Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) looks to pass during the first quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023 at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla. The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 34-3. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]

How the 2021 NFL QB Draft Class Stacks Up Now

The 2024 NFL Draft is only one sleep away, and, as always, all anyone can talk about is this year’s quarterback class.

Heisman winners Caleb Williams and Jayden Daniels lead the discussion, along with 2024 National Champion J.J. McCarthy and 2022 ACC Player of the Year Drake Maye.

National Championship runner up Michael Penix Jr. and Oregon starter Bo Nix have also heard some first-round buzz.

To find a year with this many elite QB prospects we have to travel back in time to three years ago, when talents like Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson top everyone’s big boards. While the hype around the 2021 NFL Draft was immense, it has served as a reminder to fans that taking a QB in round one does not always lead to elite play on the field.

T-Law Taken First

Anybody who followed the 2021 remembers the hype surrounding Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. The 2018 national champion was widely considered a “generational prospect,” being mentioned in the same breath with Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning.

While Lawrence hasn’t lived up to all the hype, he has accomplished one feat no other QB from his year has: Lawrence is the only 2021 QB to still be on the team that drafted him.

So far, Lawrence has earned a Pro Bowl nod and has lead the Jags to a playoff berth, both occurring in 2022. The signal caller has 11,770 yards with a 63.8% completion percentage. He has also thrown 58 touchdowns to 39 interceptions in his three-year tenure.

Wilson Fizzles Out

With the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the New York Jets selected Zach Wilson. The throw that took the world by storm, Wilson shot up draft boards after a throw went viral at BYU’s Pro Day. Wilson’s 60+ yard, off platform bomb while rolling to his left was enough to have NFL scouts convinced he deserved to go second.

The QB didn’t hold up to the hype, passing for just 6,239 yards and only 23 touchdowns with 25 interceptions. Wilson was traded this offseason to the Denver Broncos for a 2024 seventh round pick.

The Trade Heard ‘Round the World

The third pick in 2021’s NFL Draft was where things went awry. A month before the draft, San Francisco sent three first round selections and a third rounder to the Dolphins for the third overall pick.

The Niners would go on to draft North Dakota QB Trey Lance.

Those selections would turn into 2021 DROTY Micah Parsons, Cole Strange, the Patriots starting center, Dolphins linebacker Channing Tindall and Saints DL Bryan Bresee.

Lance would go onto have a below average NFL career, only ever starting four games for San Fran after fracturing his ankle in 2022. Lance’s injury history, lackluster play and the emergence of Brock Purdy lead to him being traded to Dallas for a fourth-round pick. Lance is currently a backup for the Cowboys.

Fields Falls to 11

A dual-threat QB, many considered Justin Fields to be the second best QB in the draft.

Fields was graded as a “potential All-Pro talent,” per Bleacher Report. Unfortunately for Bears fans, Fields on lasted three seasons in the Windy City. The signal caller was traded to the Steelers this offseason for a conditional day three selection. Fields passed for 6,674 yards with 40 touchdowns to 30 interceptions while with the Bears. Fields also rushed for 2,220 yards and 14 scores.

The Bears are expected to usher in a new era this offseason, poised to draft Caleb Williams with the first overall pick Thursday night. Only time will tell if Chicago can escape its perennial QB search. If the Bears pick Williams, it will be the third time they’ve taken a QB top-15 in seven years.

Brady’s Replacement Flops

The final QB drafted in the first round was Mac Jones. Jones was selected 15th overall by the New England Patriots, looking for a replacement for Tom Brady.

The signal caller from Alabama was know for his pocket presence and accuracy, similar to Brady’s playstyle. Teams knew that if put in the right system, Jones could succeed and the Patriots way seemed to fit that to a tee.

Jones started all 17 games in 2021, making the Pro Bowl as a rookie. He started 14 game in 2022 and 11 after that. Jones passed for 8,918 yards with a 66.1 Cmp% in New England. Jones also threw 48 TDs to 36 INTs.

The Alabama QB was traded this offseason to the Jaguars where he is slated to be Trevor Lawrence’s backup.

Draft Day 2024

The NFL Draft will start Thursday night at 8 p.m. EST.

About Alexander Vafeas

Alexander Vafeas is a second-year Sports Journalism student at the University of Florida. When not writing about high school sports for WRUF, Alexander works as a communications intern with the University of Florida Athletic Association.

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