JACKSONVILLE – The 2021 quarterback class is about more than Trevor Lawrence.
With most draft analysts projecting at least five quarterbacks selected in Round 1, the 2021 NFL Draft in fact is considered one of the strongest at the position in recent memory.
"Everyone focuses on Trevor Lawrence," NFL Media/Jaguars Media analyst Bucky Brooks said, "but beyond Trevor Lawrence, you have guys who should not only be able to come in and make an immediate impact – but guys we could eventually celebrate as stars in the league for the next decade or so."
Lawrence, who played collegiately at Clemson University, is widely projected to be the No. 1 overall selection by the Jaguars. Analysts project the following quarterbacks also could be selected in the Top 20, with much of the group likely to be selected in the Top 5 or 10: Zach Wilson, Brigham Young; Justin Fields, Ohio State; Mac Jones, Alabama; Trey Lance, North Dakota State.
"I would be very surprised if one dropped to 20," ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. "I just think that's not going to happen. The quarterbacks always get forced up higher than they probably should. In this case, I don't think they are getting forced up. I think that's where they're graded out to go and where they should go based on their rating."
HANDICAPPING THE JAGUARS
The Jaguars, who currently hold the No. 1 overall selection in the draft for the first time in franchise history, appear almost certain to use the selection on a quarterback – with draft analysts nearly unanimously predicting Lawrence with the selection. Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer in recent days moved a long way toward confirming this when he told Peter King of Football Morning in America, "I'd have to say that's the direction we're going." Lawrence is widely considered the best quarterback prospect in the class – and the best quarterback prospect since the Indianapolis Colts selected Andrew Luck No. 1 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. The Jaguars signed quarterback C.J. Beathard, a fifth-year veteran who spent his first four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, as an unrestricted free agent late last week. The team also could sign a collegiate free agent following the draft or select one late; that decision could depend on how the team feels about second-year veteran Jake Luton, who started three games as a rookie sixth-round selection last season. Big issue to watch: the status of Gardner Minshew II, a sixth-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft who started 20 games over his first two seasons. Observers have speculated he could be traded, but Meyer recently said nothing on the quarterback front has yet been decided.
PROJECTED FIRST-ROUND QUARTERBACKS
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson; Zach Wilson, Brigham Young; Justin Fields, Ohio State; Mac Jones, Alabama; Trey Lance, North Dakota State.
POSITION RANKING: 1 of 10.
CHANCES JAGUARS TAKE A QUARTERBACK IN ROUND 1
As close to 100 percent as possible.
QBs ON THE JAGUARS ROSTER
On the roster: C.J. Beathard, Gardner Minshew II, Jake Luton.
BROOKS BREAKS DOWN THE CLASS
The 2021 quarterback class is loaded with talented prospects with big-time arm talent and playmaking ability. Each of the top quarterbacks in the class display enough athleticism, mobility and running skills to pose problems as dual threats from the pocket. Studying Lawrence, Wilson, Fields and Lance, it doesn't take long to appreciate the pressure each playmaker puts on the defense with their ability to create big plays on scripted or impromptu plays. Although their playing styles vary, it is easy to envision each quarterback enjoying success in an offense that is specifically tailored to their talents. Jones also deserves a mention as a top prospect. Despite lacking exceptional athleticism, he is a capable starter due to ability to carve up defenses with surgical precision as a pocket passer.
Keep an eye on Texas A&M standout Kellen Mond as a surprise standout in the 2021 class. The underrated dual threat has 45 career starts on his resume and a combination of skills (arm talent, athleticism and football IQ) that make him an intriguing option for a team that likes to put the quarterback on the move. As one of only three quarterbacks in SEC history with 9,000 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards, Mond could emerge as a quality starter at the position.
Lawrence is the best player in the class. As a 6-foot-6, 215-pounder with A-plus arm talent, athleticism and football intelligence, he is the prototypical franchise quarterback that every evaluator seeks at the position. He is best described as Justin Herbert-plus due to his similarities to the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year as a playmaker. The Clemson standout has a playing style that is not only comparable to the Los Angeles Chargers' star but has a little more sizzle and electricity. Lawrence can dazzle as a pocket passer playing on schedule or as an impromptu playmaker with the capacity to create big plays on the perimeter. He is the ultimate QB1 in the class with the leadership skills and confidence to put a franchise on his back.