The 2021 NFL Draft presents yet another elite group of quarterbacks. Most notably, Trevor Lawrence, who is considered a “generational talent”, and the best quarterback coming out of college since the likes of Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, and John Elway. However, the list of elite QBs is not limited to just Lawrence.
Apart from Lawrence, who is indisputably the best QB in this year’s draft class, there are a few other elite college QBs in this draft class. Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, and Trey Lance are considered to be elite and potential franchise QBs. This is essentially set in stone, but what remains left to be decided is the best out of this bunch. I am going to rank these three QBs based on what their skillset presents and what they’ve shown in college, as well as their potential in the NFL.
In terms of QB prospects, Zach Wilson is truly elite. In any other class, he would likely be the top QB and the consensus first overall pick. He is mobile, accurate, has a strong arm, and solid deep accuracy to go along with it. Wilson throws well on the run and hits his targets accurately. Wilson’s only downside comes with his risky tendencies, where he tends to roll out of the pocket and make acrobatic throws when they really aren’t necessary.
Wilson has one year of true excellence in which he had Heisman-caliber numbers. He played at a school that usually does not produce much NFL talent at BYU, with weaker overall competition than many other top prospects. This doesn’t and shouldn’t change the fact that Wilson put up historical numbers, and set many records with his accuracy and playmaking ability.
Wilson is very polarizing. His style and potential are similar to that of Patrick Mahomes at times, which may sound crazy but it’s true. At other times, I see some close resemblance to Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M. Wilson is a big-time boom or bust prospect which could make some teams wary of taking him. Nonetheless, Wilson is a dynamic and flashy player, the type of player who would thrive in the NFL today.
At QB3, we have Trey Lance from North Dakota State, a small school in the FCS, and is well known for his 42 TD and 0 INT season back in 2019. NDSU didn’t have a season in 2020, therefore Lance is really banking on this one exceptional season. Lance, like Wilson, has a good arm and is extremely mobile. Lance is a hard-nosed runner who doesn’t shy away from contact at all. Lance ran a lot for the NDSU offense, and wasn’t afraid to tuck his helmet down and try to run over some defenders.
Lance has a very nice deep ball, and is especially productive off of play-action, where he shows clean footwork and technique, and quickly gets rid of the ball to his receivers. Lance’s accuracy is very good but isn’t as good as Wilson’s. When throwing in tight windows, Lance may miss his receiver at times, but Lance rarely does throw into tight windows, which is something I would like to see him do more of in the NFL.
The biggest issue with Lance, which isn’t really a knock on him, is the level of competition he’s played against and the experience. Lance had one really good season, which also technically applies to Wilson as well, but with Lance playing in the FCS, he hasn’t played against any truly elite college programs compared to Lawrence. Lance really has the full package, and with some minor tweaks to his game under good coaching, his potential is limitless.
Finally, we have Justin Fields out of Ohio State. Fields was atop of this list at the beginning of the season, but he has taken a fall after playing in the short BIG10 season. Fields shows several similarities with Wilson and Lance, in terms of his athletic attributes and his mobility.
However, I see several issues with Fields’ passing game. He is very inconsistent throwing the ball, especially against some top teams like Alabama or even against Northwestern in the BIG10 championship. Whether it be throwing very inaccurate passes or having mediocre footwork and technique, his flaws are quite apparent when he plays against some of the top teams.
This doesn’t change the fact that when Fields is playing at his best, he is one of the best players in college football and makes it seem like he’s the closest QB to Trevor Lawrence such as when he beat Lawrence and Clemson and threw six touchdowns. Like Wilson, I see Fields as a boom or bust prospect, and Fields must find a good home with a good coaching staff to help make him a more consistent QB.
Each of these three QBs bring a lot of talent to the table, and regardless of which NFL team they end up on, we as fans will be presented with yet another entertaining draft.