SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The NFL draft is always quarterback-heavy with teams wanting to find the next great signal-caller and even reaching early to draft the guy they really wanted. Sometimes that works out and sometimes it doesn’t and the 2021 draft is no exception as there could be as many as five quarterbacks taken in the top-10.
The hierarchy of this group has been shifting since last year with the only exception of former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence who for years has not only been considered the top quarterback during his draft year but the No. 1 overall player for some time.
After Lawrence, it has shuffled for the second-best quarterback and for a while it was North Dakota’s Trey Lance being considered the guy and for a little bit Ohio State’s Justin Fields, and currently all signs point to BYU’s Zach Wilson as the No. 2 pick and going to the New York Jets.
It will be interesting how these top players shake out after their first rookie contract and nothing is guaranteed. Sam Darnold was just traded from the Jets to the Carolina Panthers for three draft picks and none were a first-rounder and then there is Josh Rosen who is a former No. 10 pick from the 2018 draft and is now on his fourth team. Plus, the odds are that at least one of these guys taken in the first round will not live up to expectations.
Where Does Zach Wilson Stand?
The five who are considered the best are Lawrence, Fields, Wilson, Lance, and also Alabama’s Mac Jones. After Lawrence, who is clearly No. 1, who should be considered the next best four in this draft?
Looking at pro days, everyone should have an amazing due to the scripted set of throws, without pressure, no pads, and in most cases indoors for ideal throwing conditions.
Wilson is a perfect example of wowing at a pro day – which is just part of the puzzle. He had that throw, you know, this one everyone was raving about where he goes left and launches across his body to his streaking wide receiver.
It was a throw that seemed to be one of a kind. Well, everyone except ESPN’s Louis Riddick who was making a point about Wilson’s throw that looked identical to Darnold who did it in an actual game.
Even with that one throw which looks good even with or without pads or a defense, Wilson had a great day as he should have given the perfect circumstances.
KSL Sports’ Scott Mitchell who made a decade-plus career out of the NFL as a quarterback makes the point that Wilson could have actually done a better job.
“All I had heard was Zach Wilson has set the world on fire with Twitter saying his pro day was phenomenal. There were some eyebrows raised by me watching it,” Mitchell said. “This is something that I’ve said about Zach from years ago. There’s this sense of kind of it’s cavalier and it’s kind of flippant. I know it’s those sound like harsh words, but most of the throws you make are routine in that you’re not going to have to have this sidearm, jump in the air one way, and throw the ball back the other way. That happens two or three times a game at most.
“There were probably five or six [not so great throws]. Look, if you’re going against air you have to complete all the passes. You just do there’s no pressure” he added. “There’s nothing that causes your body to react in an odd way. All it tells you is mechanically, maybe everything isn’t quite right. If a guy can’t complete 100 percent against air, that’s the standard.”
Even with those nitpicking items from an NFL quarterback, Wilson is expected to be the No. 2 pick and the idea is that he will be a franchise quarterback for years to come in the NFL. Those little things are what teams will look at while deciding what quarterback to take and it could be a difference for guys like Fields, Lance, or Jones in determining where they will be selected.
Mitchell’s Top Five
Lawrence is far and away the top choice by Mitchell and others, and while there was no real need to watch the former Clemson quarterbacks pro day but Mitchell still took it in with all of the others just to see what the workout was like and he was impressed.
Watching them in a row it gave Mitchell a good look at each quarterback and he came away with his best of that group of five.
“I watched every single throw, watched him boom, boom, boom. One after the other,” Mitchell said. “It’s a very telling sign of what I think of all of the quarterbacks. The ones who I felt had a live arm and the most accuracy were actually Trevor Lawrence and Trey Lance from North Dakota State.
“The thing that was just super impressive about Trevor Lawrence was the ball location. I know that’s been a little bit of a concern for people, but he was putting the ball where it needed to go,” Mitchell added. “And quite frankly, at this point, I don’t think it matters. I was really impressed with Trevor Lawrence’s pro day. It was to me of all of the pro days, it was probably the cleanest, most accurate of all of the guys throwing.”
Obviously, Lawrence was his top choice and watching that pro day confirmed it. Lance was a bit of a surprise and part of that was not seeing a lot of Lance live due to him being at an FCS school but also, North Dakota State played in just one game this season. Lance ended up at No. 4 on Mitchell’s quarterback list sandwiched between Fields at No. 3 and Mac Jones at No. 5
The 2021 NFL Draft will take place in Cleveland starting on April 29 and going through May 1.