What a strange year it’s already been. February came and went without an off-season staple: the Combine. Though the reason is understandable, with there being a pandemic and more important health issues at stake. However, for fans of the sport, it does feel like something’s off. It just feels like things aren’t quite right without the post-Super Bowl event.
For some, it even cures those football withdrawals they’ve been going through. But one thing fans and front offices still got, was a glimpse of Clemson phenom Trevor Lawrence at his pro-day.
With the logistics much easier to handle, Lawrence still held the event. He did so in front of his presumed future head coach Urban Meyer. Meyer took over the Jaguars starting gig earlier this off-season with his eyes fully set on Lawrence as his signal-caller. At least, that’s what the football world assumes, of course.
Top two but Not one?
Last week, analyst Chris Simms revealed a top six QBs list for the upcoming draft. It stirred much controversy as the aforementioned gunslinger Lawrence came in at number two. It seems most people viewed his list as outlandish. After all, how could he have anyone other than generational talent Lawrence as number one? One clear thing is this will be one of the craziest draft classes in recent memory.
Simms’ number one guy is Zach Wilson out of Brigham Young University. He cites comparisons to Mahomes and Rodgers as the main reason for this ranking. And at first, you may seem reluctant to buy his narrative. But even the NFL questioned Mahomes’ abilities before the 2017 draft.
And Rodgers had an infamously long wait to hear his name called that fateful night in 2005. So this should say something. Something like Simms possibly being right and Wilson being the league’s next stud.
It’s Happened Before
Too many teams passed on Mahomes early, when he was sitting right there for all these teams to have. Teams kept passing on Rodgers leading to a huge draft-night slide. Wilson might be the next draft night mistake. And sure, you can say he had an easy schedule with BYU being independent; but, you should also take into account he doesn’t have the talent of a Lawrence playing for BYU.
On the field and in the highlight reels, he consistently popped. He just has that playmaker feel about him. An improviser with the football, unlike other prospects. That kind of talent often translates from level to level. And it’d be a mistake for any team to pass up on that kind of tantalizing potential.
The only problem is, Lawrence himself is viewed as a unicorn-like prospect. It’s unlikely that Jacksonville will pass up the opportunity to draft a prospect as hyped up as Andrew Luck. This means the chance exists for Wilson to exceed his draft position.
A team might get the rare steal early in the draft. Whether that’s at pick number two to the Jets or later in the draft. Imagine a pivotal primetime matchup in the future between Lawrence’s Jags and Wilson’s Jets. That’s box office right there.
Still, Simms’ outside-the-box list shows just how much potential this class has. The ultimate boom-or-bust class. This class could have various Hall-of-Famers, or have some guys that quickly fizzle out of the league.
After Lawrence and Wilson, the consolations prizes are nothing to sneeze at. You got a guy who out-dueled Lawrence in a college football matchup in Justin Fields, a guy who led Alabama to a national title in Mac Jones, a guy who never lost for North Dakota State and has all the tools in the world in Trey Lance and a guy who played tough in the SEC in Kellen Mond.
All these guys outside of Jones are built the way the NFL likes the position these days. They can run for yards and yards to extend a play and throw the ball downfield or pick up that pivotal first down with their legs. That’s not to say Jones can’t. He’s just built more like a throwback passer and has drawn up Brady comparisons. That says a ton that the 3rd or 4th best prospect in the class is drawing comparisons to the guy who just won his 7th ring.
You’d think that having this many options would make a GM’s job easy, but with the lack of a season for a guy like Lance and COVID disrupting the overall flow of the game, it’s actually harder; and, GM’s have so many guys with round 1 grades to look at that you could just miss and the very next GM could hit with their pick. It’s a stressful time for them for sure.
But for fans and the media alike, the next few months and seasons will bring forth a ton of intriguing storylines. The drama of the actual draft night, teams building around these guys, and matchups pitting these rookies against each other will provide plenty of intrigues.
The Other Guys
Mond is a forgotten man that might get more immediate media attention after Simms’ list ranked him ahead of Justin Fields. As a starter at Texas A&M, Mond displayed true dual-threat ability that brought some of that Manziel flare back to the Aggies. And yet, Mond is a much better athlete. A part of his game that doesn’t get as much attention. He made plays with his arm, no doubt, but he can move with the best of the league’s swift-footed quarterbacks.
Lance hails from the same small program as the much-maligned Carson Wentz. He never lost a game for the school. He’s flashed tools akin to that of Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen. He combines a super strong arm with quickness and agility that’s not often found at the position. The unicorn-like style is the epitome of boom-or-bust, and he’s raw for sure.
Having only played the one game, and playing pretty mediocre, hurts him for sure. But people were saying that of Allen a couple of years ago and he never really played up to his full potential at Wyoming. He’s doing something even better — playing up to his potential in the National Football League. So, the possibility exists for Lance to follow in his footsteps.
Jones clearly benefited from a strong arsenal of weapons at Alabama, and it’s possible that led to skewed stats. But keep in mind that he still had to place the ball within reach for his playmakers, and navigate the sky-high expectations of a Saban-led team. He’s got the moxie to be a winner and he’s got the confidence that only having a very impressive collegiate season under his belt could bring. This might give off some Joe Burrow-esque vibes, as well it should.
Saved for last is Fields, who not too long ago was discussed on talk shows as possibly being the number one overall selection. Suddenly, he’s being placed as the 4th or even 5th best prospect at his position. That is just ludicrous when your turn on the tape and see a guy with a live arm, the ability to put defensive studs on skates, and a winning resume for THE Ohio State University.
Maybe the recent failures of alumnus Dwyane Haskins have something to do with that. But Fields shouldn’t have to suffer because Haskins hasn’t developed. Fields also showed unrivaled toughness in playing for the national title hurt. So he’s got those intangibles you look for and the talent to match.
Here’s the thing — it’s really hard to fault anyone for whatever order they choose to rank these future NFL QB’s. Maybe except for putting Lawrence past the number two spot. But even then, who knows who’ll be right in five or ten years.
After Simms’ list, anything is possible and maybe the idea of Lawrence being even lower on the list will lose some of its shock factors. Think about the possibility of the next Luck, Mahomes, Allen, Burrow, Brady all existing within this one draft class. Let the thought simmer because it’s a reasonably reasonable possibility when you look deep into the potential of each college star.
It’ll be exciting to see it all unfold in the gridiron with all the deep bombs and pylon reaching runs.