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.