Five weeks in to the 2020 NFL season, it’s already clear there are some strong contenders for the top overall pick in next year’s draft, which is assuredly going to be Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence. He’s been hailed as the best QB prospect since Andrew Luck, and some even consider him better than Luck and say you have to go back to Peyton Manning in 1998 to find a guy coming out of college that was better than Trevor Lawrence.
The only problem is that most of the teams in contention for the #1 overall pick next year don’t really need a QB. Or, rather, they have already spent really high draft capital on a QB within the past couple of seasons, for instance the Jets and Giants. There’s still a long way to go in the season but when it’s all over and we’re looking forward to the draft, it’s likely that the teams at the top of the draft order are going to have to make a difficult decision: give up on this young QB we drafted just a few years ago, or pass on potentially the greatest QB prospect of the past 20 years?
The Arizona Cardinals have already gone through this process, funny enough. They drafted Kyler Murray at #1 overall in the 2019 draft despite drafting Josh Rosen at #10 overall in 2018. It has clearly worked out for Arizona; regardless of whether you think the Cardinals are a legit team this year, no one can deny that Kyler Murray is clearly a better quarterback than Josh Rosen. Rosen is already on his third team in three years. Rosen has a career 55% completion rate, has thrown 12 career TDs vs. 19 career INTs, only averages 5.7 yards per attempt, and has a career QB rating of just 63.5.
Before the 2019 draft, there were people who were arguing that the Cardinals should not give up on Rosen so quickly and that it would be dumb of them to draft Kyler Murray just a year later. While it wasn’t really fair to Josh Rosen for the Cardinals to give up on him so quickly, few people at this point would dispute that it was the right football move for them.
So, which of the bottom-feeding teams in the league right now would not pull an Arizona on their young QB and draft Trevor Lawrence?
- Washington Football Team: They drafted Haskins in the first round of the 2019 draft and he has not been very good. Granted, that’s a terrible football organization and they’ve had tons of off-field distractions, so they have not even come close to putting Haskins in a position to succeed. However, this past week Coach Ron Rivera benched Haskins in favor of Kyle Allen, who eventually got hurt and was replaced by Alex Smith. Remember that Haskins was drafted under the Jay Gruden regime, and this is Rivera’s first season in Washington, so Haskins was never “his guy.” Rivera gave Haskins a chance to prove himself this season but clearly Rivera didn’t like what he saw and sat Haskins on the bench in week four. Given the fact that Haskins is a holdover from the prior regime and it’s pretty clear Rivera is not a huge fan of his, it should be obvious that yes, the Washington Football Team, currently sitting at 1-4, would absolutely draft Trevor Lawrence if they were to obtain the top pick in next year’s draft.
- Atlanta Falcons: They’re 0-5 and just fired their head coach and their general manager. Matt Ryan is 35 years old and does not look like the same guy he was from his MVP season in 2016. The Falcons are a total mess and it looks like rebuilding time in Atlanta. I personally think they need to get rid of everyone that was part of the blown 25-point lead in Super Bowl 51 so they can move past that as an organization and put it in the past, and getting rid of their coach and GM was the first step towards that. Trevor Lawrence is from the Atlanta area and so you’d have to assume that if the Falcons get the first overall pick, they won’t hesitate to draft him even though Matt Ryan has several years and lot of money still owed on his contract. I wouldn’t be surprised if another team wanted to take a gamble and trade for him and take on that contract, but even if the Falcons can’t move Matty Ice, I can’t see them passing on Lawrence.
- Dallas Cowboys: This one is kind of a stretch because they’re currently in first place in their sorry-ass division with a 2-3 record, but Dak Prescott is done for the year and they’re relying now on Andy Dalton to lead them to the playoffs. I don’t see Dallas as a team that has a realistic shot at the top overall pick simply because they have so much talent on both sides of the ball, plus they play in the worst division in the league, but it’s possible things fall apart for them if Andy Dalton turns out to be washed up. Don’t underestimate how bad their defense is, too. The Giants had three total TDs on the season before playing the Cowboys, and the Cowboys let the Giants hang 30+ on them. Cleveland hung 49 on the Cowboys defense and it probably could have been even more. The only reason I bring up the Cowboys is because Dak is playing on the franchise tag and it’s pretty obvious Jerry Jones is hesitant to pay him top dollar. Jerry Jones is a dealmaker and I could totally see him trying to make a play for Lawrence now that their Super Bowl hopes have crumbled.
- Minnesota Vikings: They’re better than their 1-4 record, to be sure, but they are not a very good football team right now. They currently sit at the bottom of the NFC North and have no real shot to win the division. Mike Zimmer went for it on 4th down last night at the end of the game against Seattle because he clearly did not trust his defense to stop Russell Wilson. This team is not going anywhere fast. However, they just signed 32-year-old Kirk Cousins to a two year extension so they have him through the 2022 season. I doubt they finish with the top overall pick, so they probably won’t even have the chance to get Lawrence, but if they somehow were in position to get him, I think they would take him.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: This is pretty open and shut. They traded away most of their good players over the past few years and the front office seems determined to sabotage this team and secure the top overall pick. The only problem for them is that Gardner Minshew is actually a decent QB and he’s going to win some games this year. I really believe Minshew is going to screw up the Jaguars’ front office’s plans to tank for Trevor. They’re 1-4 right now and still fully in contention for him, and they would take him if given the opportunity no questions asked.
- Houston Texans: This one is a little tougher. After starting the season 0-4 they fired their head coach/GM Bill O’Brien, then promptly turned around and won pretty convincingly over Jacksonville this past weekend. So maybe interim head coach Romeo Crennell will turn this thing around and salvage the season in Houston. They just signed DeShaun Watson to a fat contract that locks him up through the 2025 season, and Watson is one a top-10 QB so it’s doubtful Houston ends up with the first pick, but who knows? If they were to end up with the top overall pick it’s possible that the new regime, whomever it may be, decides they want to go with Lawrence and try to trade Watson away. I’m sure plenty of teams would gladly take Watson. They’re going to have to dump major amounts of salary given that they have the highest team payroll in the league this season, so maybe the new regime tries to move off of Watson and go into a full rebuild centered on Lawrence. I think Houston actually would grab Lawrence if given the opportunity, but I don’t think Watson will let them be bad enough going forward to be in contention for the top overall pick.
- Cincinnati Bengals: They’re currently 1-3-1 and are certainly in contention for worst team in the league, but they just drafted Joe Burrow #1 overall and he’s looked really good despite the lack of talent and dysfunction around him. In their game against Baltimore he was sacked 7 times, and he’s been sacked 22 times on the season thus far. He is on pace to be sacked 70 times this season and yet he’s still putting up good numbers. While I ultimately think Lawrence will be a better NFL QB than Burrow 5 years down the road, I still think Burrow will become one of the best QBs in the league assuming the Bengals don’t get him killed before he can reach his potential. If the Bengals end up with the top pick in the draft yet again, it will not be Burrow’s fault. It’ll be their offensive line’s fault. The Bengals would probably have no choice but to trade down and get some help for Burrow. So we have our first team that probably wouldn’t draft Trevor Lawrence if given the opportunity.
- Detroit Lions: They’re actually in third place in the NFC North with a 1-3 record, although that’s mainly because they were on bye this week and the Vikings weren’t. I’m still projecting the Lions to finish last in the division. I don’t think they’re going to finish with the league’s worst record, but if they do somehow, then I have no doubt they will draft Trevor Lawrence. While I think Matt Stafford is an underrated QB, he’s going to be 33 by the time the 2021 draft rolls around and preparing for his 13th NFL season. Given the fact that the Matt Patricia Era in Detroit has been a failure, and with Patricia’s firing after this year likely, the timing might be right for the Lions to move on from Stafford and start anew with Trevor Lawrence. If the Lions are in position to get him, they certainly will.
- Denver Broncos: They’re currently 1-3 but this is mainly due to injuries. Von Miller is out for the year. Courtland Sutton is out for the year. And their starting QB, Drew Lock, has already missed multiple games with a shoulder injury. Despite the injuries, Denver was still clearly better than the Jets when they played so I don’t see Denver as a team that could get the #1 pick. They seem to like Drew Lock a lot and drafted a lot of offensive weapons for him in the 2020 draft, so they’re clearly trying to build around him. However, if he continues to miss games due to injury, or if he just turns out to be not that good, I could see John Elway quickly moving off of him for Lawrence. Even if Lock has a decent season, they’d have to look at the potential upside of both him and Lawrence and ask themselves if they really want to be the team to pass on Trevor Lawrence to stick with Drew Lock. I don’t think they’d be able to do it.
- LA Chargers: They’d had a litany of injuries and their rookie QB Justin Herbert looks really good thus far. I don’t think this team is as bad as their 1-3 record, and I don’t think they’d have any reason to bail on Herbert. But still: while Herbert looks really good, Lawrence has the potential to be an all-time great. And regardless of how much you like your current QB, teams are still going to have to ask themselves: is Trevor Lawrence better than our guy? If the answer is yes, then you have to seriously consider drafting him. It would not be fair to Herbert at all, nor does he deserve to be kicked to the curb, but when you’re talking about a once-in-a-decade talent like Trevor Lawrence, teams are not going to be able to pass on that. I think the Chargers would ultimately stick with Herbert as long as he keeps playing well, but it would not shock me if they went with Lawrence if given the opportunity.
- San Francisco 49ers: It’s weird to imagine this given they were just in the Super Bowl with a 10-point fourth quarter lead barely eight months ago, but this season they have been absolutely ravaged by injuries perhaps worse than any other team. And that’s saying a lot because this has been a historically bad year for injuries across the league. The 49ers sit at just 2-3 right now and are in last place in the NFC West. They were just blown out by the Miami Dolphins, and in that game starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo was benched at halftime for CJ Beathard. While I don’t see them sucking enough to get the top overall pick, I also don’t think they’d hesitate to draft Lawrence if they somehow got it. Any team that benches its starting QB is a prime contender to draft a QB in the following offseason. (Side note: do you think deep down Bill Belichick is grateful that Robert Kraft and Tom Brady forced him to trade Jimmy G in 2017? If Bill got his way then right now the Patriots would have Jimmy G as their starter instead of Cam Newton–and they probably wouldn’t have won the 2018 Super Bowl, either.)
- Philadelphia Eagles: I guess if we include the Cowboys then we have to include the Eagles, who are in second place in that woeful NFC East with a 1-3-1 record. This team has been ravaged by injuries and that’s a big part of the reason they’re so bad, but then again, most other teams have as well. Carson Wentz has been throwing to no-names all season long, but Wentz hasn’t exactly been very good this season. After Philly’s Week 4 win over the 49ers, Wentz still ranked dead-last in the NFL in accurate pass percentage at just 42.8%, behind guys like Dwayne Haskins (50.4%) and Mitch Trubisky (46.2%). Still, Wentz did have that one really good MVP-caliber season, and people will keep going back to that as proof that he’s still a top-tier NFL QB–or at least that he can get back to being one. But Wentz is going to have to get back to that level of play soon or his days in Philly will be numbered. The Eagles drafted Jalen Hurts in the second round of this year’s draft, which raised a lot of eyebrows around the league. While some dismissed the move as the Eagles looking for a Taysom Hill-esque weapon, I think it was a pretty clear message that the Eagles are running out of patience with Wentz. If given the opportunity to take Trevor Lawrence, I don’t think the Eagles would hesitate at all to do so. There would definitely be a line of teams that would gladly take Carson Wentz off their hands, but it would be hard to view Lawrence as anything but an upgrade over Wentz.
- New York Jets: This team is an absolute disaster in every conceivable way. They have by far the worst point differential in the NFL at -86 through five games (needless to say they’ve lost all of them). Their head coach Adam Gase is a dead man walking, their best defensive player, Jamal Adams, forced his way out of town via trade prior to the season, and they are pretty obviously headed for a full rebuild. However, they drafted Sam Darnold high in the 2018 draft. And there are a lot of people out there who think Sam Darnold is actually a pretty decent QB–or at least he could be if he wasn’t on the Jets. Still, with a new regime surely coming in, I don’t think there’s any question they would move on from Darnold and select Lawrence. The worst part is that, as great as Lawrence is, I don’t know if even he is good enough to overcome the top-to-bottom dysfunction of the New York Jets, who may currently be the worst-run organization in American professional sports. If the Jets do get the #1 overall pick and go for Lawrence, I think Sam Darnold is actually the biggest winner in that he’ll undoubtedly land on a better team purely by virtue of the fact that it’s not possible for him to go to a worse team than the Jets. Because there are none.
- New York Giants: The New York NFL teams are both horrendously bad, although the Jets are probably worse. The Giants, though, are 0-5 and sport the league’s third-worst point differential at -52 (the Washington Football team is -53 and as we went over above, the Jets are -86, which goes to show you just how truly horrible the Jets are). They spent the 6th overall pick in the 2019 draft on QB Daniel Jones, and in his rookie season he actually wasn’t all that bad, throwing 24 TDs vs. 12 INTs with a 62% completion rate. This year he has been worse, with just 2 TDs vs 5 INTs, but his completion percentage is hardly worse than last year at 61%. He’s got a 47.1 QBR rating for 2020 vs. a 57.0 QBR in 2019, but I think a lot of that can be attributed to the overall weakness of this Giants roster. They’re just a sorry team, pure and simple. Now, Jones has also fumbled 21 times in his Giants career, so his surprisingly good TD:INT ratio doesn’t tell the full story, but I still think Daniel Jones is a decent NFL quarterback. But he’s not better than Trevor Lawrence. If the Giants land the first overall pick, they’re drafting Lawrence. But similar to Darnold, if the Giants did this, Jones would undoubtedly land on a better team than the Giants. However, I don’t think the Giants are a worse organization than the Jets. Plus, the Giants came close to beating both the Cowboys and the Bears this season, so I do believe they’ll get a win or two eventually this year.
We just listed 14 teams in contention for the top overall pick, and there wasn’t a single one that I would definitively say would pass on Trevor Lawrence if given the opportunity to draft him. Even the Bengals, who I think are the least likely of those 14 teams to draft Lawrence if they had the chance, would still at least give it some thought.
On top of that, there’s plenty of teams with winning records right now and little chance of landing the top overall pick in 2021 that would absolutely love to draft Lawrence. The Bears, for instance. And the Colts, with a clearly washed-up Philip Rivers. While the Panthers are 3-2, I doubt they view Teddy Bridgewater as their QB of the future. The Saints would definitely take him given that this is likely Brees’ last NFL season. The Steelers would take him for the same reason the Saints would: because Big Ben is nearing the end of his career. I think the Raiders would see him as a clear upgrade over Derek Carr, even though Carr has been pretty decent and led the Raiders to a winning record. The 3-0 Titans would gladly take him even though they do like Tannehill.
The 4-0 Packers would take him even though Rodgers is having a great season. They spent a first round pick on Jordan Love because Aaron Rodgers is about to turn 37, and Lawrence is leaps and bounds ahead of Love. The Packers are pretty obviously thinking about life after Rodgers even though life is pretty good for them right now.
The Buccaneers have the oldest QB in the league and while Brady would not be happy about them somehow obtaining Lawrence, I think they would have no choice but to do so if presented with the chance.
At this point I think every team in the NFC outside of Seattle and Arizona would gladly take Trevor Lawrence over their own QB. The Rams are a maybe–Goff has been a B- level QB in this league but he’s also had some really bad moments (that freezing cold game against the Bears in December 2018 first and foremost, plus the Super Bowl against the Patriots). I think the Rams would seriously consider bailing on Goff for Lawrence.
In the AFC, there are few teams that are obviously set at QB: the Bills, the Chiefs, the Ravens, and the Bengals. The Browns have been pretty good this year but would anyone be shocked if they wanted to swap Baker for Lawrence? Cam has looked great in New England and it seems like Belichick has found his QB of the future for at least the next 3-5 years, but I still don’t think Bill would pass up on Lawrence.
There might not even be five teams in the league that would pass on Trevor Lawrence.
But sadly he’s going to end up on the Jets. They are so atrociously bad this year they might go 0-16. Everyone should be rooting for the Jets to get wins so they take themselves out of contention for Lawrence. He does not deserve to be condemned to that fate.
Lawrence has another year of eligibility at Clemson. If the Jets end up with the top pick, I don’t think Lawrence would be wrong to return to Clemson for his senior year.