2021 NFL Draft: Predicting Destinations for Every Draftable QuarterbackApril 1, 2021
2021 NFL Draft: Predicting Destinations for Every Draftable Quarterback
The quarterback is king in the NFL. Teams will trade multiple first-round picks for an upgrade at the position, which is what the Los Angeles Rams did this offseason. In the 2021 draft, five signal-callers may come off the board within the first 10 selections.
Typically, all the buzz around the quarterback position focuses on potential first-rounders, but don't overlook this year's second tier. Clubs that hold picks outside of the top 10 may be intrigued by a prospect's potential as a Day 2 or 3 target.
While we may look at game film of Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Justin Fields in complete awe, keep an eye on guys such as Davis Mills, Kellen Mond and Jamie Newman in the middle-to-late rounds.
Most of us assume the Jacksonville Jaguars will take Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick, but what about the rest of the draft-worthy quarterbacks?
Using Pro Football Focus' big board, we've highlighted signal-callers in the top 200 who will most likely fall somewhere between Rounds 1 and 7 and paired them with teams based on need and schematic fit. The order coincides with PFF's rankings.
Trevor Lawrence: Jacksonville Jaguars
PFF Rank: 1
Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer hinted at what many draft analysts project at the No. 1 spot. NBC Sports' Peter King asked him about Clemson's Trevor Lawrence.
"I'd have to say that's the direction we're going," Meyer said. "I'll leave that up to the owner when we make that decision official. But I'm certainly not stepping out of line that that's certainly the direction we're headed."
When the Jaguars locked in the No. 1 spot with a 1-15 record, Lawrence seemed destined to land in Jacksonville once he declared for the 2021 draft. He's put together stellar performances and won big games since his true freshman year in 2018.
Lawrence will come into the NFL ready to start Week 1 because he's shown the ability to read and dissect defenses in three full seasons as a starter. The 6'6", 213-pound signal-caller has the physical traits to match his attention to pre- and post-snap detail. He's able to make deep throws, as well as intermediate passes to carve up zone coverages.
If necessary, Lawrence can tuck and run or finish drives near the goal line. He recorded 766 yards with 17 scores on the ground over the last two terms.
Assuming Jaguars owner Shad Khan gives the thumbs-up on Lawrence, Jacksonville will have its franchise quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick.
Zach Wilson: New York Jets
PFF Rank: 2
Don't believe everything you read or hear in the months leading up to the draft. The Jets haven't publicly shared their plans or confirmed any whispers about their quarterback situation.
According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, the Jets may draft a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick and keep Darnold on the roster.
Joe Douglas didn't draft Darnold, but he's had two years to evaluate him as the team's general manager.
Since 2019, Darnold has thrown for 28 touchdowns and 24 interceptions while completing 60.9 percent of his passes. We should acknowledge his subpar supporting casts, but he's made questionable decisions in the pocket, which have led to a high turnover rate. Expect Gang Green to move forward with a prospect who has a higher ceiling.
Zach Wilson's combination of accuracy and mobility allowed him to shoot up draft boards this past season. Not only did he complete 73.5 percent of his passes, but the BYU standout throws a pinpoint deep ball, logging a 72 percent accuracy rate on attempts 20-plus yards downfield in 2020, per Pro Football Focus.
As the Jets build their roster, Wilson seems equipped to handle moving parts around him.
Unlike Darnold, Wilson isn't a turnover-prone quarterback. He's also poised under duress, going through this past season with zero turnover-worthy plays while under pressure, per PFF.
During his collegiate career, Wilson underwent shoulder and hand surgeries. Barring serious injury at the pro level, he could become a special player.
Justin Fields: San Francisco 49ers
PFF Rank: 3
The San Francisco 49ers caused a stir last Friday, moving up to the No. 3 spot to presumably take a quarterback.
NBC Sports' Chris Simms, who's friends with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, believes the team made an aggressive move for Alabama's Mac Jones. He talked about the prospect's schematic fit and accuracy as reasons for his conclusion, per NBC Sports' Peter King.
"Where Mac fits that offense perfectly is that Kyle will give him one or two clues about what the defense will do on a play, and the results will be top-notch for Mac when he executes the play," Simms said. "He has Joe Burrow-type reading of the defense. Plus, other than Zach Wilson, Mac is the best bull's-eye-thrower in the draft."
As an offensive coordinator and head coach, Shanahan had some level of success with starting quarterbacks who compare closely to Jones, including Matt Schaub, Matt Ryan and Jimmy Garoppolo. They aren't incredible athletes but are mobile enough to execute in bootleg and rollout designs.
Yet toward the end of this past season, Shanahan talked about his willingness to work with a dual-threat quarterback who's a skilled and accurate passer.
In this scenario, the 49ers will likely select the better overall prospect. Justin Fields has more starting experience than Jones. As a collegian, he completed 68.4 percent of his passes and took care of the ball, throwing just nine interceptions since 2019.
In addition to 5,701 yards and 67 touchdowns through the air, Fields rushed for 1,133 yards and 19 scores on the ground, showing playmaking skills with his arm and legs throughout his collegiate years.
In 2020, Jones completed 77.4 percent of his passes, but he lined up with the nation's best offensive line, a unit that won the Joe Moore Award, and two potential first-round wideouts in DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. The former won the Heisman Trophy.
As a two-year starter, Fields didn't play with an elite supporting cast. Chris Olave has served as Ohio State's top wideout over the last two campaigns, logging no more than 50 receptions and 840 yards in both terms.
Fields certainly checks the box next to proficiency. He has to go through his progressions a little quicker while under pressure, but the dynamic signal-caller can make anticipatory throws through tight windows.
Trey Lance: New England Patriots
PFF Rank: 10
Here's a trade alert. The New England Patriots strike a deal with the Atlanta Falcons or Detroit Lions to move up for Trey Lance.
This scenario makes sense for the Falcons and Lions, who have veteran quarterbacks in Matt Ryan and Jared Goff, respectively. Under new regimes, both teams may prefer additional picks to bolster sub-.500 rosters from last season.
We should note that New England has traded two of its last four first-round picks. The NFL stripped the Patriots of their 2016 first-rounder because of Deflategate.
The Patriots need a long-term starter under center. Cam Newton re-signed with the club on a one-year deal. At 31 years old, with recent surgeries on his foot and shoulder, he's not the future in New England.
Lance can elevate the Patriots ground attack with his ball-carrying skills as Newton did last season. At 6'3", 221 pounds, the former can absorb contact, but he's a playmaker with his arm, too.
Typically, Lance doesn't put the ball in uncatchable spots and avoids head-scratching turnovers. In some cases, he has to see wide-open passing windows as opposed to leading his receivers to a hole in coverage, but the North Dakota State product can sharpen his anticipation with experience. The 20-year-old has started just 17 games at the collegiate level.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could use Lance in run-pass option designs, bootlegs, rollouts and allow him to feed off play-action reads with a complementary ground attack.
A smooth transition from Newton to Lance within the next year is a distinct possibility.
Mac Jones: Washington Football Team
PFF Rank: 13
Within a month of the draft, 38-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick sits atop the Washington Football Team's depth chart at quarterback. The club has Taylor Heinicke under contract through the 2022 campaign. Kyle Allen will become a restricted free agent next offseason.
Washington doesn't have a clear-cut long-term option at the most important position. General manager Martin Mayhew should address that issue in April.
If it doesn't appear as though Mac Jones will slide to the late teens, Washington could move up for him if he slips outside the top 10. The Alabama product may fall on some draft boards because his athletic profile isn't consistent with the wave of dual-threat quarterbacks coming into the league. Secondly, he has an average arm, which raises concerns about his big-play ability with an ordinary supporting cast.
As a quarterbacks coach for the Minnesota Vikings (2014-16) and Carolina Panthers (2018-19), Football Team offensive coordinator Scott Turner has worked with signal-callers who have similar shortcomings to Jones such as Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater and Allen.
Turner could use Jones' intermediate passing precision to field an efficient offense that allows the receivers to do the heavy lifting in space and after the catch.
With wideouts Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel on the perimeter and versatile running back Antonio Gibson in the backfield, Jones can move the ball consistently if he establishes a rhythm in the pocket with quick, well-timed throws.
While that's not an inherently explosive attack, Washington can pull off this approach effectively as Jones develops into a solid pro.
Kyle Trask: Pittsburgh Steelers
PFF Rank: 64
As Ben Roethlisberger goes into his age-39 term, the Pittsburgh Steelers should hoard high-upside quarterback talent. The club doesn't have a player at the position on the books beyond the 2021 season.
Pittsburgh should develop a player through the upcoming term and allow him to compete for the starting job in 2022.
According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, some front-office executives around the league believe the Steelers may use an early-round pick on Florida's Kyle Trask.
"And there is a sense among some other general managers that the Steelers could very well invest a fairly high draft pick on a passer," La Canfora wrote. "The name I hear the most in scouting circles is Florida's Kyle Trask. Seems like a fit to people I talk to and someone whose profile would appeal to general manager Kevin Colbert."
Among the Steelers' three signal-callers, Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins, none of them have showcased elite athleticism. They're on the low end of the spectrum in terms of mobility. Trask fits into that category. He's more impressive with his arm than anything else.
As a two-year starter, Trask posted big numbers, throwing for 68 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He can throw darts all over the field with solid protection. His pocket presence and feel for pressure allow him to get the ball out on time.
If the Steelers revamp their offensive line over the course of the next year, Trask could stand tall in the pocket and become a decent starter.
Davis Mills: Detroit Lions
PFF Rank: 77
In a splashy introduction to his new position, Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes dealt Matthew Stafford, who agreed with the team to part ways, and acquired Jared Goff, two first-rounders (2022 and 2023) and a third-rounder from the Los Angeles Rams.
Holmes served as the director of college scouting when the Rams selected Goff with the No. 1 overall pick in 2016. Detroit will likely roll with the two-time Pro Bowl signal-caller as the starter for the foreseeable future. Goff has four years left on his deal with a cap hit that rises to $31.2 million in 2022.
The Lions don't have to rush anyone into competition with Goff. However, they should find a solid backup who has more upside than David Blough and Tim Boyle, two undrafted talents from the 2019 and 2018 classes, respectively.
Davis Mills showcased his potential in short flashes at Stanford. The 6'3", 217-pound signal-caller took over for an injured K.J. Costello during the 2019 term and finished the season with 1,960 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.
In a shortened 2020 campaign, Davis had a decent showing, throwing for 1,508 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions. His limited sample size hurts his draft stock, but NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah highlighted some positives in the youngster's skill set following Stanford's pro day.
"Studied more on Stanford QB Davis Mills. He has the tools to be an NFL starter. He doesn't wow you but he has very crisp feet, plays with poise and can make every throw. He isn't a dynamic runner but he moved around inside the pocket to buy space/time," Jeremiah tweeted.
Davis will certainly require time in a backup role before he sees regular-season action, but he's a talented passer who needs stability in a system and a little more experience.
Kellen Mond: Atlanta Falcons
PFF Rank: 102
The Atlanta Falcons can compete for a playoff berth with quarterback Matt Ryan and still land a promising talent at the position in the middle rounds. That's the NFL roster-building version of having your cake and eating it, too.
Peter King of NBC Sports heard rumblings about the Falcons' "leaning" toward a quarterback with the fourth overall selection. Atlanta's preferred plan can change overnight if another team offers a treasure trove of picks to move up for a signal-caller.
With Ryan at the helm, the Falcons aren't desperate for a quarterback. General manager Terry Fontenot can use additional picks to fill out his roster or take the best player available at No. 4.
At the end of Day 2 or the beginning of Day 3, the Falcons can take a look at a backup who could become Ryan's successor. Remember, Matt Schaub has retired, which leaves a void in the primary reserve role.
Former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator and new Falcons head coach Arthur Smith has experience with an athletic Texas A&M product in quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who won the 2019 Comeback Player of the Year award.
As a play-caller, Smith showed the ability to optimize his quarterback's talent. He can do the same with Kellen Mond.
Mond didn't have a breakout 2020 with jaw-dropping passing numbers at Texas A&M. As a full-time three-year starter, his production was steady and his accuracy improved slightly each season.
Mond doesn't have a powerful arm, but he can move in the pocket and shows elusiveness on the run. The 6'3", 217-pounder can slip through spaces while keeping his eyes downfield, which is a coveted trait in today's league.
With a few years of good coaching, Mond could become one of the biggest steals from the 2021 draft class.
Jamie Newman: Houston Texans
PFF Rank: 169
The Houston Texans have a lot of uncertainty at quarterback. Early in the offseason, Deshaun Watson requested a trade, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. The club hadn't entertained any offers for him, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero.
Over the past few weeks, Tony Buzbee's law firm has filed 21 civil lawsuits against Watson, who's accused of sexual assault and misconduct. The NFL is investigating the allegations. For now, the quarterback's trade buzz has come to a halt.
The Texans signed quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Finley. The former will likely open the season under center. Houston doesn't have a first- or second-round pick in April's draft.
Without a shot at a top quarterback prospect, the Texans will likely experience a bumpy ride through the 2021 season and land a top pick in 2022.
Nevertheless, general manager Nick Caserio should take a look at a Day 3 prospect who could learn behind Taylor and become a solid backup for the upcoming campaign. In two seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, Finley has looked overwhelmed, throwing for three touchdowns and four interceptions with a 48.7 percent completion rate through eight appearances.
Jamie Newman can inject some excitement into the offense with his big arm and ability to run the ball. In 2019 at Wake Forest, he recorded 2,868 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions along with 574 rushing yards and six scores.
Newman transferred to Georgia but opted out of the 2020 campaign. He needed another collegiate year to work on his accuracy. The 6'4", 230-pound signal-caller has physical gifts, threatening defenses over the top with deep throws and picking up yards with his legs. However, he doesn't have much touch on intermediate passes and only completed 60.5 percent of his total attempts as a collegian.
Perhaps the Texans can groom him into a Taysom Hill-like X-factor for an offense that will need a spark. The athletic signal-caller can transition to that role if he struggles as a passer under center.
Player height and weight measurements courtesy of Pro Football Focus or official school websites.
Player contract info courtesy of Over the Cap.