Quarterback is always the most talked-about position leading up to the draft, but things have been taken to the next level this year. It’s a lock that at least five QBs will go in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and it’s possible all five — Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, and Mac Jones — will go in the first 10 picks. We’ve already seen a trade to secure one of those top-five signal-callers, and it’s conceivable one or two more could be made when the clock starts ticking.
While most are focused on the first-round QBs, there are others in this draft class who deserve attention. After all, history has taught us that at least a couple of the top picks will disappointment, and a Day 2 or Day 3 pick might wind up being a 10-year starter.
With that mind, Sporting News breaks down our top-10 QBs for 2021.
NFL Draft 2021 quarterback rankings
1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Many have penciled in Lawrence as No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft ever since he led Clemson to a National Championship as a freshman. In his three years for the Tigers, Lawrence completed 66.6 percent of his passes, accounted for 108 TDs (90 throwing, 18 rushing), and threw just 17 INTs. At nearly 6-6, 213 pounds with good mobility and a big arm, Lawrence has all the tools, and with just two losses on his resume, he’s proven he’s a leader and a winner. Whether he’s the best QB in this class remains to be seen, but his top-pick credentials are unmatched.
2. Zach Wilson, BYU
Wilson’s first two seasons at BYU were fairly nondescript, but he broke out in a big way in 2020, throwing for 3,692 yards, 33 TDs, and just three INTs while completing 73.5 percent of his passes. He added another 254 yards and 10 TDs on the ground. Wilson lacks ideal size (6-2, 214 pounds), but he’s certainly not “too small,” and the 2019 right shoulder surgery he had to repair a torn labrum is reportedly a non-issue, at least for the Jets, who are expected to take him second overall. There are always reasons to worry about potential “one-year wonders,” but you could have slapped that label on Joe Burrow last year and he looked every bit like a franchise quarterback when he was healthy with the Bengals. Wilson didn’t excel in quite the same way as Burrow, but his upside is undeniable.
3. Justin Fields, Ohio State
Fields seemingly took a step back in 2020 after a monster sophomore season (3,273 passing yards, 484 rushing yards, 51 total TDs, three INTs), but he actually had a higher completion percentage (70.2 compared to 67.2) and posted more passing yards (262.5 vs. 233.8) and rushing yards (47.9 vs. 34.6) per game in his final season. Fields has been picked apart perhaps more than any other QB leading up to the draft, with some questioning his work ethic and leadership, but after measuring almost 6-3, 226 pounds and running an eye-popping 4.45 40-yard dash, it’s safe to say teams aren’t worried about his physical tools. Expect Fields to be a top-10 pick, though it wouldn’t be surprising if he was a second-stringer when the season opens.
4. Trey Lance, North Dakota State
Lance is a bit of a mystery man to most fans after starting just 17 college games, all against FCS competition. His numbers in those starts were staggering, though, as he didn’t throw an INT in a redshirt freshman season that ended with a 16-0 record and a trio of prestigious awards (FCS Freshman of the Year, FCS Offensive Player of the Year, and FCS Championship Game MVP). All told, Lance threw for 2,786 yards, ran for another 1,100 yards, and accounted for 44 total touchdowns while completing 66.9 percent of his passes. Lance measured nearly 6-4, 224 pounds during his pro day, and while he didn’t run a 40-yard dash, he reportedly was clocked at a top speed of 21.54 mph during a 44-yard TD run in the FCS National Championship game — a mark that would have been the 12th-fastest of any ball carrier in the NFL last year and fastest among all QBs. Perhaps as much as any QBs in this draft, Lance has the tools and athleticism that offensive coordinators salivate over. However, his overall inexperience, particularly against high-level competition, gives him a steep learning curve at the next level. He figures to be a top-15 pick, perhaps even top five, but don’t expect Lance to be a Day 1 — or even Year 1 — starter.
5. Mac Jones, Alabama
Jones put up ridiculous numbers last year at Alabama, completing 77.4 percent of his passes for 4,500 yards, 41 TDs, and just four INTs. The common refrain is, “Yeah, but he was basically playing on an NFL offense!” While it’s true the Crimson Tide had arguably the best collection of skill players and offensive linemen in the country, that could also be said about Joe Burrow during his final campaign at LSU, and he adapted just fine to the NFL. One of the knocks on Jones is that he lacks elite athleticism, but his 4.68 40-yard dash isn’t particularly slow for a QB. At nearly 6-3, 217 pounds, Jones has decent size, and he clearly has leadership qualities. Jones is likely to be a top-15 draft pick, with many speculating he’ll go third overall to the 49ers. Time will tell if that’s too high, but Jones seems to have a solid floor even if he doesn’t have the highest ceiling.
6. Kyle Trask, Florida
Trask dazzled during his final year at Florida, throwing for 4,283 yards, 43 TDs, and eight INTs while completing 68.9 percent of his passes. At just over 6-5, 236 pounds, Trask has great size, but his 5.10 40-yard dash time — and general lack of top-end athleticism — is why he doesn’t have the same buzz as the five QBs above him on this list. Trask is most commonly mocked in the second round, meaning he’ll likely serve as a backup when Week 1 rolls around, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him starting at some point this season.
7. Jamie Newman, Wake Forest/Georgia
Newman played three years at Wake Forest (19 games) before transferring to Georgia, but he opted out of the 2020 season to prepare for the draft. His relative lack of experience and overall production make him tough to evaluate, but for what it’s worth, his lone full season (12 games) resulted in 2,868 passing yards, a 60.9 completion percentage, 574 rushing yards, 32 total TDs, and 11 INTs. Newman is nearly 6-3, 235 pounds and reportedly runs a 40-yard dash in the 4.7 range. He’s much more of a project than a sure thing, but he has the tools to eventually pay off if he lands with the right team in the middle-to-late rounds.
8. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
With 46 career games under his belt, Mond has plenty of experience, and though his stats were never remarkable, he improved during his senior year. Mond posted career-highs in QB rating (146.9), completion percentage (63.3), and yards per attempt (7.7) while tossing 19 TDs and just three INTs. Mond lacks great size (between 6-2 and 6-3, 205 pounds), but he reportedly ran a 4.57 40-yard dash and has a bigger arm than his size might indicate. Mond will likely be a late-round pick who will hold a clipboard early in his career, but his experience could help him getting a starting shot earlier than anticipated.
9. Davis Mills, Stanford
Mills saw significant playing time in just 12 games in his college career, so to say he’s a project is a bit of an understatement. The 6-4, 217-pounder reportedly had a great pro day, though, which included a 4.58 unofficial 40-yard dash time. Given his size, athleticism, and accuracy (65.5 percent completion percentage) while playing in a pro-style offense, Mills is the type of Day 2 or Day 3 draft pick who could develop into a solid player in a few years.
10. Feleipe Franks, Arkansas
After three up-and-down seasons at Florida, Franks had a stellar senior season at Arkansas, completing 68.5 percent of his passes while posting an 17:4 TD-to-INT ratio. Standing over 6-6 and weighing 234 pounds, Franks has elite size, and he reportedly ran a 4.55 40-yard dash. That combination of tools is sure to get Franks drafted in the middle or late rounds, and like Newman, if he lands with the right team and is given time to develop, he could be an intriguing prospect.