Is it too early to look at next year’s draft class in the 2021 NFL draft? Mel Kiper Jr. believes it is never too early. With 12 quarterbacks drafted this year, it makes it hard to predict which teams will need a quarterback for next year. But as we saw in this draft, even if we think a team doesn’t need to draft a QB, they will draft one. But in the 2021 draft, there is a good list of QB’s that will be worth drafting and stashing. Especially for teams with an established veteran quarterback that are looking two or three years down the road.
The obvious up and comers are playing for Power Five conference teams. Two of which faced each other in the College Football Playoffs last season. Trevor Lawrence for Clemson and Justin Fields for Ohio State are both projected to be the first two QB’s drafted in the 2021 NFL draft. But there are other signal callers worth looking at that could be available later in the draft that could make an impact quickly.
Lawrence is the assumed first quarterback drafted in 2021. Out of high school, Lawrence was the number one ranked player in the country for his class and number one pro-style quarterback. After shredding a great Alabama defense in his freshman year to win the national championship for Clemson, it looked like Lawrence could have gone pro then. But last season, Lawrence stumbled in his first three games, throwing five interceptions. Nonetheless, he figured his game out and led Clemson to another national title appearance. Falling to one of the greatest college football teams of all-time in LSU, he still had a phenomenal season.
Lawrence threw for 3600+ yards, 36 touchdowns, with only eight interceptions. Not to mention his 6’6″ frame and athletic abilities that go with his incredible arm. Depending on who is picking, Lawrence has the potential to be the first overall pick in the 2021 draft. Kiper analyzes Lawrence in this audio and hints at the other top quarterback that could jump him in the draft.
The Georgia transfer, now running the show at Ohio State could easily jump Lawrence in the QB pecking order. Fields is coming off an incredible season where he threw 41 touchdown passes with just three interceptions while adding 10 rushing touchdowns. Two of those interceptions came against Clemson in the College Football Playoffs. Losing JK Dobbins and three receivers to the draft will hurt the Buckeye offense, but Fields still has his talent and Chris Olave at the receiver spot to put up numbers. He finished third in the Heisman race last season and has his eyes set on winning it this year. He has a great team in a winnable conference and should light up the field again this season.
A two-time national champion at North Dakota State, Lance is a huge sleeper at QB in the FCS. He is the Jordan Love of the NFL 2021 draft; a non-power five conference quarterback with a strong arm. But unlike Love, Lance doesn’t turn the ball over. He did not throw a single interception last season. This led to a 16-0 record for the Bison. Being able to win and take care of the ball is a huge focal point for NFL teams. While throwing for 27 touchdowns and adding 14 on the ground, Lance is a complete quarterback. He also stands at 6’3″, 221 pounds, a great size for a QB who refuses to go down. Kiper speaks highly of him when asked about a potential top pick.
All these quarterbacks have the first-round talent and depending on the order, should be taken on the first night. But let’s look at a few non-first round quarterbacks that could flourish in an NFL role.
The former Florida Gator quarterback transferred to Arkansas after a season-ending injury last season. With a strong arm and now the ability to run the ball using his size, Franks is a big-armed pocket-passer that could be scooped up later in the draft. He is also 6’6″ the same size as Lawrence with slightly similar abilities. If he can carve up some SEC defenses at Arkansas, he should get some late-round looks from NFL teams.
Now at Georgia taking over for Jake Fromm, Newman is a junior transfer from Wake Forest. He is a dual-threat quarterback who was 10-6 over 16 starts with the Demon Deacons over the past two seasons. Last season with Wake Forest, Newman threw for 2,800+ yards, 26 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He also ran for 574 yards and scored six touchdowns on the ground. Another prospect that is looking for a new start at an SEC school.
Morgan is a two-year starter for Minnesota. He is coming off a superb season and possibly the best season in Golden Gophers history. They won 11 games and started 9-0. On the season, Morgan threw for 3,200+ yards, 30 TDs, with only seven interceptions. Not a running QB but he has great feet in the pocket and can be a sleeper pocket-passer in next year’s draft.