Quarterback Pre-Season Rankings for the 2021 NFL Draft
Updated: Aug 28, 2020
Welcome to part 4 of my summer scouting series. This post will preview the QB class. If you missed my previous posts in this series, click here! Follow me on twitter to keep up with the blog! https://twitter.com/Simple_Scouting
To preview the 2021 class, I watched 10 eligible draft prospects and rank them based on their talent, athleticism, production, and potential. My QB grading categories include accuracy/ball placement, pocket presence, vision, arm strength, mobility, and mechanics/footwork.
There are a lot of big arms with a lack of consistent accuracy. The three really promising prospects this year are Lawrence, Fields, and Lance. There is also some intriguing depth with talents such as Ridder, Newman, and Purdy. I only decided to watch 10 prospects, but I wanted to give some honorable mentions. Some quarterbacks to watch out for include:
Sean Clifford (PSU)
Adrian Martinez (Nebraska)
Brady White (Memphis)
D'Eriq King (Miami)
Dustin Crum (Kent State)
Feleipe Franks (Arkansas)
Jack Coan (Wisconsin)
Kellen Mond (Texas A&M)
KJ Costello (Mississippi State)
Mac Jones (Alabama)
Myles Brennan (LSU)
Sam Ehlinger (Texas)
Shane Buechele (SMU)
Tanner Mordecai (Oklahoma)
Zac Thomas (Appalachian State)
Zach Wilson (BYU)
Levi Lewis (Lousiana-Lafayette)
Now for my rankings!
At #1 we have Trevor Lawrence - Clemson (6'6, 220)
No surprise here. Lawrence has a great track record, leading Clemson to the National Championship twice, and winning one in 2018. In terms of physical traits, Lawrence is easily the top QB prospect. He’s got phenomenal arm strength and can hit any throw you ask of him. He’s big and athletic, and his ability to improvise and work off-script is highly impressive. He’s an accurate passer at all levels of the field, and even on the move. He displays lovely footwork in the pocket, constantly moving his feet to keep a wide base and always ready to throw. He’s not perfect, and I would like to see him improve the consistency of his accuracy and his decision making. But with his physical gifts and mental processing of the game, he has the potential to become a top QB in the NFL. This clip below highlights Lawrence's vision and accuracy, as he moves the underneath defenders with his eyes to create his passing lane.
#2 - Justin Fields - Ohio State (6'2, 223)
Fields was very impressive last year in his first season as a starter. He shows the vision and decision making of a player with years of experience. He’s got a great arm and flashes excellent accuracy and ball placement, especially outside the hashes. He has a really nice sense of where pressure is building around him and possesses the strength and contact balance to evade rushers in the pocket. He’s a threat on the ground and through the air, and his ability to keep plays alive is a highly valuable skill. He needs to develop more control for his big arm and become more consistent with his ball placement. He often misses high and needs to be able to make those NFL throws, which require him to throw into very tight passing windows. He flashes this ability, like in the play below, but he needs to make these throws on a consistent basis. This play ends up incomplete, but he does a great job of getting out the pocket and putting the ball where the receiver could make a play on it.
#3 - Trey Lance - North Dakota State (6'3, 221)
Trey Lance dominates the competition at the FCS level. He’s faster and stronger than every team he faces and has the arm to exploit defenses trying to cover his running ability. He has a wonderful deep ball and does well to hit his receivers in stride. He displays fantastic evasion skills and is an escape artist, using his strength and quickness in the backfield. When used in the running game he can beat larger defenders with his speed and smaller defenders with his strength. The question with Lance will always be his level of competition. He needs to become much more consistent with his accuracy and continue to develop his field vision. He also loves to look for the big play even though he has better options underneath. I don’t think it’s possible for him to jump Trevor Lawrence, but he has the potential and tape to possibly skip over Justin Fields. Here Lance does a great job of moving away from pressure on his left, and he makes a great throw to the endzone for the TD.
#4 - Desmond Ridder - Cincinnati (6'4, 215)
Ridder is a tall and strong QB prospect with a cannon for an arm. He can launch the ball downfield and throw with velocity at all levels. He displays good accuracy and does well to lead receivers and shows impressive skills to complete throws when he’s moving outside the pocket. He’s a mobile QB who is used on designed run plays and can evade rushers in the backfield with his speed and strength. There are several examples of him sidestepping pressure or adjusting his arm angle to make throws. His field vision and decision making need to improve this season. Also, his play and accuracy seemed to suffer towards the end of the season. He has the physical tools and just needs to fine tune some of the mental aspects of his game. In this clip you can see his arm strength on display, as he easily slings this ball about 55 yards down the field with accuracy.
#5 - Brock Purdy - Iowa State (6'0, 202)
Purdy looks very smooth and relaxed in the pocket. He shows fantastic accuracy at the short and intermediate levels, and he does a great job of moving underneath defenders with his eyes and pump fakes. He moves the chains with his accuracy and can even makes plays with his legs when he needs to get out the pocket. He’s not an amazing athlete, but he’s more than capable of eluding defenders. He has solid arm strength and a quick release. The main points of criticism I have for Purdy are his footwork, deep level accuracy, and anticipation. He’s too static in the pocket and is inconsistent on deep throws. As of right now he’s a mid-round prospect, but if he improves on these points he’ll be in the top 5 conversation. Here Purdy shows off his accuracy and ball placement, as he places the ball perfectly out of reach from the underneath defender. This was a risky throw but Purdy has the accuracy to make these kind of passes.
#6 - Jamie Newman - Georgia (6'3, 230)
Newman has now transferred from Wake Forest to Georgia. He is an athletic dual threat QB with a big arm. He displays great touch and accuracy on deep balls and seems to excel in a vertical passing game. His ability to create plays with his legs opens up the passing game, and he’s dangerous on RPO’s. He has a lot of great physical traits to play the position, but his consistency overall needs to improve. His accuracy is wildly erratic from game to game, and the same goes for his vision. For his style of play, he needs to make sure to take less contact, as injuries seemed to significantly affect his play late last season. There’s a lot of potential with Newman and it’s going to be exciting to see him lead the Georgia offense, but he doesn't have the luxury of throwing the ball up to Sage Surratt and Scotty Washington, both of whom were quality contested catch receivers. Here Newman makes a great pass under pressure, highlighting his arm strength and soft touch on deep balls.
#7 - Kenny Pickett - Pittsburgh (6'2, 220)
Pickett possesses a lot of the traits you look for in a quarterback prospect. He displays great pocket presence and mobility. He stays strong in the pocket and delivers passes even when he’s about to get hit. When he feels pressure, he does well to move away and not panic, always keeping his eyes downfield. His accuracy at the short level is good and he shows touch on deep passes. He has sound mechanics and there isn’t much needed to improve his form. His arm strength is questionable and he seems to struggle on intermediate throws, especially when he needs to put zip on the ball. He needs to improve his decision making when he throws on the move and he needs to prove he can throw accurately on a consistent basis at the intermediate level. Pickett projects as a day 3 prospect but he exhibits the mental processing and field vision needed to play at the next level. In this clip Pickett shows great footwork and vision in the pocket, making a nice throw over the middle.
#8 - Charlie Brewer - Baylor (6'1, 206)
Brewer looks great when he needs to move around the pocket and make plays with his feet or arm. He displays good pocket presence and does well to evade rushers with his speed, while also keeping his eyes downfield. His ability to read the field and look off defenders is impressive, and he consistently makes good decisions running RPO’s. There are some giant red flags that come with Brewer, mainly his accuracy and arm strength. I think his completion percentage was more a product of playing in the Big 12, and not his true accuracy. I did not see an accurate QB at any level of the field, and his arm is below average and struggles to lead defenders on deep passes. These points are tough to develop at this stage, but if he can at least improve his accuracy he will have the skills to play in the NFL. In this clip below Brewer displays great vision and elusiveness, eventually finding a receiver downfield.
#9 - Kyle Trask - Florida (6'4, 239)
Trask’s field vision and his ability to work the entire field will give him a chance at the next level. He goes through his progressions quickly and can switch sides of the field with ease. He displays excellent accuracy and ball placement at the short level and can excel in a shorter route concept driven offense. His pocket presence, arm strength, and poise under pressure will all need to improve for him to really jump up draft boards. He doesn’t perform great under pressure and will get tunnel vision on receivers closest to him. He also struggles to keep his eyes downfield and is too quick to scramble upfield. He really struggles to recognize pressure from the outside and rarely throws the ball away. He’s just not a playmaker right now. He can make the short easy throws but won’t wow you downfield. He has limited experience at the position, and I think he can develop enough to improve all these raw aspects of his game. His vision and flashes of high-quality anticipation and accuracy make me believe he can become much more. In the play below I love how Trask steps up in the pocket and makes a confident throw toward the sideline, delivering the ball with great accuracy and touch.
#10 - Tanner Morgan - Minnesota (6'2, 215)
Morgan runs the RPO offense at Minnesota very well. He’s able to read defenders around the line of scrimmage and makes accurate throws at the short and intermediate levels. He shows great anticipation and leads receivers as they hit their breaks. His arm strength is nothing special, but it gets the job done and he can throw with velocity when needed. His pocket presence and field vision need to improve to become an NFL quarterback. His sense of pressure is poor, and he doesn’t have a natural feel for evading rushers. His offense runs a lot on single reads and as a result you don’t see him go through his progressions often. He can be pretty predictable, and skilled safeties and linebackers jump his throws. He stares down his receivers, telegraphing his passes. He will most likely need time to adjust at the next level, and he projects as a day 3 developmental quarterback. Here Morgan steps up and uses a pump fake to buy himself time and move the underneath defender.
Best Accuracy - Tanner Morgan
Best Arm - Trevor Lawrence/Desmond Ridder
Best Athleticism - Trey Lance
Most Potential - Trevor Lawrence
Most Complete - Trevor Lawrence
Underrated - Desmond Ridder
If you made it to the end, thanks for reading!
Display Image Credits
Trevor Lawrence: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Fields: G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images