What sucks about evaluating a quarterback is some of them simply won’t translate because they have been put in a bad situation. I think Jacksonville has a decent supporting cast, but being asked to save the New York Jets from day one or the Detroit Lions after Jared Goff falters is a tall task. Conversely, if the Falcons, 49ers, Patriots, or Steelers select a quarterback — suddenly a guy who may not be as talented naturally gets put in a better position to succeed.
If you want to read how I break down quarterbacks, you can read about that here. Also, keep in mind, when I make a comparison — I’m talking about that player in their prime, or what they could have been without injuries. For example, if I say a guy reminds me of Alex Smith, I’m talking about 2017 Alex Smith — not 2020 Alex Smith. Also, this is not my ranking of these guys, that is coming later. With that being said, let’s get started.
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Ceiling: Aaron Rodgers
Floor: Matthew Stafford
Projection: Andrew Luck
No prospect is truly bust-proof, but I think Lawrence is as close as they come. Aaron Rodgers is a great ceiling to have — there are very few players in this league that can make plays with their feet and deliver dimes like A-Rod.
I put Stafford as the floor, because at worst — Lawrence becomes a highly productive first overall pick that is often overlooked because his supporting cast and organization let him down. I do think Jacksonville is headed in the right direction, but Urban Meyer will be a boom or bust hire. Lawrence is a bit closer to Luck in terms of mobility and athleticism (which Stafford does have a solid amount of), but he can sling the ball all over the field like Stafford.
Lawrence reminds me of a prime Andrew Luck — someone who can make plays at an MVP form while dragging his team to the postseason. If Luck was healthy and playing on the 2020 Colts, I think we could have had a different AFC Champion this year.
Justin Fields, Ohio State
Ceiling: Russell Wilson
Floor: Daniel Jones
Projection: Dak Prescott
If Justin Fields is as good as Russell Wilson, he’ll make a team very happy. I don’t think he would have the impact that Wilson had on the Seahawks from day one, but with the right seasoning, Fields can be the offense and create something out of nothing. Of course, Wilson was blessed with a fantastic defense in his Super Bowl runs, but Fields could find himself in a similar situation if Kyle Shanahan makes a move for him.
Daniel Jones is a harsh comparison, but a lot of his issues come from failure to read defenses and trying to do too much when the play is broken. Jones can still make plays with his legs. Personally, I don’t think Fields will be this bad, but if he’s asked to start day one for a really bad team, you could see a lot of issues adapting to the NFL.
Dak Prescott is the trendy comparison for Justin Fields, but Fields is a little more athletic than Prescott. In college, Fields was a mobile quarterback who could lead an offense, utilize the weapons around him, and limit turnovers. That’s what Dak Prescott does for Dallas. It’s hard to ask for much more than that.
Zach Wilson, BYU
Ceiling: Steve Young
Floor: Marcus Mariota
Projection: Derek Carr
Fellow BYU alum Steve Young (besides being left handed) presents a lot of comparisons to Zach Wilson. Both guys are incredibly mobile, accurate, and have a cannon for an arm. They’re about the same size as well. Getting Wilson into the right system is important, but I think he could very well win two MVPs and a Super Bowl like Young did. Three… maybe if he comes to the Falcons.
Marcus Mariota was decent at his peak, but he was never good enough to put the Titans over the top. He was up and down, but he was pretty mobile and accurate. Fumbles are what doomed Mariota, and if Wilson fails in the NFL, I’d be willing to bet fumbles could be the culprit as well. He took good care of the ball in college, but it all depends on where he’s drafted.
It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Zach Wilson, but don’t take the Derek Carr projection as an insult — think about 2015-2017 Derek Carr that finished third in MVP voting. Before injury, Carr made fantastic plays with his feet and had incredible arm talent. He ranked third in the NFL in deep ball accuracy from 2016-2019, even if his yards per attempt are fairly low. I think Wilson will let it rip more than Carr, but he has that same game changing mobility and deep ball to keep defenses on their heels.
Trey Lance, North Dakota State
Ceiling: Randall Cunningham
Floor: Paxton Lynch
Projection: Robert Griffin III
Obviously, Trey Lance has the biggest boom-or-bust potential on this list, which explains the discrepancy between the names above. Randall Cunningham is arguably the highest ceiling for today’s NFL, and Paxton Lynch is by far the lowest floor. In the right system (aka San Francisco or Atlanta), Lance can be worked into the NFL and use his raw gifts with ease. If he goes to a bad system…. wooh boy.
Lance is as raw of a prospect as they come, but with the proper seasoning, he could be an elite quarterback. He is easily the best runner in this class, and he has incredible arm talent. He’s a pretty good decision maker, but he has only played 18 FCS games. Lance likely won’t make an impact from day one, but he has all of the gifts to be special.
Paxton Lynch is a very harsh criticism, and while Lance is probably a bit more accurate than Lynch was at this point, Lynch is a classic case study of a raw quarterback with no development being thrown into the fire. Not that he had too much around him in Denver, but Lynch was just downright bad.
This projection all depends on where Lance goes, which if it’s the 49ers or Falcons, I like the Griffin III projection. Keep in mind, this is 2012 RGIII that we’re talking about. It’s difficult to make this comparison since RGIII only scratched the surface of his prime. In his rookie season, RGIII limited turnovers, threw bombs, and made incredible plays with his legs. That was only the beginning of his development, too. I think Lance hitting 4,000 yards passing, 600 yards rushing, and 40+ total touchdowns in a season isn’t out of bounds. Once again, I don’t imagine he’ll have that immediate impact, but I like that projection for his second year in the league.
Mac Jones, Alabama
Ceiling: Ben Roethlisberger
Floor: Brian Hoyer
Projection: Carson Palmer
I’m a little higher on Mac Jones, not as high as some of my fellow writers, but I don’t understand the hate that he receives sometimes. Yes, he played around fantastic talent at Alabama, but he has a beautiful deep ball and great presence in the pocket. I think in the right system, he could have an immediate Ben Roethlisberger impact. Maybe not a two-time champion, but if he goes to a stacked team, he could pick up where he left off at Alabama
Personally, I believe Jones has a very low floor. I think he can be a journeyman with a nice arm like Brian Hoyer, and while he may be limited athletically, he can show some flashes in a pinch.
I think Carson Palmer is a fair comparison. Jones is likely to go to a better situation than the early 2000s Bengals, but either way, he can be a high volume passer that can push the ball downfield and get mediocre teams to the playoffs consistently. If Jones goes to a better situation, he could really make some noise.
Davis Mills, Stanford
Ceiling: Matt Ryan
Floor: Sean Mannion
Projection: Derek Anderson
This actually isn’t my own comparison; this is a pretty trendy pick. There is a high ceiling for the Atlanta native Mills, and while he was nowhere as good as Ryan was in college, he looks very similar on tape. He moves well in the pocket, and he’s a lankier quarterback that can deliver some impressive intermediate throws with zip. He has some injury concerns, but scouts (and myself) are high on Mills — you can read my profile from a few months ago here.
Sean Mannion is another west coast, lanky quarterback who only made a few appearances here and there. If Mills has reached his ceiling already, he’ll likely just be a low-end backup for a few seasons.
I think Mills can be 2007 Derek Anderson, who was a Pro-Bowler for the Browns. At his best, he can serve as a journeyman that lasts 12 seasons with upside or as a high-end starter. Anderson tossed 29 touchdowns and almost 3,800 yards in 2007, but he did launch 19 picks. Mills needs some seasoning, but I like him in the later rounds.
Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
Ceiling: Baker Mayfield
Floor: DeShone Kizer
Projection: Tyrod Taylor
Everyone was waiting on Kellen Mond to make a big leap at Texas A&M, but it just never really happened. I’m a little conflicted when it comes to Mond, but I would lean a little bullish if he goes to the right team. Baker Mayfield would be the best case scenario, and Mond could serve as a solid distributor with good mobility that can lead a team to the playoffs. He has a bit of a better arm than Baker, but it will all come down to his decision making.
DeShone Kizer is a bad floor, but he was a good prospect coming out of college. He never really developed in the NFL, despite having some zip and mobility. Mond made some really bad throws at A&M, which could lead to him launching a lot of picks in the NFL
I think Mond will struggle to take care of the football if he’s thrust into action. He’s still going to wow people with his arm and athleticism, which will keep himself in the NFL. However, he may serve best as a high-end backup. Tyrod Taylor fits that bill, but only if Mond can take care of the ball.
Kyle Trask, Florida
Ceiling: Sam Darnold
Floor: Josh Rosen
Projection: Matt Moore
A lot of people think Sam Darnold is a bad quarterback, but I don’t think he’s the failure a lot of fans make him out to be. He hasn’t live up to his draft status by any means, but he could take a few steps forward away from Adam Gase. He’s still only 23. I think Trask will max out at a similar level; he’ll be a quarterback with limited mobility that can shine at moments and make some awful throws at others.
Nobody wants the Josh Rosen label, a non-athletic quarterback that is too slow to go through progressions and barely throws for 100 yards per game. I think Trask will be a bit better than this, but he has to go to the right staff.
I’m not a big believer in Kyle Trask, but I think he has a few traits that will keep him afloat in the NFL. Matt Moore made it 13 years in the league, and while he wasn’t much of an athlete, he was okay as a starter and served as an efficient backup. That might be a more favorable projection than Darnold, just not talent-wise. Trask will have to clean up his decision making to make it as long as Moore, but if he can be an efficient distributor, he can stick in the NFL.