The Athletic’s Dane Brugler published a 2021 NFL mock draft (top 10 picks) on Monday, and it had an interesting twist on the quarterback landscape in the first round.
As will be the case with all mock drafts this draft season, Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence is the first pick overall pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars. No analysis needed. He’s ‘that dude’ this year and is the easiest pick the Jaguars’ front office will ever make.
The real intrigue begins at No. 2 overall, where Brugler as the New York Jets selecting BYU quarterback Zach Wilson.
“There is no consensus No. 2 quarterback in this class,” Brugler wrote, “but Wilson, who was also No. 2 overall in Mock Draft 1.0, emerged as the favorite for many around the league this season. He is an instinctive athlete with the ball velocity, accuracy and escapability to create inside or outside of structure. No, the competition on his 2020 film has not been impressive, but the quality of his play has been outstanding and the traits are obvious.”
This pick comes down to the Jets’ current evaluation of Sam Darnold, who they used the second overall pick in 2018 to select. No club wants to dip back into the quarterback pool just four drafts after such a massive investment in the position, so there’s a chance Darnold’s improved play over the last couple of games may have bought him one more season behind center in New York. That said, if Darnold was the guy, we’d know by now. The fact that we don’t know means the Jets are playing with fire if they decide to pass on a talented blue-chipper like Wilson.
Ohio State’s Justin Fields began the 2020 college football season as the consensus QB2 but Wilson’s magnificent year has put that ranking in jeopardy, as shown here in Brugler’s mock draft. But it doesn’t mean Fields will wait long to hear his name called. In this mock draft, he comes off the board a No. 7 to the Detroit Lions.
“I don’t expect this projection to be popular among the Lions’ fanbase because Matthew Stafford isn’t what is wrong with the organization,” wrote Brugler. “But Detroit is a franchise in need of a makeover and an intriguing option this offseason would be to trade Stafford for draft picks, sign a veteran stopgap quarterback and draft a talented quarterback like Fields.
Fields in Detroit? I can get behind this. Stafford is what he is at this point in his career. He’s a quality starting quarterback who’s gone through a few coaching regimes with the Lions and is probably best suited for a change of scenery as he enters the back-half of his career. There are plenty of teams who’d love to call Stafford their starting quarterback, so a trade market could be ripe for the Lions this offseason. And if they add Fields in the first round, he’ll bring a new dimension to their offense through his combination of quality arm talent and the ability to win with his legs.
Fields and D’Andre Swift in Detroit’s backfield? Not too shabby.
North Dakota State’s Trey Lance is the last quarterback off the board in Brugler’s top 10. He ends up with the Carolina Panthers at No. 9 overall.
“With Teddy Bridgewater under contract for at least one more season, the Panthers are in a situation to draft a young quarterback like Lance, who can sit and develop at his own pace,” Brugler wrote.
This pick makes sense only because the Panthers have the kind of veteran presence at quarterback who can keep the team competitive while Lance develops as a pro. It’s a massive leap of faith to take Lance this high. Despite his physical traits, Lance is an extremely raw prospect who’s coming off just one season of college play at the FCS level. Buyer-beware.