In 2018, four of the top 10 picks were quarterbacks. Three seasons later, one of those players was in the MVP conversation, a second led his team to their first playoff win in 25 years, a third is on the trading block, and the other is already on his fourth different franchise.
But it was the fifth quarterback taken, Lamar Jackson, who has already won an MVP and posted a 30-7 career regular season record.
In 2011, four of the top 12 picks were quarterbacks. Top pick Cam Newton won an MVP and made one Super Bowl appearance, but Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, and Christian Ponder could barely refer to themselves as “former starters” in the NFL. The player with the most passing yards in the 2011 class is not Newton, but 35th overall pick Andy Dalton. And the player who came closest to winning a Super Bowl, then nearly getting back to it the following year, was not Newton but 36th overall pick Colin Kaepernick.
Tyrod Taylor, the 180th overall pick in 2011, could be the most viable starting option from the entire class as of 2021.
And finally in 1999, five quarterbacks were selected in the top 12 of the draft. Of the five, two would become stars of their era; though Daunte Culpepper was worn down by age 28, and Donovan McNabb faded from premier relevancy after losing the Super Bowl in 2004. But Culpepper still had as many seasons as a starter as the other three top 12 quarterbacks of that class combined: Tim Couch, Akili Smith, and Cade McNown.
Couch’s five seasons with the Browns makes him look like George Blanda in comparison to Smith and McNown.
Some will pipe in to argue that 2021’s scouts, general managers, and coaches are somehow better at evaluating or that these quarterbacks enter the league with a lot more tools and preparation that makes it more difficult to fail, but this argument ignores facts in favor of fantasies. Because 2018 was only three years ago and Josh Rosen was graded by some as the best pick of that top 10.
And 2017 was only four years ago, when Mitchell Trubisky went eight picks over Patrick Mahomes and 10 picks ahead of Deshaun Watson.
And in 2019, Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins went in the top 15. And in 2020, serious doubts have been raised about Tua Tagovailoa less than a year into his career of replacing Rosen as Ryan Fitzpatrick’s backup.
The NFL world will enter the 2021 NFL Draft with many unfounded beliefs that Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, and Mac Jones will easily be able to transfer what skills they have from the college level to the pros. Even the harshest critics seem to take it easy on these prospects, because this is not an evaluation you’ll often hear from Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, or The Draft Network:
“I think Zach Wilson will start two or three games in his career.”
“I think Trey Lance will be released in two years.”
“I think Trevor Lawrence’s ceiling is Carson Wentz, post-2017.”
“I think the best quarterback in this class is Feleipe Franks.”
Statements like these only sound like hot takes because we are still living in the world that takes place before they enter the NFL. But five years after the Rams and Eagles gave up a lot to select Jared Goff and Carson Wentz with the top two picks, we can see how much draft evaluations change once pro performance is put on film and the only results that matter are on the record.
Today’s infallible love for a prospect is often tomorrow’s disappointment, and if we could predict where those disappointments would come from, then we wouldn’t invest adoration to begin with. Conversely, if anyone in the NFL could tell you who the next Tom Brady was going to be, then he wouldn’t be the next Tom Brady. Because he’d go a hell of a lot higher than the sixth round.
The LA Rams traded for Matthew Stafford this year and the investment would suggest that the team is not interested in selecting a quarterback on day two. Les Snead hasn’t drafted a quarterback since Goff, but he did take Garrett Gilbert in the sixth round in 2014 and Sean Mannion in the third round in 2015. Circumstances today are much different and the Rams appear to have affection for backup John Wolford, so using a pick on a quarterback seems counterintuitive towards improving the roster for the next few seasons.
But quarterbacks are a different breed and if any team thought that a steal had fallen into their laps, the possibility always exists.
Here are the top-ranked quarterbacks of the 2021 NFL Draft, in an order that is set in sand and the tide is coming:
Out of Rams range
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
6’6, 220, 21 years old
Zach Wilson, BYU
6’3, 203, 21
Justin Fields, Ohio State
6’3, 228, 21
Trey Lance, North Dakota State
6’4, 226, 20
Mac Jones, Alabama
6’3, 214, 22
Maybe talked about on Day 2
Kyle Trask, Florida
6’5, 239, 22
Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
6’4, 225, 21
Jamie Newman, Wake Forest
6’4, 230, 23
Davis Mills, Stanford
6’4, 212, 22
Ian Book, Notre Dame
6’, 206, 23
Maybe talked about on Day 3
Sam Ehlinger, Texas
6’3, 225, 22
K.J. Costello, Mississippi State
6’5, 225, 23
Shane Buchele, SMU
6’1, 207, 23
Peyton Ramsey, Northwestern
6’2, 220, 23
Feleipe Franks, Arkansas
6’6, 234, 23
Zac Thomas, Appalachian State
6’1, 210, 23
Dustin Crum, Kent State
6’3, 200, 22
Please keep in mind that one of the worst things that can happen to a person is that they say phrases like, “Wow, how stupid that you have that player as “day 2” when they definitely won’t even be drafted!” Don’t let this happen to you or any of your friends or family. This is a rough list of quarterback prospects in a general and inoffensive order with two months to go before the draft. If Costello happens to go in round three and Mills goes undrafted, it won’t affect me in the slightest.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t chime in opinions of what you believe the order should be. Strong opinions are encouraged. But if we knew what was going to happen in the 2021 NFL Draft, then what is the point of the spectacle? Just release a list of new rookie players for each team and let’s get to minicamp.
Should the Rams AVOID drafting a quarterback at all costs?
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Yes, now is not the time
No, not if the right player falls to them
Who is the best QB in the 2021 NFL Draft?
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Who is the best non-Trevor QB?
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