Now that the 49ers have traded up to the third pick, it is all but assured that the first three picks will be quarterbacks. It’s even possible the first four picks are quarterbacks, and then potentially even five quarterbacks in the first 15 picks. This is an incredible draft in terms of QB talent. It could be the deepest QB draft class we’ve seen in a very long time–maybe even going all the way back to 2004 when Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger were all taken in the first round.
In this series, I will rank the QB prospects in next month’s draft, starting with #1, Trevor Lawrence.
I’ve written a bit about Lawrence previously on this site. I think he’s got to be the #1 pick. He just has the look of a top NFL QB. He’s 6′ 6″, he’s big and strong, he’s athletic, he’s a leader, he’s polished. He just looks like a #1 pick. He looks like a guy upon whose shoulders you can place the hopes and dreams of an entire franchise. He looks like a Asgardian god come to Earth. He’s like Thor’s little brother.
He was 34-2 as a college starter. He led Clemson to a National Championship as a true freshman, and back to the National Championship game as a sophomore.
This guy is a top-tier athlete, too. He had 18 career rushing TDs in his college career. I still remember when he had that 67-yard TD run against Ohio State in the 2019 CFP semifinal:
That was the moment I realized this guy has way more to offer than just an arm. He is a true dual threat quarterback. I think he’s the first white QB to ever come into the NFL where you can legitimately call him a dual threat. There have been a lot of white QBs that could run in college but not the NFL, but I think Trevor Lawrence will be able to outrun guys in the NFL.
When I watch his college highlights, I see a guy with elite accuracy and ball placement. Every time, he just drops it in there perfectly. His receivers rarely have to adjust to the ball at all. He lands it right in their hands. It’s consistent, too. Almost every throw is perfect.
I’ve seen him throw fade routes in the endzone, too. A lot of college QBs don’t have experience throwing back-corner endzone passes, but Lawrence has consistently demonstrated an ability to make those throws. He’s incredibly advanced in terms of the throws he has in his arsenal. He can make them all.
He can throw on the run, although he didn’t really have to do it often because his protection was so good at Clemson 95% of the time. He can throw off his back foot, although again his protection was usually so good he rarely needed to do so.
And he just looks so calm and collected back there in the pocket. He’s not fidgety or frantic, he’s smooth and relaxed basically all the time. Even when the pass rush is bearing down on him, he doesn’t lose composure and still delivers accurate passes.
If there are some concerns about him–and I’ve written about this in the past–it’s that in some of his biggest games, he has looked mortal. We all know he’s a man among boys when he’s playing against ACC competition, but the real tests for him have been when he’s matched up against teams like Alabama, Ohio State, LSU and Notre Dame–teams that are loaded with NFL talent. These are the guys he’s going to be playing against in the NFL very soon.
Obviously we all know he shredded Alabama in the 2018 National Championship game. And he’s dominated Notre Dame, too. But the 2019 National Championship against LSU and this year’s game against Ohio State were somewhat underwhelming.
Even the 2019 semifinal game against Ohio State was a bit concerning given that Ohio State was largely able to hold him in check in terms of passing. He won that game with his legs, not his arm. Ohio State just did a great job blanketing his receivers and from what I saw, his guys just weren’t getting open consistently until the very end of the game, when I think Ohio State’s defense was gassed. Lawrence didn’t have a bad game by any means, but I was definitely expecting him to put up bigger numbers through the air. I was expecting him to put his arm talent on full display but it just never really happened.
He followed that up with a pretty mediocre game against LSU in the National Championship, however in that game he was under heavy pressure all night, and honestly his team was totally overwhelmed in every way. And it’s not as if he was throwing picks and making bad decisions, either. LSU was just dominant.
Ohio State’s pass rush definitely got to him in the CFP semifinal game a few months ago. But his offensive line was getting straight-up manhandled by those absolute bears Ohio State had. I don’t really put too much blame on Lawrence for not being able to handle that pass rush.
Even Patrick Mahomes looks mortal in the face of a relentless pass rush.
Still, the fact remains that he’s matched up with Justin Fields twice and Joe Burrow once and in all three games, he did not look like the superior QB. We can debate whether that was due to factors out of his control, because after all, football is a team game, but it is a reasonable concern.
Lawrence measured in at 213lbs for his pro day, and he does look a little bit slender. I’d like to see him get up to like 225-230lbs so he can withstand the hits he’s going to take in the NFL. But the commentators at his pro day noted that it looked like he hadn’t been able to get in the weight room in a while due to the fact that he just underwent left-shoulder surgery on February 16. Once he recovers, I think he should be able to put on 10-15lbs when he gets to the NFL, so I’m really not concerned about his slim build.
Trevor Lawrence is the slam-dunk #1 pick. I see no way the Jaguars pass on him. He’s just an incredible prospect in every way. When you consider his arm talent and his athleticism, it almost feels unfair. A guy who is that good at throwing shouldn’t also be that good at running. He’s definitely the best QB prospect since Andrew Luck, but as I’ve written in the past, I’m not sure he’s as good as Andrew Luck was. It remains to be seen. But he is still a rare talent with the potential to completely transform an NFL franchise. There’s a reason Urban Meyer took the Jaguars head coaching job, and the reason is Trevor Lawrence. Guys like Lawrence do not grow on trees. He’s the type of prospect that only comes around once every 5-10 years.