B/R Roundtable: Where Does Trevor Lawrence Rank in Greatest QB Prospects?

NFL StaffContributor IMay 29, 2020

B/R Roundtable: Where Does Trevor Lawrence Rank in Greatest QB Prospects?

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    Alika Jenner/Getty Images

    To say Trevor Lawrence burst onto the scene in 2018 is one whopper of an understatement.

    After taking over for Kelly Bryant partway into the season, all Lawrence did as a true freshman was throw for 3,280 yards and 30 touchdowns with just four interceptions while leading the Clemson Tigers to an undefeated season and national championship.

    It was arguably the greatest debut season we've ever seen from a young signal-caller.

    There were some bumps in the road early in his second year, but Lawrence passed for 3,665 yards and 36 scores with eight picks while leading the Tigers to a second consecutive College Football Playoff.

    Lawrence didn't lose a game at Clemson until last year's title-game defeat to LSU.

    As the strong-armed 6'6", 220-pounder heads into what will all but certainly be his last collegiate season, some are wondering not only whether he will be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, but also if he might be the best prospect under center in recent memory.

    To that end, we've gathered the NFL writers here at Bleacher Report and asked them a question…

    Where does Trevor Lawrence rank among the greatest QB prospects of all time?

              

    The writers who participated in this piece are, in order of submission: NFL Analyst Gary Davenport, NFL Features Lead Writer Tyler Dunne, NFL National Lead Writer Mike Freeman, NFL Analyst Brad Gagnon, NFL Analyst Brent Sobleski and NFL National Lead Writer Mike Tanier.

Davenport: Justin Fields of Ohio State Might Be Better

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Before the tomatoes start flying and the pitchforks and torches come out, saying Justin Fields is a better quarterback prospect than Trevor Lawrence isn't a knock on the latter.

    Lawrence's freshman season was ridiculous, and if he could have entered the NFL draft after one year, the Arizona Cardinals would have faced quite the conundrum with the first overall pick.

    But Lawrence's 2019 season was a different story—especially the first half of it. Over the first seven games of last season, he was 57-of-120 for 929 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions on dropback passes, per Seth Galina of Pro Football Focus. He didn't face a murderers' row of great college defenses either—those numbers came against a slate of nonconference cupcakes and the dumpster fire that is the ACC.

    Meanwhile, Justin Fields was putting together a 2019 campaign at Ohio State that saw him post a better completion percentage and passer rating than Lawrence while throwing just three picks all season long.

    Last year, at least, Fields was more accurate. He made better decisions with the football. And his arm talent and athleticism are right there with Lawrence. Fields (not Lawrence) was a Heisman finalist last year. Fields (not Lawrence) is the favorite in Vegas to win the Heisman in 2020.

    Maybe the tables will turn in 2020 and Lawrence will reclaim his throne. But I don't expect that to happen. Both will have excellent seasons, but Fields will be better again.

    And it will be him we'll compare to Joe Burrow, Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield as draft season gets underway in 2021.

Dunne: Lawrence Is a Top-10 All-Time Prospect

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    Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

    It's obvious by now that Trevor Lawrence is one of the best all-time quarterback prospects, but how good?

    Let's go top-10 all-time.

    It's easy for us all to become prisoners of the moment and constantly enamored with what's next. It's probably a tick too soon to anoint him in the class of John Elway, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, etc., but Lawrence is right there because it's tough to find anything wrong with him.

    His size. His arm. His mobility. Everything's there. And we've already seen another QB from Clemson in that offense take the league by storm.

Freeman: Slow Your Roll on Lawrence

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    Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    Trevor Lawrence is talented. He's good. But top-five? Top-10? What have some of you been smoking?

    I wouldn't put him ahead of some of the quarterbacks drafted this past season, let alone all-time. He hasn't done anything, or displayed any type of special talent, that distinguishes him from legendary prospects like Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning.

    Again, he's good. But top-10 or even 30 or 40?

    Please, pass me what you're enjoying.

Gagnon: Lawrence Is Better Than Joe Burrow

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    Alika Jenner/Getty Images

    Based on what Lawrence has done the last two years, it's fair to at least place him above Joe Burrow. That's because, unlike Burrow, he doesn't have to prove he wasn't a one-year wonder. That leaves him room to potentially join the likes of Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck with a third consecutive off-the-charts season in college, but we can't assume that'll happen.

    Anything could happen to Lawrence in 2020. Look at how we viewed Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa just a year ago. Both lost luster for different reasons in 2019.

    For now, that keeps Lawrence a step below Manning, Luck and the legendary John Elway. I think he's on track to join those guys in the top five, along with Michael Vick. But there's room for him to drop back into range with Burrow, Eli Manning, Robert Griffin III, Sam Bradford and—sadly—Ryan Leaf. It would take a catastrophe for him to fall below that group.

Sobleski: Lawrence Isn't an All-Time QB Prospect...Yet

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Are we so sure Lawrence is even the best quarterback for the 2021 draft class?

    That's a far more interesting question since Ohio State's Justin Fields will certainly have a say in the matter. His athleticism and efficiency as he operated in the Buckeyes system allowed the Georgia transfer to put together a better season a year ago than Lawrence.

    Furthermore, we've seen relatively obscure prospects emerge the last three years to become Heisman Trophy winners and No. 1 overall picks.

    No one had Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray or Joe Burrow as first-round picks, let alone the top overall quarterbacks, until their final seasons on campus. We could easily see someone like Mississippi State's K.J. Costello, Minnesota's Tanner Morgan or Florida's Kyle Trask emerge as a top-10 prospect.

    I'm not going to place Lawrence in the context of all-time prospects because he's yet to earn that status. He doesn't quite rank among the best seen in recent history.

    Burrow put together the best single-season effort ever seen from a prospect. Andrew Luck was the most pro-ready quarterback of the last 20 years. Mayfield and Tagovailoa were far more accurate and efficient. Murray had the best combination of athleticism and natural throwing ability. Patrick Mahomes' and Matthew Stafford's arm talent can't be topped.

    Lawrence is a very good prospect, and he'll almost certainly be a top-five prospect for the 2021 draft. But he's yet to reach "generational" status, so there's no reason to shoehorn him into that conversation.

Tanier: Lawrence Is (Cam) Newton-Esque

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    Mike McCarn/Associated Press

    Trevor Lawrence is a Cam Newton-tier prospect.

    Lawrence reminds me a lot of Newton when he left Auburn. Both can throw lasers all over the field, but both operate in systems full of easy prescribed throws to open first reads. Newton was a better runner, but they have similar styles.

    Newton was one of the 10 best quarterbacks I ever analyzed as a professional, and Lawrence can move into his territory by improving his deep timing: Long bombs sail on him and come up a little short. If Lawrence wants to climb into the Andrew Luck-Robert Griffin III-Carson Palmer-Eli Manning tier of the best college prospects of my career (hey, they didn't all work out), he must:

    1) Demonstrate that he can consistently check to his second read instead of waiting for the first receiver to get open if the window isn't there immediately after the RPO fake.

    2) Stop trying to escape the pass rush through the back of the pocket, because he's not Michael Vick, and that will lead to 15-yard sacks in the NFL.