tends to stare down his primary target at times and still has room to grow in terms of manipulating defenders post-snap to open up what he saw beforehand. There’s not a lot of higher-level anticipatory throws or layered balls in-between zones. He had a couple of really bad turnovers and was benched late against Virginia Tech in 2019.
During Senior Bowl week, the ball really jumped off Newman’s hands, but it also showed that he hadn’t played in over a year, especially on a rough third day of practice, when he threw a couple of picks. I believe he has physical traits of a starter, but he’s just so all over the place with mechanics and accuracy because of that.
For me, he’s a developmental player, who has the tools to become a quality starter, but is far from it at this point. However, he has been described as one of the hardest workers by the Wake Forest coaches and competes at a high level, regardless of time and score, while staying level in late-game situations. That gives me hope that he can actually come close to that potential. I prefer him to some of the 'safer' options, which I look at as career backups. He just needs time and a quarterback drill sergeant, to be able to get it done consistently.
#9 2021 NFL Draft Prospect: Kyle Trask (Florida)
6' 5", 240 pounds; RS SR
Outside the top-2000 overall recruits in 2016, Kyle Trask was buried on the Florida depth chart early on, until he finally took over the starting spot for the Gators once Feleipe Franks went down with an injury in 2019 four games in and this guy immediately upgraded their play at the position in a major way.
He completed 67% of his passes for 277.5 yards per game as a starter and 25 touchdowns compared to seven INTs, and four more scores on the ground. Last season, he took another major step, increasing his completion percentage by two point (69), for 4283 yards and an FBS-leading 43 touchdowns against eight picks, in 12 games, plus three more rushing TDs. For that, he finished third in the Heisman voting last season.
Trask presents a Ben Roethlisberger-type of massive build. He showed a lot of poise for his young age, when he took over as a starter, and made so many big-time throws as a junior with only 22 pass attempts before then. Coming into 2020, he took another big leap forward and came out smoking hot as the guy who pulls the trigger for Dan Mullen’s offense, setting a new SEC record, by throwing at least four touchdowns in each of the first six games.
What always stood out to me when watching him is how in control of the offense and how competitive he was, while racking up big numbers against SEC defenses. Trask shows good rhythm to his dropbacks, with some bounce back up, to release the ball. He throws a tight spiral and on deep balls, I really the arc as they go up and how nose of the ball dives to the turf.
He routinely wins with recognition of defensive coverages and precise ball-placement, often times to the opposite half side of where a defender is attached to his receiver or just quickly getting rid of the ball, as he sees one of his guys have leverage on their routes. He also excelled at putting the ball on the top shelf for star tight-end Kyle Pitts and other tall pass-catchers.
Trask rips off big gains on seam and slot fade routes on several occasions every game, as he had a passer rating of about 140 on throws of 20+ air yards. You see him methodically work through passing concepts and take care of the ball, with only 2.8 percent of plays turnover-worthy.
Trask shows great maturity in his decision-making and how he handles sub-optimal situations, not panicking if something doesn’t go right. He offers a sturdy base and no fear with rushers around him. He quickly gets to his hot-routes and takes advantage of the middle being open, when the defenses blitzes their inside backers.
He gets a lot of big yards-after-catch pays by his backs, when he realizes they are unaccounted for or the flats are vacated, on wheel routes off mesh concepts for example. Trask does a good job of using subtle movements to operate from within the pocket, sliding and bailing a little bit to buy just that little bit of extra time. He diced up Georgia’s feared defense in their 2020 matchup for over 400 yards and five TDs through three quarters already.
Florida was as close as any team in the country to beating Alabama in the SEC title game, down by only four heading into the fourth quarter, while never giving up, even though Mac Jones and company forced them to answer every single time. Trask is a tank on quarterback sneaks or just going up the gut from shotgun alignment in short-yardage situations. While you certainly won’t describe him as an athletic player, the Gators ran him way more often than you’d think, as he checked into those plays when looking at really soft boxes against dime looks.
Florida’s signal-caller of the last two years certainly didn’t finish his college career on a high note, throwing three interceptions and zero touchdowns in a blowout loss to Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, even though he was without his four leading receivers, and was pretty much slowly benched.
A lot of the offensive success for the Gators was thanks to Dan Mullen’s ability to put defenses in conflict with play-design and spacing. There were so many open shallow crossers, wide receiver screens, pick plays, where get their backs open on wheel routes and slants to 6’6” Kyle Pitts. And the play-calling protected him a lot, to where they were throwing bubbles on third-and-long, which goes down for a five-yard completion, when it’s really worth nothing.
You see a lot of pre-determined throws, where he blindly lets it go because his coach told him so, I feel like. And he is constantly high and soft over the middle, making his targets vulnerable to some big hits. For as much as we have seen guys like Mac Jones get criticized for the weapons they had around him, Trask had the most unstoppable weapon in the country, another first-round receiver in Kadarius Toney and another solid late-rounder.
Most importantly, though, the lack of mobility in the modern NFL is highly concerning, as he seemingly has cinder blocks on his feet. So many times you will see him have a lane to run straight downhill, but he gets caught from behind an instance later, even though the defender has to cover twice as much ground. College football obviously counts sacks as negative rushing yards.
But to have 58 yards on 127 carries these last two years is pretty mind-blowing. Trask doesn’t have the feel or quick-twitch to climb the pocket, with somebody off the edge coming at him, leading to five fumbles in each of the last two years.
After that horrific showing against Oklahoma, Trask had to sit out Senior Bowl week due to an injury, which could have certainly helped him. I was just so uninspired by his tape, because so much of his production is served up on a silver platter and the stats aren’t even close to being justified by what I saw.
That may be lower than most people have Trask on their list, but to me doesn’t have those starter traits. I think he could be a very good backup, who can take over for stretches, but I don’t see him sticking anywhere for multiple seasons. He’s a sturdy pocket passer, who can execute full-field reads and win with ball-placement after spreading the defense out. But he simply can not move, and we haven’t seen him be successful outside of the comfort of Dan Mullen’s plan of attack.
#10 2021 NFL Draft Prospect: Feleipe Franks (Arkansas)
6' 6", 235 pounds; RS SR
Just outside the top-50 overall recruits in the country back in 2016, Feleipe Franks redshirted his first year at Florida and then was named the starter the upcoming season.
He had an up-and-down debut campaign with the Gators, but then really turned it on as a sophomore, completing 58.4% of his passes for 189 yards per game, 24 touchdowns and six interceptions, plus another 350 total yards and seven scores on the ground.
In the third game of the 2019 season, he suffered a gruesome-looking ankle injury and opened the door for Kyle Trask, who turned himself into a Heisman trophy finalist and forced Franks to transfer in-conference to Arkansas. In his lone season with the Razorbacks, his completion percentage dramatically increased to 68.5, averaging 234 passing yards per game and a TD-to-INT ratio of 17-to-4, on 8.9 yards per attempt.
Franks was very well-received at Arkansas, being named a team captain for his only season there, and showed a lot of growth as a player, I thought. He offers a very sturdy frame and is in the conversation for the strongest arm in this class. He releases the ball from a balanced base, with all cleats in the ground. Franks can really hit that back-foot and let it fly.
He owns the farthest throw PFF has charted in college football, when he unleashed a Hail Mary versus Tennessee all the way back in 2017. Last season, his passer rating actually increased by depth of target, with it being at 147.1 on passes of 20+ yards, with 739 deep yards on just 25 attempts. Franks was asked to do a lot of these soft play-action fakes and RPOs, where it really stood out to me, how quickly he got his body pointed at the target.
The Razorbacks had him attack the middle and down the field in their RPO game, where he was highly effective. His pass-catchers at the next level will appreciate how rapidly the ball gets to them on throws over the middle, so they can still protect their bodies and get upfield. However, Franks can also change up ball speeds and his arm angles, as he checks it down late or just flips it to somebody in the flats. He had a lot of success attacking the voided area over the middle with angle routes by his backs, to defeat the blitz.
At close to 240 pounds, Franks has a really strong lower body to shake off sacks, but also some quickness to make charging rushers miss or just run through a crease if there’s a quick breakdown in protection. He can really dip away from defenders, drop his weight, and redirect if the space closes down. Yet, for the most part, his eyes stay down the field when he buys some extra time and re-sets his base before letting the ball go.
At the same time, he can purely arm-throw some balls, where his right foot is still in front, while he’s rolling to the left, and there are some sweet deep balls when running up into the pocket, as he puts a lot of air underneath those. There is some creativeness to Franks’ off-script game, signaling receivers to come back to the ball and finding guys working across the field late. This is a big body with long strides, who can be a real weapon in the quarterbacks run game – draws, zone read, invert veers.
But also as a scrambler, where he routinely falls forward for those extra couple of yards. Franks recently ran a 4.59 in the 40 at the Razorbacks’ pro day, which you can see, when he outraces defenders to the sideline, and he has some elusiveness to him, working in head fakes and hesitation moves. Plus, with his success in the RPO game and his capability as a runner, Franks opens up some big lanes on the inside for the Arkansas backs.
However, Franks certainly has an elongated release, where he gets his elbow goes back and his arm movement is very floppy overall, to where it looks like his arm is almost fully extended and facing his own end-zone. That way it all comes from his upper body and there can be a lot inconsistency with his accuracy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many dump-off into the flats, where the back had to elevate for the ball and put themselves in very unfavorable positions, than what I saw from Franks at Florida.
Thankfully, he has cleaned that up mostly. However, he is still rather slow as a processor and is late on plenty of throws further into the progression. Franks makes some very questionable decisions under pressure, when he can’t set his feet to throw. You see some forced balls to the sideline and down the field, where defenders have a better chance at making the grab.
A bone-headed interception late in the 2019 season-opener with the Gators against Miami comes in mind, which almost cost them the game. There’s too much schoolyard-type of running around, when nobody is open in the pattern, instead of getting rid of the ball, and you see a lot of passes sail on him, when he releases with parallel feet, as there’s not a lot of space to step into. Because of how wide he gets with the ball when loading up throws and how that also applies to when he pulls the ball down again, Franks gives edge rushers easy chances to strip the ball, which is illustrated by 20 career fumbles.
At Senior Bowl practices, Feleipe Franks routinely held onto the ball too long in the pocket and would have gotten crushed if there was full contact. He needs to keep getting faster with his recognition and throwing process. Kind of similar to Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond, Franks changed my mind about him a lot last season.
There are still plenty of issues with poor decisions, when he doesn’t confidently step into throws and he would certainly benefit from tightening up his release, but unlike some of these other names in this area, I think with his arm talent and athleticism, he offers starter traits, which I would like to see an NFL team invest in as a day three target, if they have the room to have him sit and learn for a couple of years.
The next names up:
Ian Book (Notre Dame), Sam Ehlinger (Texas) & Shane Buechele (SMU)
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