The 2021 NFL Draft is headlined by a talented group of QB prospects. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State’s Justin Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance are all locks for the first round. Those are the names everyone knows but the wave of QB after those three is also talented. The 2021 QB class could produce up to six NFL starters. Some prospects will have the upper hand on others with only a few conferences participating in the 2020 College Football season. Let’s take a look at my rankings of the top QB prospects in this class.
1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson, (Jr)
Lawrence possesses a rare blend of size, arm talent and athleticism. This is what makes him the most intriguing out of all the QB prospects in this class. He throws the deep ball with ease and has the arm strength to drive the ball outside of the numbers. Has shown great touch and ball placement at all levels of the field. Lawrence can truly make every throw. He goes through his reads and gets the ball out quickly, avoiding sacks. The most tantalizing aspect of his game is the athleticism he has with his 6’6 frame. He beat Ohio State in the playoffs with his legs last season. Lawrence is effective on QB designed runs and when the play breaks down. This is what makes him such a generational talent.
Last season Lawrence had a few struggles after a flawless freshman campaign. His decision making was at times questionable over the first half of the season but he finished the year strong. Lawrence was also inconsistent with his deep ball accuracy. He has the arm strength to make these throws, just needs to be work on his consistency. There’s not much Lawrence can do to hurt or help his draft stock in 2020. He’s a guaranteed top three pick in the NFL Draft and he’ll be an elite QB for years to come.
2. Trey Lance, North Dakota State (rSo)
I feel like Lance had a chance at becoming the top QB prospect in this class if the Missouri Valley Conference didn’t cancel their season. Lance burst onto the scene last season as a redshirt freshman in dominating fashion. A dual threat QB with pinpoint accuracy, Lance was a handful for defenses at the FCS level. He passed for 2,786 yards, 28 TD’s and zero interceptions and rushed for 1100 yards and 14 TD’s. Seeing a zero in the interception column is mind-blowing. Especially since he’s such an aggressive passer. Lance is a tremendous decision maker, he almost never makes the wrong decision with the ball. This is an area where he edges out both Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields.
Lance’s accuracy is easily his strongest asset as a QB. His ball placement is phenomenal. He trusts his reads and throws with great anticipation. Another impressive trait is his ability to layer the ball on throws in the middle of the field. But it’s the deep ball where he’s truly special. Lance hit his WR’s in stride on deep throws time and time again. It’s rare to see a first year starter as polished as Lance. He’s a better athlete than both Lawrence and Fields and he broke off a lot of big runs. Showed some toughness in the open field when lowering his shoulder on DB’s to get extra yards. The only real knock on Lance is the number of snaps he’s played and the level of competition he went up against. But the film doesn’t lie. Lance will be a top ten pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
3. Justin Fields, Ohio State, (Jr)
Like Lance, Fields also had the chance to become the top QB prospect in this class if it wasn’t for the cancellation of the Big Ten’s football season. Last season Fields was amazing in his first year as a starter. He transferred to Ohio State from Georgia and quickly picked up the offense. He ended the season with over 3,700 yards of offense and 51 TD’s(41 passing, 10 rushing). Fields is an aggressive passer that likes to attack defenses vertically. He ranked 21st in the nation in deep throw percentage (20%) and completed 46% of his passes on these throws. There was a number of times when Fields had perfect ball placement on these throws hitting the WR in stride.
Fields’ ability to improvise once the play breaks down is his strongest attribute. He routinely eludes defenders in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield. This is where he reminds me a lot of Russell Wilson. Fields has the kind of arm that can work all levels of the field but he has to master his timing. There was times when Fields’ ball placement was a little off because he was a couple seconds late with his reads. Another cause of concern was Fields holding the ball too long at times last year. He took way too many sacks trying to find an open receiver. These are areas that I think he would’ve improved on in year two as a starter. Even with the Big Ten’s season cancelled, Fields will be a top ten pick in the NFL Draft.
4. Brock Purdy, Iowa State (Jr)
Purdy is a gun-slinging QB that plays the game with a fearlessness. He stands strong in the pocket while under pressure and doesn’t panic. Purdy is most dangerous when he’s on the move. Contorts his body to maintain accuracy while making throws on the run. He makes a number of “wow” throws in these moments. He’s an effective runner with above average athleticism. He can scramble for nice gains when the play breaks down. Purdy works through his reads well and is a high IQ QB.
If Purdy wants to hear his name called in the first round then he needs to work on his decision making. His gunslinger mentality gets the best of him at times. Taking shots downfield is another area that he needs to improve on. His arm strength is a little above average so that hurts him when compared to other QB prospects in this class. With the Big 12 having their season, Purdy will have a chance at playing himself into the first round. As of now I have him as a day two pick.
5. Jamie Newman, Georgia (rSr)
Newman is another athletic QB with a big arm. A common theme with the QB prospects in this class. He attacks defenses vertically as evidenced by him completing 25 passes of at least 25 air yards last season. That number ranked 5th in the country. This off-season Newman made the move from Wake Forest to Georgia as a graduate transfer. Newman flashed his big arm and mobility while at Wake Forest. The offense wasn’t real complex but Newman showed the ability to go through his reads and look off safeties. Wake ran a RPO offense while Georgia runs a pro style offense so he’ll have some adjusting to do.
His accuracy is inconsistent and he needs to get his timing down. The accuracy issues stem from poor footwork and inconsistent mechanics. Areas he’ll get a chance to improve on with the SEC still playing their football season this fall. Newman has the arm strength and physical build of a NFL QB. If he puts it all together in his final season then he could play himself into the first round. But as of now I have him slotted as a day two pick.
6. Tanner Morgan, Minnesota (rJr)
Morgan was the leading force behind in the Golden Gophers great 2019 season. After splitting time at QB in 2018 he became the full time starter in 2019 and was one of the best QB’s in the country. Morgan is an accurate QB with good pocket presence. Throws with anticipation and showed touch at all levels of the field. Not the strongest arm but he throws with velocity. Morgan has some of the best footwork of all the QB prospects in this class and this helps make up for his arm strength.
Morgan didn’t throw a lot of interceptions with only seven but he did force some throws at times. I don’t think Morgan has the ceiling of other QB’s in this class because of the cap on his arm strength. He’s shown good deep ball accuracy so he doesn’t completely lack in that area. Having another season of film would’ve been great for Morgan but he made some great throws in 2019 and will be on NFL teams radar. Morgan will be a day two pick with potential.
7. KJ Costello, Mississippi State (rSr)
Costello is entering his first season at Mississippi State after spending his first four seasons at Stanford. Injuries ended Costello’s 2019 season prematurely but he was inconsistent in the 5 games that he did play in. However, in 2018, Costello put a lot of good things on tape. He passed for over 3,500 yards that season with 29 passing TD’s. Costello completed 35 passes of at least 20 yards in 2018, which ranked fourth in the nation. Costello was viewed as one of the better QB prospects after his 2018 season. Going from Stanford’s run heavy offense to Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense will help him return to form.
Costello has prototypical size for a QB paired with a strong arm. He has a slow release but it works for him as he’s shown good accuracy and timing. Costello must improve under pressure because he panics in these moments. Athleticism is another area that he lacks in. He’s a pocket passer that won’t create much with his legs. Costello is a day three pick currently but in Leach’s offense I think he’ll play his way into day two consideration.
8. Dustin Crum, Kent State (Sr)
Crum is the biggest sleeper at QB in this class. He began the 2019 season as the backup QB but took over as the starter in week two. The first thing that jumped off the film was Crum’s deep ball accuracy. Not including Trey Lance, he throws the best deep out of all the QB prospects in this class. Has great arm strength and touch on these throws. Crum is also a terrific decision maker ending the season with only two interceptions. According to PFF, in 2019 Crum ranked 1st in the nation with a 0.7% turnover-worthy play rate. He plays with extreme poise and maturity and it shows. Crum wasn’t only accurate on the deep ball, he showed pinpoint accuracy at all levels of the field multiple times throughout the season. He’s also a good athlete, rushing for a team leading 707 yards and 6 TD’s in 2019.
Crum put his full talent on display in a bowl game matchup with 2020 first round draft pick Jordan Love. Crum led Kent State to a 51-47 victory over Utah State and ended the game with 289 passing yards and 147 rushing yards with 3 combined TD’s. His release is a little long but it didn’t impact him in 2019. The MAC’s cancellation of the 2020 season hurt him a lot. Another year of tape would’ve generated much needed buzz for Crum. He needs to improve on working through his progressions as he’s pretty raw in that area. Needs to get more comfortable in the pocket, he often looks to scramble from the pocket prematurely. He’s also slight in frame at 201 pounds, he could use another 15 pounds. A senior bowl invite would be big for Crum as he’d get to work in front of NFL scouts. Crum’s film screams day two pick for me but with his frame and limited film, he’ll be a day three pick. Don’t be surprised if he outperforms his draft slot.
9. Kyle Trask, Florida (rJr)
Trask began the 2019 season as a backup QB but took the reigns after an injury to starter Feleipe Franks. He started 10 games and threw for 25 TD’s and passed for over 2,900 yards. Trask is a big QB that’s at his best targeting the short and intermediate levels of the field. He throws with anticipation and fits passes into tight windows. Trask showed the ability to up his game in a road start against LSU in which he passed for 310 yards and 3 TD’s in a 42-28 loss.
His accuracy and timing needs work. The deep ball is another area where Trask must improve. He didn’t throw it much last season and when he did he struggled. Should have more confidence in his arm going into his second season as a starter. Trask is a traditional pocket QB and that hurts him a bit with the NFL shifting to QB’s that are mobile in the pocket. If Trask plays at a high level in 2020 then he could raise his draft stock.
10. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M (Sr)
Mond is entering year three as a starter under coach Jimbo Fisher who produced three first round picks as head coach at Florida State. Mond is a QB that shines brightest when on the move. He’s a playmaker that likes to improvise. He throws well on the run and has the speed to break off long runs from time to time. He throws with good anticipation at the short and intermediate levels of the field and puts some zip on the ball. Mond has shown some toughness as he’s taken a lot of hits behind A&M’s offensive line during his three year career.
Mond is a rhythm thrower that can be dangerous when he’s on but has moments when he’s off. These moments often happen when A&M faces tougher opponents. Mond goes through his reads slowly and sometimes panics under pressure in the pocket. Although his accuracy has improved in each of the last three seasons, he must become more consistent with it. He misses too many easy throw due to breakdowns with his mechanics. Mond also needs to add the deep ball to his repertoire. He hasn’t attacked defenses vertically much throughout his career. Mond will look to improve upon these areas during his final season. When he’s at his best, Mond looks like a day two pick but too many inconsistencies in his game make him a day three prospect.
Other QB Prospects to watch
Sam Ehlinger, Texas (Sr)
A big (6’3, 230) mobile QB with good accuracy. Runs with toughness and has improved every season. Day three prospect with potential. A Senior Bowl invite would be good for him.
D’Eriq King, Miami (Sr)
Small QB standing at 5’10 but has dynamic playmaking ability. Electric athlete but must improve his accuracy and footwork. Is he a QB or a WR? King will look to put all those questions to rest in 2020.
Shane Buechele, SMU (SR)
Excellent deep ball thrower but struggles at other levels of the field. Accuracy and mechanics are a concern. Late round prospect that could climb into rounds 3-4 with a big year.
Ian Book, Notre Dame (rSr)
Average size for a QB at 6’0 with a decent arm. Can make all the necessary throws but lacks pocket presence. Poor footwork and underperforms in big games. Late round prospect with high end backup potential.
Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh, (Sr)
Good athlete that plays best under pressure. Has escape ability in the pocket. Questionable decision making and inconsistent with his mechanics. Day three prospect that could turn heads at the senior bowl.
Mac Jones, Alabama, (Sr)
Polished footwork in the pocket. At his best when targeting the intermediate levels of the field. Accuracy is an issue. Misses easy throws. Average arm strength. One of the top QB prospects on the Senior Bowl’s list.