The 2020 College Football season is just a few short months away. If the NCAA is able to successfully protect it’s student athletes from Covid-19, we could potentially see a full season. Therefore, it’s time for us to take a look at our top ten quarterbacks ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft.
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10. Shane Buechele – SMU
Southern Methodist’s Shane Buechele is tenth on my list. Buechele began his collegiate career at the University of Texas before transferring to SMU. As we can see in the clip below, there are flashes of really solid play from Buechele. The placement of this ball, on the back shoulder of the receiver, is a typical throw from quarterbacks on Sunday.
On the play below, Buechele displays a good ability to throw with anticipation and, once again, places the ball perfectly. The fact that he can put the ball right on the money so quickly out of his stance is what amazes me.
However, I would like to see Buechele improve. Last season, he ended the year with a 62.7% completion rate. By comparison, Trevor Lawrence, who many believe had a down year in 2019, ended with a 65.8% completion rate.
Additionally, Buechele threw ten interceptions in the American Athletic Conference in 2019, a number that I’d like to see considerably lower. When it comes down to it, I’d ultimately like to see Shane Buechele display a more consistent level of play as we approach the 2021 NFL Draft process.
9. Brock Purdy – Iowa State
Iowa State’s Brock Purdy comes in at nine on the list. The 2019 Davey O’Brien Award semifinalist is entering his junior season for the Cycles. Purdy showed good improvement from his freshman season in 2018 to last season. If he’s able to improve further, we could be talking a lot about Brock Purdy next April.
In the clip below, Purdy throws with anticipation and hits the receiver out of his break along the sideline. I would like to see the ball come out a bit quicker, but it’s still a very solid effort.
Brock Purdy displays next level abilities as a runner, too. Below, Purdy shows a nice wherewithal to make quick reads and get upfield quickly through narrow running lanes. Once he’s upfield, Purdy is able to remain upright through contact as he narrowly gets for the touchdown.
I have Brock Purdy listed as ninth on this list, but I do believe that he has the abilities and intangibles to become a starting quarterback at the next level. If he can put together another high caliber season, and shore up inconsistencies, we could be looking at a second to third round grade on him when all is said and done.
8. Tanner Morgan – Minnesota
Tanner Morgan, the junior quarterback for the Minnesota Gophers, finds himself eighth on our list. Morgan was a Davey O’Brien Award and Manning Award semifinalist in 2019. We saw Morgan’s stats rise in 2019, his first full season as the starting quarterback. If Tanner Morgan is able to capitalize on the 2020 season and raise his draft stock, he could be a solid day two target for NFL franchises.
Tanner Morgan climbs the pocket below really well to avoid the pressure as the pocket collapses. Keeping his eyes downfield, Morgan is able to find his receiver and get him the ballot keep the chains moving.
The offensive line for Minnesota didn’t do Tanner Morgan any favors in 2019. As you can see below, there’s pressure coming from the left side of the line. Morgan uses the shoulder fake to bring the safety in and delivers a deep ball for the receiver downfield. Morgan only has a few seconds to nail this play, but he executes it to perfection.
Of all the quarterbacks on my list, I have reservations about Tanner Morgan the most. He seems to do well under pressure, but he has ball security issues. Morgan has to find a way to keep the ball off the ground, or in the opponent’s hands, if he wants to finish the season as one of the top quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft.
7. KJ Costello – Mississippi State
Of all the quarterbacks on this list, KJ Costello’s success is the hardest to predict for the 2020 college football season. This offseason, Costello announced that he would be leaving Stanford University and transferring to Mississippi State to play for new head coach Mike Leach. Despite being the hardest to scout on this list, pairing KJ Costello with Mike Leach and his offensive style of play should be a success.
On the play below, an overmatched Stanford team, led by Costello is taking on a very solid UCF team. Costello works through his progressions while climbing the pocket to avoid pressure from the right side. Costello finds his receiver deep down the field on the right side and delivers a perfectly placed ball, but it falls incomplete.
KJ Costello makes this play look so simple. First off, he has ample time in the pocket to make the throw, which wasn’t always the case form at Stanford. He’s able to float this ball over the defender give his receiver the best opportunity to make the play. While it may look like a simple ‘pitch and catch’ type of play, it’s not something that all the quarterbacks on this list can execute.
If Mike Leach is able to reel in KJ Costello and build a successful offense around him in 2020, including an offensive line that can protect him, we could see Costello end up much higher than seventh on our top ten quarterbacks of the 2021 NFL Draft. It’s a high risk move for Mississippi State, but it could pay off big time for both parties.
6. Kyle Trask – Florida
University of Florida’s Kyle Trask is sixth on our list of top ten quarterbacks heading into the 2020 season. Trask started 10 out of 12 games last year for the Gators, ending up with a 25-7 touchdown to interception ratio. With Trask now the undisputed starter in Gainesville, look for head coach Dan Mullen to keep the spotlight on Kyle Trask all season long.
Trask is able to identify the pocket collapsing rather quickly and step up to avoid the pressure, all the while keeping his eyes downfield. Once he’s navigated through the mud, Trask gives his receiver a shot with a jump ball. If this ball is placed anywhere else, it’s incomplete or an interception.
I wanted to include this play to highlight Trask’s ability to run through his progressions quickly. His first read is to the left side with a receiver and a tight end in 1-on-1 coverage. However, Trask scans the field and finds a receiver running a crossing route along the backside of the endzone. Kyle Trask isn’t afraid to throw this ball across the middle of the field, as the play results in a touchdown.
As impressive as Kyle Trask has been in limited time for the Gators, he still needs to cleanup several inconsistencies. One of those areas is on throws downfield along the sidelines. Quite often, balls are under thrown and at a high risk of being intercepted. If Kyle Trask wants to be taken seriously during the 2021 NFL Draft and become one of the top quarterbacks, he must find a way to improve his arm strength.
5. Desmond Ridder – Cincinnati
Kicking off our top five is Desmond Ridder, the signal caller for the Cincinnati Bearcats. Ridder is a two-year starter that has displayed some very promising abilities. Let’s take a look at what makes Desmond Ridder such a unique prospect.
I’ve highlighted the Ohio State game for Ridder. Here, he’s outmatched by a strong Buckeyes team. However, this play is the definition of an NFL-caliber throw. As soon as the receiver is out of his break, the ball is placed where only he can make the play on it. Ridder displays a really solid ability to throw with anticipation.
Desmond Ridder is a dual-threat quarterback that is capable of attacking defenses on the ground, too. Below, Ridder utilizes the read-option to bait the defensive end and open up the middle of the field. Once the defender bites, Ridder turns on the jets and gets upfield quickly for the first down.
While I have him listed as fifth on this list, I truly believe that Desmond Ridder has the most to gain. With a much easier schedule in 2020 than last season, Ridder has the opportunity to make some noise with some nice statistics. Especially if he can improve upon his abysmal 55.1 completion percentage that he displayed during the 2019 season.
4. Jamie Newman – Georgia
After transferring from Wake Forest, Jamie Newman now finds himself in the SEC and the Georgia Bulldogs. In my first mock draft of the 2021 NFL Draft, I had the quarterback heading to the New England Patriots.
This play isn’t sexy, but it spotlights what Jamie Newman does so well. Newman manipulates coverage downfield through his eyes, shoulders, and movements throughout the pocket. When his first read isn’t there, Newman resets and hits his receiver along the sidelines for the first down. Like I said, it isn’t a sexy play, but it is a really solid effort.
With pressure in his face and the pocket collapsing quickly, Jamie Newman is able to find his receiver running a deep route along the sideline. What is most impressive on this play is Newman’s ability to place this ball perfectly, as he hits the receiver in stride.
Jamie Newman’s success is going to be tied with how well the Georgia Bulldogs are able to do in the SEC in 2020. Considering how well they did with Jake Fromm in 2019, the offense could be wide open and a scoring machine under Newman. If that’s the case, we could see a first round grade as we approach the 2021 NFL Draft.
3. Justin Fields – Ohio State
Outside of Joe Burrow, Ohio State’s Justin Fields had the best season of any quarterback, finishing with a 41-3 touchdown to interception ratio. If his second season in head coach Ryan Day’s offense is anything like his first, Fields could become a hot commodity in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
In this designed run, Justin Fields is able to display his athleticism as he gets upfield quickly and nearly makes it into the endzone for the touchdown. Throughout my scouting of Fields, I was concerned with his acceleration, but it is plays like this that calms down those concerns.
Being able to extend plays and give receivers ample time to find open space is what really intrigues me when I watch Justin Fields. Below, he climbs the pocket to avoid the edge rush, progresses through his reads, before finding a receiver running a drag across the middle of the field. Even though the ball falls incomplete, it hits the receiver’s hand sand should have been a really solid gain for the Buckeyes.
I currently have Justin Fields ranked third on my list, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility to envision him as the second best in this class. With it being so early in the process, anything can happen. Despite that, one thing remains certain – Justin Fields is going to be in the discussion as a first round prospect.
2. Trey Lance – North Dakota State
We can make comparisons to Carson Wentz here, given that Trey Lance is now the quarterback at Wentz’ alma mater. Much like Wentz, I have Lance listed as a high draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. If he can shore up some inconsistency in terms of accuracy, he could have draft stock on the same level as Wentz.
The play below should be pretty similar to what Trey Lance will be asked to do in the National Football League. It’s a simple read that requires the quarterback to throw with anticipation and velocity, both of which Lance does very well here.
Trey Lance is a competitive runner that proves hard to bring down time and time again. On this play, he’s determined to get into the endzone. He displays a solid change of direction to get upfield quickly and maintains momentum through contact to get the score.
Trey Lance has good velocity on his throws for someone at the FCS level. I’d like to see him improve on his accuracy at all levels, as he can become quite erratic at times. If he can improve in these areas, or if an NFL franchise can sell themselves on being able to work around those areas, there’s no doubt in my mind that he could be a first round prospect.
1. Trevor Lawrence – Clemson
Trevor Lawrence has been the big man on campus since he enrolled at Clemson. In his two years as quarterback of the Tigers, Lawrence has maintained a 65% completion percentage. In my first mock draft of the 2021 NFL Draft (available HERE) I had Trevor Lawrence as the first overall pick. A lot can happen between now and then, but Trevor Lawrence is a man among boys at this point.
When I breakdown film on Lawrence, there’s a common phrase – He just does everything better. On this play, his movements through the pocket seem effortless. As he throws on the run outside the pocket, the accuracy is on point. Once again, he’s just better than everyone else.
Once again, Trevor Lawrence displays elite accuracy on this deep ball. He places the football on the outside shoulder of the receiver, away from the defender, and gives him a shot. If the receiver isn’t able to bring this one in for the reception, it just falls incomplete.
While we still have a long ways to go in the 2021 NFL Draft process, it’s become quite clear that everyone will be chasing Trevor Lawrence. He’s an elite pro prospect and clearly deserves to be one of the top quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft.