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Five quarterbacks were chosen throughout the first 15 picks of the 2021 NFL draft, and 10 in total were drafted that weekend. As they approach the two-thirds mark of their second skilled season, only a few are trending in a very positive direction, and there’s already some chatter within the scouting community concerning the potential peril of that class.
Questions abounded concerning the group in real time. Were teams really that in love with Mac Jones despite his limitations, or was it something of an elaborate ruse? Could Trey Lance overcome the actual fact he had barely played usually above the highschool level, and if that’s the case, how long would his development take? Was Trevor Lawrence actually the closest we had seen to a plug-and-play franchise changer since Andrew Luck? Would Justin Fields give you the option to regulate to a more prostyle passing game? Were some evaluators projecting an excessive amount of for Zach Wilson, provided that he was a one-year wonder who faced suspect competition at BYU?
Was this class really worthy of vacuuming up a lot draft capital, or was rampant quarterback need driving the market to inefficient extremes? The questions were especially pointed given the toll the pandemic took on the 2020 college football season, with seasons abandoned or truncated and teams fiddling with makeshift rosters facing continually changing schedules. College athletes, no matter sport, faced unprecedented challenges at the peak of the pandemic, and evaluating them at the moment — and moving forward — was fraught with difficulty.
Up to now, for the Class of 2021 quarterbacks, the returns have been suspect.
“I believe some teams overreached, and it’s starting to point out,” said one NFL general manager, whose team evaluated quarterbacks within the 2021 class but opted not to make use of premium draft capital on one. (He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is restricted from commenting publicly on other teams’ players.)
“How lots of them shall be drafting a quarterback again in a 12 months or two?” the GM asked. “That was the hardest 12 months to judge players, and quarterback is all the time the hardest position to judge even when things are normal.”
A distinct longtime NFL executive and evaluator offered some pushback on the skepticism, though it’s difficult to search out too many who’re stumping for this class. “It’s still too soon to say,” he said, noting that rookie quarterbacks “used to sit down two years before they played and most of those kids barely even played in college. I do know everybody desires to chew them up and spit them out, but let’s give them slightly time.”
Perhaps tellingly, the prospect who engendered a few of the biggest skepticism, Fields, is the one playing one of the best football at once. The others should not distinguishing themselves, and there hasn’t been anything near the early ascent we’ve witnessed from Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow and even, gulp, Baker Mayfield (fleeting because it was) in recent times. The seven quarterbacks from the 2021 class who’ve played this season have a collective passer rating of just 81.9, in response to TruMedia data (90 is the league average), completing 62 percent of their passes for six.81 yards per attempt, barely below the NFL average. They’ve a reasonably brutal ratio of 44 touchdowns to 36 interceptions, and their teams have a 16-28-1 record within the 45 games they’ve began.
We now have yet to see Kellen Mond (Minnesota Vikings), Ian Book (Philadelphia Eagles) or Kyle Trask (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) play this season — none is viewed because the heir apparent for his or her franchise — while the seven who’ve played need continued refining and growth, if not hopes and prayers. Here’s a have a look at each of them.
Trevor Lawrence, first overall, Jacksonville
Immediate superstar he was not, though being saddled with a clumsy head coach in Urban Meyer as a rookie did him no favors. Some members of that 2021 Jaguars staff whispered private concerns about his prospects as an elite drop-back passer, capable of read all quadrants of the sphere. His redzone decision-making also needs work. “To get one of the best out of him you could have to lean on his legs and get him on the move and go heavy with run-pass options,” one former staffer who was not authorized to publicly discuss Lawrence told me last 12 months. Lawrence has the best rating of anyone on this class this season (89.7) and probably the most touchdown passes (13, another than Fields), though it stays to be seen if he’s truly transcendent. “I’m not convinced he’s going to be that guy,” said a top executive of 1 team that has faced the Jags this 12 months.
Zach Wilson, second overall, Recent York Jets
The Jets have habitually botched their quarterback evaluations over a generation of front office regimes. Wilson has been downright overwhelmed at times, with a ghastly quarterback rating of just 6.6 when under pressure, in response to TruMedia, easily the bottom on this class. He has struggled for consistency even inside a scheme that tends to not ask an excessive amount of of him. He again missed time this season due to injury, some scouts proceed to query his instincts and he has more interceptions (five) than touchdown passes (4). “We never would have taken him that top,” said one GM who closely evaluated that draft class. “I believe he’s going to be an issue for them.”
Trey Lance, third overall, San Francisco
The 49ers mortgaged the longer term to take the third quarterback on this draft, but he looked like a developmental project — for obvious reasons — when anointed the starter to open the 12 months. Then he saw his season quickly worn out by a broken ankle that can curtail the following crucial offseason. Lance has attempted all of 420 passes in games because the 2017 highschool season, 102 within the NFL and 318 at North Dakota State. He’ll enter next season, when he’s recovered, having began 21 football games since highschool. And people who wondered about his durability are much more concerned now.
Justin Fields, eleventh overall, Chicago
Once the Bears got around to leaning into his strengths and constructing an option run game around him, he has taken off. That has opened up more potency and accuracy within the passing game. The Ohio State product continues to be very much a piece in progress (see: last week’s pick-six), but one with a high ceiling. Borrowing from the Baltimore Ravens’ rushing attack has helped, and a number of other executives suggested Chicago should follow the model of the Eagles, who constructed an offensive line and an assembly line of pass catchers for Jalen Hurts.
Mac Jones, fifteenth overall, Recent England
He looked the a part of game manager last 12 months, but he embodies this class’s sophomore slump now. Having Matt Patricia impersonating an offensive coordinator doesn’t help, but Jones has been throwing jumpballs to opposing defenders all season, briefly lost his gig to Bailey Zappe, and has essentially the identical passer rating as Wilson (76), with seven picks to only 4 passing touchdowns. The short (if temporary) hook — with fans now clamoring for more Zappe — may not bode well. “I believe Belichick will trade him (in 2023),” one GM said. “He moves fast when it’s not what he thought it was going to be. He doesn’t care how high he drafted them.”
Davis Mills, third round, Houston
The Texans’ prolonged tank-job has afforded abundant time to evaluate a player with modest upside and arm talent. And the larger the sample size, the more Mills looks the a part of a backup. “He’ll loaf around this league a protracted time,” said the evaluator, who watched him at Stanford, “but you don’t want him playing every week.” Mills has an 81.7 rating with 11 touchdown passes and nine interceptions, and undoubtedly the Texans will finally invest first-round capital in a quarterback in 2023. Coach Lovie Smith said “I just don’t think it’s time” to bench Mills this week, however it is perhaps coming soon.
Sam Ehlinger, sixth round, Indianapolis
The 24-year-old got caught in a tug of war between owner Jim Irsay — who forced Ehlinger upon his football people a couple of weeks back — and since-fired head coach Frank Reich (shocker: the boss won the war). Ehlinger has useful legs but under no circumstances looked able to play NFL football in two outings before recent coach Jeff Saturday turned back to veteran Matt Ryan last Sunday. If the owner stays high on him, possibly he can join Saturday’s staff soon enough (I kid), however the Colts shall be all-in on using the best pick possible on a quarterback next spring.