The 2021 NFL draft class is not looking to be as strong from the quarterback perspective as the 2020 class, but talent exists none-the-less. The 2021 class may surprise observers with the depth of the quarterback class. With several NFL teams needing a quarterback, the 2021 draft could see five quarterbacks selected early in the draft.
1. Trevor Lawrence (Clemson Tigers)
The player that will likely be selected first overall is Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Over the past two years, Lawrence has done nothing but prove why he will likely be the first pick of the 2021 draft Lawrence has been two for two in national title game appearances, coming away with one victory. He can make it a three-peat and earn some redemption with a win in this season’s championship game.
Lawrence put up terrific numbers last season, amassing 3,665 yards through the air, 563 yards rushing, and 45 total touchdowns against nine interceptions. With another big season this fall, Lawrence will be a Heisman finalist and will likely be the first selection in the 2021 draft.
Lawrence can make all the throws that are asked of him and he has the size at 6’6” and 220 pounds to be able to take a hit and bounce back from it. He does an excellent job of being able to extend the play by moving around in the pocket and creating time to throw the football. An underrated portion of Lawrence’s game is his ability to scramble for yardage and make plays with his legs. The most important trait NFL scouts and teams look at is that he has lost only one game in his career and can somehow will the Tigers to win when it seems all is lost.
2. Justin Fields (Ohio State Buckeyes)
The quarterback that has the best chance to dethrone Lawrence as the number one overall pick in the 2021 draft is Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. After transferring from Georgia, Fields was able to turn college football on its ear with his production. Ohio State’s offense was tailor-made for Fields and his passing for 3,273 yards, rushing for 484 yards, and throwing 51 touchdowns against just three interceptions are evidence of that fact.
In his first season as the Buckeyes quarterback, Fields led Ohio State to a national semi-finals appearance and had the Clemson Tigers on the ropes for much of the game. Fields picked apart the Big 10 all last season and all evidence points to him being able to do it again this season. Fields was left with plenty of motivation coming into this season. Two of the three interceptions that Fields threw last season were thrown in the game against Clemson.
Fields has the tools needed to be a franchise quarterback. The 6’3” frame is perfect for the NFL game and he has shown the ability to get out of the pocket and make plays with his legs. Fields is accurate when throwing the deep ball and can make all of the throws that NFL teams will ask of him. The question that NFL teams will want to be answered is whether or not Fields can put up similar production this season. As it stands now, Fields is a top 10 selection and he has a chance to move up into the top five of the NFL draft. At some point however, Ohio State will need to find a way to win the big game on the big stage.
3. K.J. Costello (Mississippi State Bulldogs)
The top two quarterbacks that are getting the attention of writers and scouts are easy to identify. The third quarterback to examine is Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello. Costello arrives in Starkville by way of Stanford University. Costello now has a chance to shine in the air raid system installed by Mike Leach.
Costello has recovered from injury and is ready to be handed the keys to the Bulldogs’ offense. In 2018 Costello, passed for 3,540 yards with 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Stanford’s offense has been built on a strong ground game and the fact that Costello was able to put up those kinds of numbers through the air is impressive. Costello will have to shake off some rust, but he has an excellent chance of improving upon the numbers from two seasons ago.
Costello has always been in the leadership role; he was a two-time captain of the Cardinal and will likely have a chance to pick up that mantle in Starkville. Costello earned second-team All-Pac 12 honors in 2018 and comes into the SEC with an important attribute that is missing in several SEC quarterbacks and that is experience. Costello, when healthy, has proven that he can lead a team and win consistently.
However, Costello will have to come in and earn the quarterback position at Mississippi State. Leach wants to see results from his quarterback and make sure that he is someone that can lead the team and produce points. Should Costello earn the starting position, he has the chance to better the numbers from his time at Stanford. Costello’s draft position will improve should he be successful in the SEC.
Costello has excellent size at 6’5” and a strong and accurate arm. He moves around in the pocket and can extend plays. Costello will answer many questions if he can win the job and be consistent in the SEC. Costello should be labeled a sleeper until the questions are answered but those answers should come soon.
4. Trey Lance (North Dakota State Bison)
North Dakota State’s Trey Lance has flown under the radar until recently, but he will have the opportunity to explore NFL draft options this season. North Dakota State has been a powerhouse winning at the FCS level of college football for years and Lance’s development should not come as a shock to anyone that follows college football. North Dakota State is once again a powerhouse in 2020 and with Lance leading them, this has the potential to be another championship year for the Bison.
Last season, Lance led the Bison to an undefeated record and won yet another national championship. Winning championships at North Dakota State is expected and the pressure is always on the quarterback to accomplish that goal. The way Lance has accomplished this feat is what is the most impressive quality of the young signal-caller.
Lance is an intriguing prospect because he is relatively new to the game. Lance only started playing football in his freshman year of high school. The great thing about a prospect like Lance is that he is a multi-sport athlete and that will translate well to the NFL. Only one school in the FBS offered Lance a scholarship and that was Boise State. Lance choosing North Dakota State over Boise State has worked out well for him.
Lance is incredibly mobile, and his mobility is what sets him apart from Costello, Fields, and Lawrence. Lance rushed for over 1,100 yards and punched the ball in the end zone 14 times. However, the passing game is where Lance made scouts take notice. Lance passed for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns, while completing 66.9% of his passes. Lance has a chance to move up draft boards this season, but he also could choose to wait until next year to improve his draft stock. The question is this will Lance playing smaller competition have an impact on his NFL draft projection?
5. Jamie Newman (Georgia Bulldogs)
The final quarterback of the top five is Georgia’s, Jamie Newman. Newman is the Wake Forest transfer that will have a chance to win the job in Athens. Newman has proven himself against solid competition in the ACC. Newman will have a chance to lead a dangerous Bulldogs’ offense and, in the process, shoot his way up draft boards.
Last season, Newman rushed for 574 yards and scored six touchdowns. Newman threw for 2,868 yards, 26 touchdowns, and had 11 interceptions. Newman has not had an opportunity to prove himself against elite competition but playing in the SEC will rectify that situation. Newman has put himself in a good situation with Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who helped tutor Jake Fromm.
With good performances this season, Newman will have a chance to move into the first round. Newman has the mobility and is an accurate enough passer to cause some problems for opposing SEC defenses. Wins against Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn will help ease some of the concerns that scouts have about Newman. Newman, as it stands now, will be selected in the draft, but improving his position is what matters for the new Bulldogs’ starter.
The 2021 quarterback group has the two certifiable phenoms in Lawrence at Clemson and Fields at Ohio State, and both should hear their names called early during the first round of the draft. Costello, Lance, and Newman are all quarterbacks that have an excellent chance of being drafted in the first round as well. Costello needs to win the starting quarterback position at Mississippi State and continue his consistent play from Stanford. Lance needs to continue to dominate at North Dakota State. What he has done up until now has been enough to get people talking. Now let’s see if he can be the next Carson Wentz. Georgia’s Jamie Newman has to prove that he can play at an elite level against elite competition. The 2021 quarterback class is going to be a fascinating one to watch. Enjoy the show!