Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence has long been thought of as the clear QB1 for the 2021 NFL Draft by scouts and fans alike. Heck, Lawrence has basically held that title since he committed to Clemson as a Senior in high school. And there is a good reason for the lofty expectations around him. Lawrence is a naturally gifted passer with prototypical size, athletic ability, and arm strength. He was born to be an NFL quarterback. Lawrence is arguably the best quarterback prospect to come out of college football since at least Andrew Luck.
That being said, Trevor Lawrence is not the perfect quarterback that some analysts and fans make him out to be. That is not to say he isn’t an extremely talented quarterback who is the clear top quarterback prospect for the 2021 NFL Draft- he is. But there are multiple areas that Lawrence definitely needs to show improvement in to reach the lofty hype and expectations that surround him:
The Mental Side of the QB Position
Overall, Trevor Lawrence shows solid Mental Processing. He gets through his progressions quickly and shows the ability to read most defenses at a high level. There is still plenty of room for improvement in this area, however.
Zone Coverage is the type of defense Lawrence seems to struggle with the most. He tends to be slower to make decisions versus Zone and too often doesn’t account for a defender in coverage. Despite his excellent arm talent, he is very hesitant to pull the trigger to a receiver that is sitting in between defenders over the middle of the field. Lawrence will often get greedy against Zone Coverage and try to hit the deep routes instead of the underneath receivers sitting in a void of the defense. This is an area that Lawrence should naturally improve with more experience and knowledge about different defenses.
The bigger concern on the mental side is Lawerence’s Decision Making. Even when he does read the defense and coverage properly, he will force the ball to a receiver and put the ball in harm’s way. Part of this can be attributed to his luxury of having multiple big, physical receivers that are adept at winning jump ball situations. He often trusts said receivers too much at times and just throws the ball up expecting them to make the play. Lawrence may have to show improvement in this area naturally in the 2020 season (should there be one).
Tee Higgins has moved on to the NFL and Justyn Ross is expected to miss the season due to injury. Lawrence always seems to have big, physical receivers to throw to at Clemson. He needs to learn when and how to take advantage of that instead of just throwing the ball up to his receivers. If Lawrence can make better decisions with the ball and not risk so many turnovers, that will solve one of the biggest question marks surrounding his game.
Lawrence shows good accuracy, overall. He usually puts the ball in a spot where his target at least has a shot to make the catch. Ball placement is another trait altogether, however. Ball placement is the ability to put the ball in a position that allows the receiver to easily maximize yards after the catch.
Intermediate crossing routes or out routes are where ball placement can be critical for a quarterback. Throwing a good “runner’s ball” that allows the receiver to easily catch and turn upfield can lead to a huge gain after the catch. However, not leading the receiver or forcing them to adjust to the pass can severely limit the yardage gained on a play. NFL offenses nowadays are predicated on the quarterback throwing good “runner’s balls” to maximize the yardage on shorter throws.
Lawrence needs to improve in this area especially on his intermediate throws. Too often he forces his receivers to adjust to his passes in some form or fashion. In college, he can get away with it because he has superior talent around him. His current receivers can still make something happen despite not getting the perfect pass. In the NFL, however, it will be critical for Lawrence to show more than just solid accuracy. Ball placement is key at the highest level of the sport.
Deep Ball Passing
Trevor Lawrence has the natural arm strength needed to make every throw asked of him at the next level. He also shows the ability to easily push the ball deep down the field. That being said, he has a curious problem of leaving his deep passes short of his target far too often.
Lawrence shows the arm strength to throw passes 40+ yards through the air with ease. He also shows a very good understanding of how much tough and air to put under each of his passes. So why does he never seem to be able to “drop the ball in the bucket” on said deep passes? That’s the big question that Lawrence will need to answer the next time he steps on a football field.
Part of the problem could once again be attributed to having Ross and Higgins to which to throw. Lawrence was probably trying to give them a chance to use their size and physicality to make the catch over smaller defensive backs. That won’t fly in the NFL, however. Every successful NFL offense thrives in creating big plays in the passing game. Quarterbacks that can’t consistently connect on deep balls severely limit the offense. Lawrence has all the needed skills and arm talent to excel in this area. He just needs to actually show it on the field and the tape.