Three quarterbacks were taken in the top 10 picks of the 2021 NFL draft after impressive college careers: Justin Fields out of Ohio State, Trevor Lawrence out of Clemson and Trey Lance out of North Dakota. As we approach opening day of the new season, they have each been named the starting quarterbacks for their respective teams. Can they become franchise QBs, and how soon will fans know if they’ve found “the one”?
All three of these quarterbacks have size, athleticism and the arm talent it takes to be successful at the next level. But all are coming into very different and challenging scenarios, playing for teams that won very few games in the last season. Whether or not they turn it around has more to do with the coach, scheme, surrounding talent and other important details that go into an NFL career. It’s important to break down where each young quarterback is going to determine how much success can be expected out of the gate.
First overall pick Justin Fields, arguably the most athletic of the three, is entering a Carolina team that only won a single game in the previous season. Looking at the attributes on paper, Fields clearly has the kind of athleticism Panthers fans grew accustomed to watching when they had Cam Newton, a regular season and now Super Bowl MVP following the Patriots victory this past February. He has 93 throw power, 89 speed, 89 change of direction and 88 acceleration. Weighing in at 6’3 and 228 lbs, he has good size to exceed at the NFL level, though notably not quite as monstrous of a human being as “SuperCam”. Don’t worry Panthers fans; after this I’ll stop making the comparison between Cam and Fields. Because what’s much more important than the past is the future, and that’s exactly what coach JT believes he has found in Justin Fields, paralleling him to, you guessed it, Cam Newton.
“He fits my style of play. Having experience with Cam Newton for the past several years, Fields was the ideal candidate to fit the style I'm used to. I'm lucky to have an abundance of weapons who can make a big play on their own any time the ball is in their hands with CMC, DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Robby Anderson... adding one more weapon to the mix doesn't hurt,” said coach JT.
That brings us on to the next topic; the weapons Fields will have at his disposal. As mentioned by the Panthers head coach, they retained their speedy weapons at RB with All-Pro Christian McCafrey and talented (and incredibly speedy) wideouts Robby Anderson, DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel. If used properly, this offense certainly has potential to rank among the league's best.
The biggest two question marks for Fields early successes as a starting QB are two main issues: the lack of consistent play from one of the leagues lesser offensive lines, and the amount of help Fields gets from a young and growing defense. Those two aspects coming together will help to determine the difference in an individually good rookie season and a winning team season for the Carolina Panthers.
About 400 miles south of Justin Fields' new home in Charlotte, North Carolina, Trevor Lawrence is gearing up for what he hopes to be a great rookie season for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars turned their unfortunate season into a lot of excitement by taking one of the most successful quarterbacks in college football history at #2. Though on paper he's not as athletic as Fields, Lawrence still has great athleticism… boasting 83 speed and 94 throw power. And he is clearly the most accurate rookie QB, giving the Jags arm talent their franchise has never seen (sorry Mark Brunell, you’re a close second.) Much like Fields, Lawrence can make throws on the run, but unlike Fields, he has the kind of size NFL scouts covet: 6’6 and 220 lbs. Coach Chefscoopa anticipated that the Clemson great would fall to the Jaguars, and is glad he did.
“I knew with about 98% certainty that Trevor was gonna fall. JT had been super hinting at fields all season; truthfully this was a situation like the Redskins in the A.Luck/RG3 draft... I was good with either at No. 2,” said coach Chefscoopa.
When asked about what Lawrence brings to the table, he emphasized the arm talent, and the advantages that Lawrence presents over NFL quarterback and now iconic activist Colin Kaepernick, who started for the Jags last season.
“T. Law can make every throw on the field. There were some passes that we attempted last year with Kaep that he just didn’t have the total arm strength or the intermediate accuracy to make. Lawrence can hit those in Spades! The only thing that will hurt us this year will be reservation when calling plays. Other than that T. Law can definitely lead us to the Playoffs this year or, at the very least, be in the race for a spot late.”
Truthfully, this is real hope for a Jaguars team that has never tasted true long term success in the NFL; undoubtedly Jags fans are more excited this season than they have been in a long time. Lawrence college tape shows a lot more potential than their last first round QB selection Blake Bortles, a memory that the team is finally ready to put behind them and take a leap forward. The biggest challenges for Lawrence this season? Establishing a rapport with a new cast of offensive weapons, and overcoming a defense that hasn’t been the same since collapsing to a Tom Brady led Patriots team in the 2018 AFC Conference Championship game. The Jaguars already had elite NFL talent DJ Chark at WR, and paid megabucks to slot WR Cooper Kupp, who even if he has a career year, likely won’t earn the salary he's being paid in the eyes of many coaches around the league. Rookie running back Travis Etienne has potential to be a great NFL back, but will it come together in season one? Much like Fields, the individual statistics that Lawrence puts up will ONLY translate to success in the win column if coach Chefscoopa is able to bring the team together in all three phases.
Last but not least, the New Orleans Saints selected North Dakota standout Trey Lance with the 8th overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Unlike the situations in Carolina and Jacksonville, Trey Lance is filling the shoes of an all time great: Drew Brees, a super bowl winning and current all time leader in a few key NFL stats (likely to be broken by Tom Brady if he keeps playing at a high level.) Brees and the Saints had an unexpectedly poor season in 2020, leading to the firing of their former head coach and the retirement of Brees, who has been the face of the franchise since coming over from the San Diego Chargers in 2006. Much like his counterparts Fields and Lawrence, Lance has been named the starter, and will have the keys to the car known as the once lethal New Orleans Saints offense. The expectations for Lance are to return the team to a perennial contender, and he has his work cut out for him. Coach and former Saints great Reggie Bush (controlled by user DEANTHETHIRD) had this to say regarding the selection of Lance at pick 8:
“He can do everything you ask him to do, everything that the other top QBs in this draft can… he can make every throw, release on the run with pinpoint accuracy, and scramble when the opportunity presents itself. We are going to miss having Drew Brees here in NOLA, but I truly believe we found our next gen quarterback in Lance.” Notably, the Saints let Taysom Hill walk; it appears they believe Fields can handle both parts of the offense.
On paper, Lance is most similar to Fields with his skillset… with 85 speed, 88 acceleration and 91 throw power. Lance is joining an offense boasting one of the leagues top offensive lines and two of the best skill position players in the NFL in WR Michael Thomas and RB Alvin Kamara. Unfortunately for Lance, outside of those two, the other skill players are relatively unproven. Gadget player Tavon Austin is slated to have a big part of the offense, but he’s had a hard time staying healthy so far in his career. There are also huge question marks on the defensive side of the ball, particularly in the linebacking core and secondary. If you haven’t seen the theme by now, the success of Lance and the Saints is going to come down to how their new coach can adjust to the Premier Madden League and bring this offense and defense together on a week to week basis as they attempt to get back into the playoffs.
It is clearly a new era in the NFL, and we have three more mobile, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes-esque QBs attempting to become the face of their franchises. Stay tuned this season for highlights, analysis and more as these three try to make their mark on the league.