The 2020 NFL draft hasn't even been over for a week, but now is the perfect time to start digging into the prospects for the 2021 draft.
As it turns out, the College Football Playoff is a great place to start. Two of the four starting quarterbacks in the 2019 tournament were taken in the first two rounds of the draft. The other two are expected to headline the 2021 class.
Trevor Lawrence's hype as a potential No. 1 pick for 2021 arguably started in high school. He was the No. 1 overall recruit in his class and the sixth-highest rated recruit of all-time at 247Sports. He hasn't done anything to curtail that hype in his two seasons at Clemson, with two national championship appearances to his name.
Justin Fields isn't far behind Lawrence on the hype train. After transferring from Georgia to Ohio State, he was prolific in the Buckeyes offense with 41 touchdowns to three interceptions and another 10 touchdowns on the ground.
A lot can change. At this time last year, Jake Fromm was a projected top-10 pick. Joe Burrow was expected to be a Day 3 prospect. However, as we enter the 2020 season, here's an early look at who to keep an eye on.
Top 10 Watchlist
1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
2. Justin Fields, QB, Clemson
3. Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
4. Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami
5. Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
6. Walker Little, OT, Stanford
7. Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
8. Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson
9. Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
10. Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
It's no secret that quarterback play is paramount to success in the NFL. The teams who have consistent players behind center are the ones who consistently make the playoffs—and make a run at the championship once they get there.
That's why Trevor Lawrence will be a hot commodity come this time next year.
He checks all the boxes. He's 6'6" and 220 pounds, so he has that prototypical frame that NFL types love. He's an accurate downfield thrower who can make just about every throw and completed 65 percent of his passes in each of his first two seasons.
Perhaps most importantly of all, he's a winner. Not the Colt McCoy or Kellen Moore type of winner. We're talking about a guy who won the National Championship as a freshman and made it to the championship game again as a sophomore. All while throwing for 66 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in those two seasons.
Lawrence and the Tigers should once again be in the mix for the title. They have a stronghold over the ACC, and fellow 2021 prospects Justyn Ross and Travis Etienne join him to form the best trio of returning quarterback-receiver-running back in college football.
Barring a major collapse, you can go ahead and write Lawrence in pen as a top-three pick next year.
Justin Fields wasn't far behind Lawrence coming out of high school in the class of 2018. He was 247Sports' eighth-highest ranked recruit of all-time and No. 2 in the class behind the Clemson product.
Fields' college career got off to a slower start, though. Stuck behind Fromm at Georgia, he transferred to Ohio State after attempting just 39 passes his freshman season. The results were great for the Buckeyes as Fields made up for lost time and was third in the nation in passer rating, only behind Jalen Hurts and Joe Burrow.
That efficiency is backed up on film by a quarterback who has great pocket presence and can make all the throws. Fields contributed on the team as a runner, but more often than not he uses his legs to manage the pocket and create passing opportunities for himself.
Not only was Fields the top returning quarterback, according to Pro Football Focus' grades, but he was the second-best player overall.
One of the only drawbacks to Fields right now is that he's only done it for a year. As Lawrence vs. Fields debates are sure to get fired up over the coming year, he'll have the opportunity to take that argument out of the arsenal.
Remember, the list provided is a watchlist, not a big board. Trey Lance might not be one of the top-10 players in the class come draft time, but if you're interested in familiarizing yourself with the names in the upcoming draft, Lance has to be mentioned.
The fact that Lance is coming from North Dakota State will cause eye-rolls and "yeah, but look at his schedule" arguments, but the Bison's two quarterbacks before Lance are also in the NFL. Carson Wentz has been a successful NFL starter for the Philadelphia Eagles, and Easton Stick was a fifth-round pick for the Los Angeles Chargers in last year's proceedings.
Lance has been better for the Bison than them at an earlier stage, and that's saying something. The redshirt sophomore technically doesn't have to leave NDSU early, but he's already getting draft hype for his frame, production and skills:
Lance threw 28 touchdowns to zero interceptions in his first year of starting while chipping in 1,100 yards rushing and 14 more touchdowns on the ground. For comparison, Wentz thew 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with 642 rushing yards in his first season as the starter as a junior.
Lance blew those numbers out as a freshman.
Being on an FCS team, Lance is going to have fewer opportunities in the spotlight, but it won't be surprising at all if he ends up being a first-round pick.