We invented independent draft analysis at Pro Football Weekly in 1969 and made it a cottage industry, hiring the legendary Joel Buchsbaum in 1979 and replacing him after his tragic passing with Nolan Nawrocki.
So this is a subject I know a little bit about.
There are a number of excellent guys out there now, but for me the one who may be the closest to Buchsbaum as an analyst – there will never be another character quite like Joel – is Lance Zeierlein, whose work you’ll find at NFL.com.
In following Zeierlein, I’ve been really impressed with how close his overall draft board is each year to a number of teams I am able to get information from.
So what if I told you that according to Zeierlein and NFL.com, after Trevor Lawrence – who has one of the highest grades we’ve seen at any position in years – Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones all have grades significantly lower than Sam Darnold, Jarred Goff, Carson Wentz, Paxton Lynch, Dwayne Haskins and Josh Rosen did entering the draft?
Zeierlein has Wilson, Lance, Fields and Jones being the 13th-, 14th-, 17th- and 36th-best prospects in this draft, respectively, yet highly regarded analysts everywhere have all five going in the top 10 to 13 picks.
They all may turn out to be Hall of Famers, but knowing that QBs drafted in the first round over the past 10 seasons have failed at a rate of nearly nine out of every 10, this actually is one of the lower graded, most overrated groups we’ve seen.
Now, onto our rankings.
1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson (6-6, 220, Junior)
He’s the closest to a “sure thing” we’ve seen entering the draft since Andrew Luck in 2012. Size, arm talent, athleticism, pocket presence and awareness, game experience, big-game experience, quality wins, temperament and character. He’s the complete package.
2. Trey Lance, North Dakota St. (6-4, 224, Redshirt Sophomore)
Several of these kids have “Mitch Trubisky disease” – severely limited college experience – and Lance is one with only 17 college starts and 314 pass attempts in FCS ball. But I have him at No. 2 because his skill set and scouting report most closely remind me of Josh Allen, one of the few first-round QBs to make it in recent years. Classic boom-or-bust pick.
3. Zach Wilson, BYU (6-2, 215, Junior)
Wilson has more experience, with 30 starts in college, but most of it was pretty unimpressive until a breakout 2020 season. He has plenty of arm talent and even more confidence, but he’s a one-year wonder with a ton left to prove.
4. Justin Fields, Ohio St. (6-3, 227, Junior)
Excellent size and athleticism, good if not great arm and plenty of toughness give him a chance to be a very good one. Some scouts are downgrading him because of his proximity to Haskins, but I don’t see a lot of similarities. I am concerned about his field awareness, however, and how it will translate at the next level.
5. Mac Jones, Alabama (6-3, 220, Redshirt Junior)
Another one-year wonder with only 17 starts at Alabama and serious questions as to how much was him and how much was the ton of talent around him. There is a lot to like about his game but far more we don’t yet know about it.
6. Kyle Trask, Florida (6-5, 236, Redshirt Senior)
Arm talent, size and strength will get him drafted in the second round, but everything else you look for in a franchise QB prospect is missing or a question mark.
7. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M (6-2, 211, Senior)
Mond is a four-year starter and a dual-threat athletically, but there is little or no wow in his game. Feels like a third- or fourth-round developmental prospect.
8. Davis Mills, Stanford (6-4, 215, Redshirt Junior)
Talk about inexperience, Mills had only 11 starts at Stanford, and he’s not a special athlete, but in limited available tape, he appears to check all the other boxes. He’s worth a look in the third round.
9. Jamie Newman, Wake Forest (6-3, 230, Redshirt Senior)
Interesting Day 3 prospect who could surprise but needs time and a ton of work.
10. Sam Ehlinger, Texas (6-1, 220, Senior)
Doesn’t have a lot of what you’re looking for, but character, toughness, leadership and competitiveness will get him a shot somewhere on Day 3.