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NFL Draft: The Next Wave of Quarterback Prospects

2021 makes the fourth NFL Draft in a row that a quarterback has been selected with the number one overall pick and since 2001, 16 of the 21 first picks have been quarterbacks.

The quarterback position will always been the key target in the NFL Draft as, typically, it’s the difference in being a great team and a bad team.

Key to remember though that the top overall pick isn’t the only quarterback selected. In 2021 alone, there were five quarterbacks selected in the first 15 picks.

Usually, it’s the later-drafted quarterbacks who have the most success. Since 2001, the only number one overall selected quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl are Peyton and Eli Manning. The quarterback with the most Super Bowl wins? Tom Brady; a sixth-round selection in the 2000 NFL Draft.

We may spend a ton of time talking about names like Trevor Lawrence, Joe Burrow, Kyler Murray, and Baker Mayfield, but based on recent history, it’s likely only one of those four, if any, ever make an appearance in the Super Bowl.

Speaking of Super Bowl quarterbacks, we are witnessing a “changing of the guard” in the NFL at the position. With players such as Drew Brees, Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers retiring in the last two seasons; Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan losing a battle with Father Time, and legends like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers still at the top of their game, but getting long in the tooth, the next wave of quarterbacks is upon us.

While the league is actually rather young at the quarterback position currently with the majority of teams set with their “Franchise” quarterback, or at least, a projected starter under the age of 30, we all now how quickly that can change.

Teams such as Atlanta, Carolina, Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota, New Orleans, New York Giants, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Washington all could be looking for quarterbacks in the next three draft classes according to future draft predictions by Walter Football’s website.

That doesn’t necessary mean that all these teams will draft a quarterback, or even need one as they could make trades, use free agency, or develop a quarterback that isn’t on anyone’s radar just yet.

Nonetheless, it’s a good sized list which makes it easy to look at the next crop of quarterbacks with the thought that many will be starters by 2024. Looking for the next Trevor Lawrence? As of now, there isn’t a “sure thing” guy like that on the watch list of now, but still some big names that’ll be available over the next two drafts.

Let’s start with the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft.

We recently looked at the top 32 prospects on the Big Board and found a few quarterbacks that may go at the top of the draft and that list begins with North Carolina’s Sam Howell.

Howell is not a Trevor Lawrence-like prospect, but does remind a lot of scouts of Baker Mayfield. Standing at 6-1, 225-pounds, Howell has thrown for over 7,000 yards with 68 touchdowns at North Carolina under Mack Brown and as of now, seems like the top quarterback in the Class of 2022, but he has a bunch of guys right on his heels.

Speaking of Mayfield, another high quality Oklahoma prospect is projected as a first-round pick in Spencer Rattler. A redshirt freshman last season, Rattler had some ups and downs in his first season as a starter, but for my money, he’s the one must-see QB on the board for 2022.

Rattler is a playmaker and showed outstanding growth in the final few games of the 2020 season and plays in the same system that has created some outstanding NFL talent. Mayfield as well as Kyler Murray went from Oklahoma to the Heisman Trophy ceremony to the top pick in the NFL Draft; could Rattler be the next Sooner to do so?

Time will tell, but neither Rattler nor Howell is built like a prototypical quarterback which is where the name Kedon Slovis comes in.

Slovis, out of Southern Cal, is a classic quarterback that has thrown for nearly 50 touchdowns the last two seasons. Slovis will need to turnover the football much less, but if Slovis and USC get on the right track, there’s a good chance that teams looking for an accurate, polarizing quarterback prospect will select Slovis early.

The 2022 quarterback draft class isn’t nearly as top heavy as the 2021 class, but it is deeper as there is potential of eight quarterbacks to be drafted in the first two rounds.

Outside of Howell, Rattler, and Slovis; J.T. Daniels out of Georgia, Desmond Ridder out of Cincinnati, Tyler Shough out of Texas Tech, Carson Strong out of Nevada, and Matt Corral out of Ole Miss have shown potential to become NFL quarterbacks and all will have a great chance to climb up the draft board in 2022.

Plus, there’s always a name that’s not brought up much that makes a wild rise up draft boards. From Joe Burrow to Zach Wilson, quarterbacks are just a handful of great plays and wins away from going from unknown to potential first-round pick.

Jayden Daniels of Arizona State is a dark horse Heisman candidate that could gain some NFL attention while Malik Willis of Liberty already has some scouts trying to get a jump on what he could become at the next level.

2022 is a loaded defensive draft class, so if none of these quarterbacks grade high enough for some teams, this would be the draft to select a potential defensive superstar instead of reaching on a quarterback.

With players like Derek Stingley Jr., Kayvon Thibodeaux, Christian Harris, and Kyle Hamilton, it would make sense for a team that didn’t feel they were a QB-away from contending to reach with a top five pick with some future All-Pro defensive prospects available.

Feels like forever away, but hey, it’s the Draft after next and it doesn’t feature as large of a quarterback class, but features a class similar to 2021 with three big time players with high pro potential.

In 2023, the NFL Draft will be headline by a three quarterback battle for the top spot as Clemson’s D.J. Uiagalelei, Alabama’s Bryce Young, and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud all already look like pro prospects entering 2021.

Wait, quarterbacks from Clemson, Alabama, and Ohio State?? Has this ever happen before?

Entering 2021, there will be other prospects that emerge this season that will be added to the 2023 Draft watch list, but as of now, it’s hard to imagine anyone passing up that trio.

The 2023 NFL Draft could be the next to feature three straight quarterbacks taken with the first three picks as we seen in this year’s draft. So, if your team didn’t get their “guy” this season, don’t sweat it: plenty of talent is on the way in the next two NFL Drafts at the quarterback position!

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NFL Draft 2021: When Will Each Quarterback Take Over Their New Team?

The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft has come gone and while there were a few surprises, the “big five” quarterbacks were all selected in the top half of the draft has expected.

So, now that the dust has settled, who’s in the best fit going forward and when will we find out?

Now, look…none of these guys are likely to come in and become a superstar overnight. Most likely won’t even start week one or even up until the middle of the season. But, that’s usually a good thing!

Each selection comes with its on risk and reward factor, but we’ll take an in-depth look at each quarterback selected and how I believe they’ll “mesh” with their new NFL franchises including when we’ll see each rookie.

#1 – Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

We’ve been able to break this pick down since January because it was the no-brainier of the NFL Draft. Lawrence has been labeled, “Can’t Miss,” “Franchise Savior,” and “The Greatest QB Prospect Ever.”

No pressure, right?

While Lawrence checks all the boxes including the ticket-selling, must-see TV box that the Khan’s will love as we close in on the season, the Jaguars must be smart when it comes to throwing the young QB prospect into the fire. That will be hard to do since the city, and most the NFL, can’t wait to see what Lawrence becomes as a pro, the best bet is to hold him out until at least Week 4 or 5 if possible if not later.

With Gardner Minshew and C.J. Beathard on the roster, starting them early while Lawrence gets a chance to watch the game up close and continue to rehab the spring shoulder surgery is the best option for his long-term success.

As for the fit, I love the idea of Lawrence in an Urban Meyer-offensive scheme. But, it may take a few years to build around the young quarterback. Right now, Jacksonville still has holes everywhere on offense and defense. With D.J. Clark at WR and the combo of James Robinson and another first-round selection in Travis Etienne, the Jaguars offense could create some highlights, but the offensive line is a work-in-progress and the defense is a complete rebuild of where it was just three seasons ago.

Overall, Lawrence should be able to come in toward the middle of season and learn in a low-pressure setting as the Jaguars aren’t expected to be playoff contender in 2021. But, after a full season, another free agency period, and another likely top ten draft pick, expectations will be much highers for Lawrence and Jacksonville in 2022-23.

#2 – Zach Wilson, New York Jets

If there’s one quarterback rookie that is most likely to start week one, I’d put money on Zach Wilson with the Jets. Wilson comes from a pro-style offense and is a high IQ player who won’t take long to adjust to the NFL style of play.

The Jets also don’t have a ton of options at quarterback unless they plan on signing a veteran to push and/or guide Wilson during his rookie year. While I think it’s best for players like Lawrence, Lance, Fields, and Mac Jones to sit early in the season, I’m really content with Wilson playing from day one for the Jets.

New head coach Robert Saleh will put a lot of focus on improving the Jets’ defense this season and I expect that to pay off by December as the Jets have a young nucleus of talent on the defensive side of the ball. New offensive coordinator Mike Lafleur will be the one who guides Wilson through his rookie year.

Lafleur dealt with an unusual quarterback carousel in San Francisco, but usually kept the 49ers in the NFL’s top half when it came to passing yards and passing efficiency throughout the last three seasons. Lafleur will be able to take Wilson under his wing and create an offense built around the young quarterback going forward.

#3 – Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers

While I love this pick so much more than the idea of the 49ers drafting Mac Jones, I still feel as if the less of Lance we see in 2021, the better.

Lance was 17-0 as a starter, but has played and thrown the ball less than any top ten quarterback draft pick in NFL history. He’s the enigma of the 2021 NFL Draft class, but also the most intriguing and the biggest risk-reward pick in the last few seasons.

Lance is phenomenal decision-maker who can make every throw, has excellent mobility, and is built like an NFL All-Pro. Lance would’ve been a great with any team in the Draft that could sit him and allow him to develop for at least one season. The 49ers at pick No. 3 is not different.

Keeping Jimmy Garoppolo is the key for San Francisco as we must remember how sought after and big of a prospect Jimmy was just a few seasons ago. Moving on from Garoppolo right now would be a mistake even if the 49ers selected Trevor Lawrence. This is Garoppolo’s team for at least the next season. Kyle Shanahan loved what Garoppolo when he first acquired the quarterback, but of course, when it comes to the draft, its easy to want to play with the new shiny toy.

A full year to develop, work with Garoppolo and Shanahan is a must for the North Dakota State prospect. I believe Trey Lance would thrive and become a statistical star in the Kyle Shanahan zone-read offense, but I hope we don’t see it until at least week 12 or later including the possibility of no starts until 2022.

#11 – Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

I never thought I would say this, but the Chicago Bears won day one of the NFL Draft. It’s hard to remember that back in January, some were calling for Justin Fields to leapfrog Trevor Lawrence as the top player in the draft! Now, that was short-lived and preposterous, but it just shows how big of a prospect Fields is.

Some questions about his mechanics, anticipation, and adaptability to the NFL game led to a slide, but to land Fields anywhere outside the top five is a steal if I’ve ever seen one. But, to the Bears at No. 11?? That’s a home run for Matt Nagy.

The Bears have two veteran quarterbacks to mentor the young quarterback this season with Nick Foles and Andy Dalton; two quarterbacks with great experience, skills to play at a high level in 2021, and understanding that neither are the “face of the franchise” being on the wrong side of 30.

Both quarterbacks will play this season, but the bigger role for both is the development of Justin Fields as he may not play in 2021 which would be a-okay in my book. Depending on what happens with the Packers this offseason with their quarterback situation, the Bears could contend for the playoffs this season, but if things go wrong and they find themselves way out of the playoff picture by week 12, the Bears may go ahead and pull the trigger on Fields.

Fields’ playing time this season will all depend on the success of the Bears under Foles and/or Dalton as well as their ability to stay healthy which has been a problem for both men over the last few seasons.

#15 – Mac Jones, New England Patriots

Tom Brady 2.0?? Let’s pump the brakes a bit here Patriots’ fans.

There’s still a bunch of question marks about Mac Jones including his ability to get out of the pocket against NFL-speed defense, but in terms of an NFL passer? He may be number two in this draft behind Lawrence. Plus, it’s without a doubt he’ll improve rapidly learning from the combination of Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels if there’s still room to learn after a few years under Nick Saban.

Mac may be the best-coached 20-something year old NFL player in the history of football, honestly.

Nonetheless, when the Patriots made the surprising decision to re-sign Cam Newton, it made it clear that New England intended to start Newton for the foreseeable future. But, how long is that?

Depends on two things: Newton’s health and Mac Jones’ development.

Cam Newton has taken a beating the last few seasons and it’s clear he’s not the same “SuperCam” he was in the Carolina days. As a day on starter though, Newton is still the best option though for the Patriots. It’s key to remember though that the Patriots have done a rare thing and spent a good amount of money this offseason in hopes of returning to a playoff and championship contending team.

Bill Belichick isn’t afraid to hurt feelings (right, Drew Bledsoe?), so while other rookies may only play this year if their team struggles, if the Patriots are even close to contending for the playoffs and Newton is banged up or turning the ball over at a high rate, don’t be surprised to see Mac Jones anytime between week six and week ten. Mac Jones is great at reading a defense, has veteran-like pocket presence and can make every pocket throw – all things that will make Jones a big time weapon in the Josh McDaniels offense.

I can see Mac Jones leading the Patriots into a late run that leads to a wild card spot in the playoffs. Probably not your Rookie of the Year, but Mac will likely be the first class of 2021 quarterback to start a playoff game this season.

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Fall College Football Season In Jeopardy?

After taking precautions this off-season including programs delaying summer conditioning and preseason practice, adding and following health and safety protocols, and altering the schedule to only play conference opponents, it still seems the hopes of a fall college football season is fading quickly.

Last week, NCAA Division II and III both canceled their fall sports championships resulting in many conferences pushing back football to the spring of 2021.

In the FBS, UConn got the ball rolling by suspending all football activities for the 2020 season. This worried some around college football, but some others brushed it off due to the fact that UConn was playing as an independent this season therefore would’ve faced problems just getting a full schedule.

Then, on Saturday, the first major domino may have fallen.

The first FBS conference to pull the plug on fall sports would be the Mid-American Conference as they announced that they would postpone the entire fall sports season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

League presidents voted unanimously for the postponement and will hold on hope there will be a way to play football in the spring.

The MAC is in no way a Power 5 conference, but without the ability to play non-conference games against Power 5 schools, the MAC member schools would be strained in their ability to implement all the safety and health protocols the bigger conferences would have in their journey to play this season.

Therefore, that still leaves a bit of hope for Power 5 football this fall…until Sunday.

An emergency meeting between commissioners of the Power 5 conferences was held to discuss the likelihood of actually playing fall sports. The overall feeling from the meeting was that every day that goes by, it seems more and more likely that it would be impossible to play this fall.

Many conference leaders, especially those from the Big Ten, expressed interest in postponing the college football season until the Spring in hopes that the pandemic would be better controlled by early next year.

While conference leaders explore different avenues for the season, players have begin to jump in to the talks.

While some notable players have opted out of the 2020 college football season including projected NFL first-round picks Caleb Farley (CB, V-Tech), Jaylen Twyman (DT, Pitt), Rondale Moore (WR, Purdue), and Micah Parsons (LB, Penn State) among others, maybe the most notable spoke out on Sunday.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence took to Twitter with a series of tweets expressing interest in playing and also, mentioning the risks involved with not playing this season.

Using the hashtag #WeWantToPlay, Lawrence was met with support from other notable players including Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Oklahoma State running back Cuba Hubbard and Alabama running back Najee Harris.

Parents from many players have also pledged their support to the players movement of playing this season.

If there is play, regardless of the schedule or if teams just play “regional” opponents, if there is travel, there will be positive tests.

It’s inevitable with the virus at it’s current state.

Major League Baseball has ran into it’s problems with multiple outbreaks and while that will get the mass attention, for the most part, the season has been a success through early-August.

The way it looks though now, I wouldn’t be surprised if this Fall features only pro football and we see a Spring college football season featuring an unusual schedule, a high number of injuries and many notable players opting out due to the risk with playing so close to the NFL Draft.

But, hey, spring college football is better than no college football, right?