Rookie QBs of 2021 (little different), Part 1

Free agency and Draft are closer every day and we get tons of analyses, opinions about prospects of the coming Draft. Positional rankings, scouting infos, pros and cons. I love to read them, because I want to know as much as I can about the guys who could be the new members of my favourite team. There are some common opinions, let’s say sure things (f.e. the top3 WR in this year’s class, etc), but every time there are trends or statements where I am stopping to read the article and just scratching my head. I tell you two examples of this headscratching moments.

1. During the last days came up the information, that on some draft boards Zack Wilson is the nr.1 QB not Trevor Lawrence. Why is it so interesting to me? Because we have a QB who was the best QB talent since Andrew Luck 3 years long. He won the National Championship game in his freshman year, lost the National Championship game in his sophomore year and got into the CFP Semifinal in his junior year. On the other side there is a rising star, Zack Wilson, who had a break out season in 2020 and led the BYU football team to a 10-1 record. I personally can’t understand why people put him before Lawrence. If it is about the shoulder surgery what he had, sorry but this would be very weak. Is this about some weeknesses what Lawrence has? Everybody has weeknesses. We can read very often about DL or Edge players the expression, „one year wonder“. How often I saw that. There is a very athletic kid, with huge numbers, but analysts and scouting personal describe that guy as a one year wonder and because of this, the player will not be ranked so high or even will not be drafted as high as his 1 year production would let him. I can’t remember I read this expression about Wilson. Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t say he is bad, just can’t understand why would you put a one year wonder ahead of a guy who shows his greatness for 3 years.

2. I would call it the „Mac Jones situation“. The kid won the National Championship game with the Alabama this year and had brutal numbers all over the statistics. Despite those things some analysts and scouting personal don’t see him in the first round or most of the people around the business don’t see him in top4 QBs this year. The two most heard reasons are a; he is not mobile, so he can’t throw outside the pocket and/or b; his success is because of his supporting cast. Ok I see. So if you have 3-4 really good guys around you, you can’t be good just because you are good. On the other side I rarely see reports about wide receivers which say „yes the kid has good potential, but be careful he is good only, because a very good QB throws to him“. If a WR has a good year and his next year is not so good, usually we can read, that it is because of the new system, new QB, new something. What? Is it so impossible to see every player through the same lenses? Mac Jones is good because he had Harris, Waddle, Smith, etc. But those guys can succeed, because they had Tua or Jones and great Olines.

I hope you see my points. Because of those headscratching moments of mine, I decided to check on the QB prospects from this year and see what they’ve accomplished during their college time and what kind of supporting casts they had down the road. At the end I will write you my ranking (which won’t be perfect and I could be wrong with high possibility). I will take the consensus top6 QB (Lawrence, Wilson, Fields, Lance, Jones, Trask) plus Jamie Newman and Kellen Mond. The latter two are possible Pats targets, that’s why they are here. I took the data from sports-reference.com.

Carreer summary

I would start with a summary spreadsheet, where we can see a direct comparison of the college years:

What this spreadsheet shows us, is the the sum result of the guys during their tenure at college. There are really interestig details, but please note, that information can mislead us. For example we have only one QB (Lance) with a completion percentage of over 70% and 4 additionally (Lawrence, Wilson, Fields and Trask) over 65%, but in his first year Lance had 1 pass attempt with 1 completion which 100% pulls up his overall result. Or Mac Jones should be in the over 70% group, but his first year completion was only 38,5%. We will have different comparisons down the road, where we can see the details, but let us go on with this one. We have only one QB (Lawrence) over 10.000 passing yards and two (Wilson, Trask) over 7.000 yards. There are only two guys (Lance and Jones) with over 10 yards per passing attempts. The best TD/INT ratio belongs to Lance (we will see the details later), the second best is Mac Jones with 8. Trey Lance can run, but I am not sure if we could call him a dual treath QB, because he had a very low passing yard number. Jamie Newman has the worst stats from this group and Kellen Mond was the only 4 year player. We can clearly see, that Jones and Trask are pocket passers and they won’t run too often with the ball. Actually if you are good in the pocket, you won’t need to run too much. There is proof for this, the name is Tom Brady. I know he is the GOAT, but he doesn’t run either and still he is a top QB.

Detailed stats:

Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

Numbers: First of all, we got the stats of the wunderkind. Trevor Lawrence is the story of the last 3 years. There was „suck for Trevor“ and many other opinions during the last season or two. He was a three years starter, won the National Championship in his first year and despite a non-throwing shoulder injury in 2020, he could deliver very good numbers and led the team into the Playoffs. His completion percentage was every year better and better and that over 10.000 passing yard is crazy in 40 games. That means he threw more than 250 yards per game in average during his 3 years at Clemson That could be even higher if he would be able to play more games. I am sure he has still room to grow, what makes him an even better prospect. Yes he can run, but he is not the runner QB. With his 90 TDs he is the best of the bunch, although only Kellen Mond played more games than Lawrence. Very impressive.

Opponents: In 2018 Lawrence had some big wins and some very close as well. He won all 15 games in this year, including wins against NC State (16th ranked that time) on week 7, Boston College (17th ranked) on week 10. He beat the 3rd ranked Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl and then the 1st ranked Alabama in the Championship Game. These were four ranked team, but Clemson had to play against Texas A&M (28-26 win), FSU (59-10), Louisville (77-16), South Carolina (56-35) and Pitt (42-10) as well, so the schedule wasn’t very easy, but he won out the season. The season in 2019 started the same way as was in 2018, win win win against everyone. On the second week, Lawrence met with the Texas A&M (12th ranked) and then no ranked team until the ACC Championship Game, where the opponent was the 22nd ranked Virginia, the result was a huge win, 62-17. At Fiesta Bowl came the Justin Fields led, 2nd ranked Ohio State and a close, 29-23, win. They finished the year against the 1st ranked LSU and lost the game against Joe Burrow & co. In 2020 Lawrence and the Clemson had 4 ranked opponents, week 4 against Florida (7th), week 8 Notre Dame (4th), in the ACC Championship Game came Notre Dame (2nd) again. There was only one L during the first 11 weeks, against Notre Dame on week 8, but they had their revenge on week 11 with a 34-10 win. In the Playoffs they lost against 3rd ranked Ohio State. ACC is not an conference, you have to be good, to be the champ, but Lawrence won 37 of his 40 games in college, which is very good.

Supporting cast: Was this success only because of Lawrence, or because of his supporting cast? I believe, you can have the best team mates in the world, if you have no talent they won’t help you win games. This is a two way street, you need a good QB and he needs good supporting cast. So Lawrence had Travis Etienne all the way down and he was brutal (he ran 4.100 yards, when Trevor was his QB), he could be a 1st round draft pick this year. On the receiving end he had Tee Higgins, Hunter Renfrow (5th round pick by the Raiders in 2019), Justyn Ross and Amari Rodgers in 2018. All of the four WR had at least 500 receiving yards each. One year later the core stayed together, Etienne was the leading rusher (and now two time ACC Player of the Year) and there was the receiving trio of Higgins (2nd round pick by Bengals in 2020), Ross and Rodgers. 2020 wasn‘t bad either, since he had Etienne, Amari Rodgers, Cornell Powell. Justyn Ross couldn’t play this year because of injury, but he will be drafted anyway this April. Clemson has to be smart with the successing plan, because they will lose all these guys, so the 2021 season will be fun to watch how Coach Swinney will come through this situation.

Zack Wilson, BYU

Numbers: Are Wilson’s numbers enough to be in the one year wonder category? I know, many people would hate me because of this opinion, but his first two years weren’t very impressive. During the 2020 season he made a huge jump and had some very very impressive numbers. For example his completion percentage is brutal and because of his accuracy his passing yards were more than 50% higher than last year. He had a 11/1 TD/INT ratio and ran 10 TDs. This shows you, that he is able to solve situations with his feet. Scouting personal are very high on his arm strength and his abilty to throw everywhere with good velocity.

Opponents: Wilson wasn’t the starter in his freshman year, but after a 3-3 start he got his chance against the non-ranked Hawaii and won (49-23). He lost twice right after against non-ranked team, Northern Illinois (6-7) and Boise State (16-21), but he could come back with a two win streak against Massachusetts (35-16) and New Mexico State (45-10). His lost against his first ranked opponent (18 th ranked Utah, 27-35), but closed the year with a win against Western Michigan (49-18). In 2019 Wilson had 3 games against ranked teams. He won against the 14th ranked USC (30-27) on week 3, but lost against the 14th ranked Utah (12-30) on week 1 and 22nd ranked Washington (19-45) on week 4. HE missed the next 4 games because of injury, including the win against 14th ranked Boise State (28-25) on week 7, but he was the starter on BYU’s last four games. He lost the last two against San Diego State (3-13) and Hawaii (34-38). In this two games he threw 4 INTs and missed to make any passing TD, at least he ran 2 TDs against Hawaii. He closed his season with 4 wins and 5 losses. In 2020 he started every 12 games and finished with a record of 11-1. He was 1-1 against ranked teams, won against the 21st ranked Boise State (51-17) on week 8 and lost against the 14th ranked Coastal Carolina (17-22) on week 10. At the end of the season they won the Boca Raton Bowl against UCF (49-23). The overall strenght of the opponent wasn’t high, 8 of the 12 teams‘ records were 50% or lower (win/lose).

Supporting cast: Let´s say so, in 2018 you won’t find any bigger name on the list. The best catcher was Matt Bushman, TE (511 yards) and the BYU QBs had Aleva Hifo, Dylan Collie and Talon Shumway as their top targets. The top running backs were Squally Canada (412/5) and Lopini Katoa (423/8). Not really strong. In 2019 the situation wasn’t too good either. Again Matt Bushman (688/4) was the best receiver of the team, followed by Micah Simon (616/2) and Talon Shumway (561/4). On the running side BYU had Lopini Katoa (358/4) and Sione Finau (359/2) plus five other players with at least 2 TDs (not included Wilson). In his only full season as a starter, Wilson had new buddies on the field. Dax Milne (1.188/8), Neil Pau’u (603/4), Gunner Romney (767/2) and Isaac Rex (429/12) were a much better group than the previous two. Isaac Rex was a redshirt freshman TE, who could have a good college career, if he can keep that performance. The other three WRs were all in their Junior year, so no unknown players for Wilson. Tyler Allgeier was the dog in the running back group (1.130/13) and Wilson ran for 254 yards and 10 TDs.

Justin Fields, Georgia/Ohio State

Numbers: Here is the guy, who was the clear cut nr.2 QB until few months ago. He transferred from Georgia to Ohio State, because Jake Fromm was the starter and Fields wanted to get a shot as the first string guy. Ohio State gave it to him and in his last year he led the Buckeyes into the National Championship game, where he lost against Alabama. He took a step back this year compared to his 2019 stats, but still had very good completion percentage and was a reliable runner with the ball. The biggest problem with him was his progression reads were too low. During the last days I read a tweet, where was showed that it wasn’t his fault, but the effect of the option routes, where he should have waited until his receivers made their decisions. He is a better runner than Wilson, but his 2020 season didn’t show so good numbers as Wilson’s.

Opponents: I won’t write about the 2018 season, because Fields rarely saw the field, so I will jump immediately to his first season with the Buckeyes. 2019 was a great year for Fields, the team was hot, their wins were usually with huge margin and not just against non-ranked opponents, but they won against the 25th ranked Michigan State (34-10 on week 6, against the 13th ranked Wisconsin (38-7) on week 8, against the 9th ranked Penn State (28-17) on week 11, against the 10th ranked Michigan (56-27) on week 12, against the 10th ranked Wisconsin (34-21) again in the Big Ten Championship game on week 13. They won 3 in a row against top 10 teams. Unfortunately they lost against the 3rd ranked Clemson (23-29) in the Fiesta Bowl, but the whole year was very nice. In 2020 Ohio State played 6 games less than the previous year, but 5 of those 8 games were against ranked teams. They won all but one, the most important game of the year, the Championship Game against the 1st ranked Alabama (24-52). On week 2 they beat the 18th ranked Penn State (38-25), on week 4 a close win against the 9th ranked Indiana (42-35), on week 6 came the 15th ranked Northwestern (22-10). In the Sugar Bowl the Trevor Lawrence led Clemson was the next opponent to beat and they made it, 49-28 win and the opportunity to play for the biggest win of the year. As you can see, Fields had two hard years at the Ohio State, with a load of ranked opponents.

Supporting cast: In 2019 Fields had K.J. Hill (7th round pick by the Chargers in 2020) and Chris Olave as top tandem at wide receiver position. The two totaled more than 1.740 yards and 22 TDs. After them, he had  Binjimen Victor (573/6), Garrett Wilson (432/5) and Austin Mack (361/3). Victor (Ravens) and Mack (Giants) are both on NFL rosters, Wilson was a freshman this year. As running back he had J.K. Dobbins (2nd round pick by the Ravens in 2020) and Master Teague (as a redshirt freshman). The two running backs totaled almost 2.800 yards on the ground and scored 25 TDs. In 2020 Chris Olave (729/7) and Garrett Wilson (723/6) were Fields‘ top targets. Although Dobbins was already in the NFL, the team got Trey Sermon from Oklahoma as a transfer player, who had better run/yards number than Dobbins had in the previous year. All in all, Fields had a very good back field in both years, but on the receiving end the situation wasn’t so bright. Olave is the best from the group and Hill still could show his potential in the NFL. Garrett Wilson has plenty of time on the college level and he is already taking steps forward each year.

Trey Lance, NDSU

Numbers: For me, he is the most overrated QB in this draft. I know he shows lot of potential and he had a great season in 2019, but he is THE one year wonder of this draft. His 66,9% completion is good and his 0 INT is amazing, additionally the 1.100 rushing yards are rare to be seen from a QB, but the level of competition and his limited experience are red flags for me. In 2018 Easton Stick was the starter, in 2020 the Bison played only one game because of the covid.

Opponents: Outside of the 2019 season there is not to much to talk about. Lance came into a winning program, the Bison won 8 of the last 9 seasons on the FCS level. They won with Carson Wentz, with Easton Stick and they won with Lance. It is hard to write about the opponents in case of a clear favourite in the league. In 12 of the 16 games Lance didn’t cross the 200 passing yard level and twice he didn’t even reach the 100 yards. The only over 300 passing yards games were on week 10 (313 yards) against Western Illinois. Lance was 4 times the best rusher of his team.

Supporting cast: As I mentioned already, the Bison was a running team in 2019 and Lance was thier best runner (1.100/14), but his complementary team was good as well. Ty Brooks (968/5), Adam Cofield (813/12) and Kobe Johnson (660/4) were a very reliable trio. Trey Lance had only 2 wide receivers who reached the 500 receiving yards mark, Christian Watson (732/6) and Phoenix Sproles (541/2). I have to write about the Bison´s TE trio, Ellefson-Babicz-Gindorff, who had 16 TDs combined.

This is the end of the part 1, the second part comes on Friday. I will write about Jones, Trask, Newman and Mond. Will make another (year to year) comparison and you can see my ranking. Hope you enjoyed the first part. In that case please share it and follow me on Twitter or subscribe on my webpage. Thank you for your attention.

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