NFL Draft rumors are everywhere with the 2021 NFL Draft approaching, and much of the spotlight centers on this year’s quarterback class. While everyone knows Trevor Lawrence will be the No. 1 overall pick, there’s rampant speculation regarding where the other top passers will land.
With the NFL Scouting Combine wiped out this year, we won’t get to see the top talents from this class show off their skills on NFL Network. It’s also given teams a little less information to evaluate the quarterbacks coming off a college football season that already saw players and teams sidelined by COVID-19.
Right now, Ohio State star Justin Fields and BYU quarterback Zach Wilson are the premier talents behind Lawrence. After that, many have talked about North Dakota State QB Trey Lance as the fourth-ranked player among his peers and projected him as a top-10 pick.
Now, based on the latest chatter around the NFL, another quarterback might hear his name called early on draft day.
Entering the 2020 season, Lance had a chance to follow in the footsteps of Carson Wentz as a top-five pick out of North Dakota State. Unfortunately, coming off a phenomenal 2019 campaign, the coronavirus pandemic forced NDSU to suspend its football season until the spring.
According to NBC Sports’ Peter King, Lance being forced to sit out almost the entire 2020 season is a real concern for teams. The NFL insider spoke with one coach who mentioned the need to see more from Lance, with so many questions about a small sample size of success at an FCS program. Ultimately, King says there is a legitimate chance Mac Jones is drafted ahead of Lance.
It highlights the weight recent games can have in evaluations. A year ago, you couldn’t find an NFL scout who would even dream of ranking Jones ahead of Lance. At that point, Jones was an iffy starter for the Alabama Crimson Tide with little experience or signs of great physical talent.
Everything changed this past year. Alabama’s 6-foot-3 quarterback thrived, winning the Manning Award, Davey O’Brien Award and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.
Jones attempted just 154 passes in his first two seasons with the Crimson Tide. As the full-time starter in 2020, he posted an incredible 41-4 TD-INT ratio, completed 77.4% of his passes and threw for 4,500 yards. In the College Football Playoff National Championship, the junior quarterback recorded five touchdown passes, completed 80% of his attempts and threw for 464 yards in a dominant win over Fields and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Based on physical talent, Jones certainly doesn’t compare to the North Dakota State star. Lance rushed for 1,100 yards and 14 scores in his sophomore season and paired it with an absurd 28-0 TD-INT ratio. He offers the athleticism and arm strength that you can build an offense around, like we’ve seen for Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson.
As for Jones, what NFL teams see is what they’ll get. He is better at throwing deep than Tua Tagovailoa and handles pressure very well. He’s a pocket quarterback who needs strong weapons around him to thrive, but there are certain fits in the NFL that can maximize his skills.
If a team needs a pro-ready quarterback who can start in Week 1, Jones should be the guy. Otherwise, based on the physical upside, Lance should be the preferred option. No matter which quarterback an organization prefers, both are locks to be first-round picks.