03 Mar Stewart Mathurin’s Scouting Notebook: QBs
Heading into this offseason the 49ers have a massive decision to make, upgrade on Jimmy Garoppolo or draft someone to compete and eventually take over from him. Both decisions will cost a ton of capital in terms of draft picks and or players. Today I’m focused on my top 5 quarterback prospects available in the upcoming NFL draft. I watched a minimum of 4 games on each prospect, gave my verdict and included some pro comparisons. These players will need to land in great locations with coaches and front office personnel who have patience and a plan they can execute to have success. The Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs are great examples of how to draft and develop young quarterbacks for sustained success.
With that we head into the breakdowns on my top 5 quarterback prospects available:
- TREVOR LAWRENCE, CLEMSON
The unicorn of prospects, standing at 6’6, 220 pounds with long golden hair Trevor Lawrence is a prototypical quarterback. Once every decade a player arrives in college football with a lot of hype and talent billed as “generational” or “franchise altering” but very few live up. John Elway, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck to an extent all lived up to that billing but Trevor Lawrence has the potential to rival them. He throws with anticipation and accuracy to all levels of the field. His ability to maneuver within the pocket with ease whilst scanning through his progressions consistently makes him a great fit in any scheme. Whilst all those traits make him a special quarterback it’s his ability to decipher coverages and handle changing the protection at the line of scrimmage are what sets him apart from any other quarterback prospect I’ve ever watched. Lawrence excels at attacking defenses vertically, he has a very good arm coupled with a variety of throws from lasers into tight windows to feathered passes just over defenders heads and arms. Trevor Lawrence also possesses the athleticism to scramble and score with his legs. What’s also impressive about him is his durability over 3 years in college football. His game is nearly perfect but there are some slight worries, at times he can get sloppy with his footwork which isn’t alarming but showed up a few times on tape. I also noticed his deep ball accuracy out of the pocket was spotty at times with some throws being short or slightly behind his targets. It’s very difficult to critique Lawrence because he’s such a special prospect, his thin athletic build is not like any top quarterback I’ve seen. From a tools, leadership, hype and experience perspective my comparison for him is a more athletic Andrew Luck.
Games watched : South Carolina, Miami, Ohio state, North Dame
- ZACH WILSON, BYU
He has very good pocket awareness, he throws with different arm positions and very accurately. He plays in a gimmicky offense but takes some snaps under center. Wilson is athletic enough to run zone read and keepers, he possesses good accuracy downfield. He has good arm strength with nice zip on his throws and a snappy quick release. He is listed about 6’3, 210 pounds but has a frame capable of holding 10-15 extra pounds. He does a great job hitting intermediate throws and keeps his eyes downfield when under pressure. His decision making will need improvement as he can sometimes makes ill-advised throws. I believe he needs to continue to work on developing placement and allowing his WRs chances to make plays which he gradually improved this season. Zach Wilson is a fiery competitor that puts the team on his back and leads them to victory which I think is extremely valuable in quarterbacks. He doesn’t show signs of being flustered by the moment or the opposition. Overall, I would have liked to see him play a more difficult schedule in 2020 especially since games were played without fans for the most part. However, you can only beat who is in front of you and he dominated. He reminds me of a more athletic Derrick Carr, accurate deep ball thrower, mobile, with a good arm and that “follow me I will lead you to victory” leadership style.
Mid round 1 QB, NFL starter.
Games watched: Washington, UTSA, San Diego state, Navy, Boise state, UCF, Costa Carolina
3. TREY LANCE, NDSU
Throws his deep ball with air under it, a high arching ball that is reminiscent of Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. His accuracy downfield might be NFL ready right now. He plays with a physicality similar to that of a young Cam Newton when running the football, with his impressive size at approximately 6’4 225 pounds defenders have difficulty bringing Lance down. Lance isn’t just a stiff power runner either, he can juke defenders and has a fluidity about him. He goes through his progressions consistently, he recognizes when to put ball high or low to avoid danger. Lance has good mechanics and throwing motion majority of the time, his high arching throwing motion is very crisp and elegant. However I noticed his placement on throws would fluctuate in some games, I believe he dips his body weight just before letting the football go which can cause it to be inaccurate. This issue will need to be coached up. He does a good with ball fakes and takes snaps under center which he will do in the NFL. He demonstrates the ability to feel pressure well but needs to do more work on climbing the pocket. He will need to do a better job protecting himself when running the football at the next level. One wishes he had 25 starts under his belt because roughly 17 starts is worrying. If I’m drafting him I would be inclined to sit him till mid season or the entire year because of the difference in speed and quality of players at the FCS and NFL level. This is not to say starting him is a terrible idea either, he does not have many bad habits on tape so his transition to NFL football shouldn’t be extremely slow. My biggest question mark with Trey Lance is experience and how quickly he acclimatizes to the speed of NFL football. Having said that he likely won’t make it out of the top 15 picks because of need. I would have liked to see him under pressure more often although the few times he was, he came through successfully.
Mid first round QB, NFL starter.
Pro comparison: more physical Ryan Tannehill Tennessee Titans.
Games watched: South Dakota state, James Madison, Butler, Western Illinois.
4. JUSTIN FIELDS, OSU
A very impressive quarterback from a physical standpoint, at 6’3, 225lbs and a good arm with excellent athleticism. His traits are rare and teams will definitely want to take a chance on it given the success of Josh Allen and Justin Herbert in the NFL. Fields thrives when he has to move and throw the defined reads. However he processes information slowly pre and post snap at this moment that will need developing further as he transitions to the league. He sometimes locks on his receiver which causes him to miss other wide open options. There’s something robotic about the way he plays the position which makes me uneasy, I would have liked to see him play more games similarly to his game vs Clemson. In that game he was decisive, fluid, aggressive and cycled through his reads with haste. He has played high level competition and been successful which goes a long way in draft circles when evaluating prospects. At this point in his development he’ll need some time to get coached up by whichever team takes him. Hopefully that team builds an offense around his strengths as he goes through the natural evolution of young quarterbacks. There are many things to like about Justin Fields — his ability to throw a great deep ball, as he may be the best touch pass thrower in this class as well. He does a good job maneuvering in the pocket, when you combine that with his ability to run the football you get a quarterback who possesses all the requisite tools to make an immediate impact if he goes to a team who needs him to start from day one. Fields displays toughness and a willingness to grit through pain for his team which is extremely impressive. As a pro comparison I went for Marcus Mariota coming out of Oregon.
Games watched: Clemson, Alabama, Northwestern, Rutgers, Penn State. mid first round talent, NFL starter
5. MAC JONES, ALABAMA
A very efficient quarterback prospect, he makes quick decisions and would fit an offense that gets the ball out quickly to its playmakers. Jones has a good arm with enough velocity on his throws, however I noticed a few underthrown deep balls and also some placement issues. With just one year as a full time starter Jones will require a bit of patience at the NFL level but he has a lot of room for growth which is why I believe he’ll be a first round pick by some team. He manipulates the pocket extremely well for an inexperienced quarterback, he’ll slide to avoid pressure, roll out and make throws on the run. He sometimes lowers his eyes to the pressure which he’ll need to resolve in the NFL where pockets are much more chaotic. He progresses through his reads consistently, checking off his options quickly getting to the right spot. Physically he stands at 6’3, 215 pounds which is adequate size for the position. I observed him celebrating with his teammates, getting fired up after big plays, he displayed toughness after getting hit by free rushers at times. Mac Jones is surrounded by future NFL talent which would help any prospect but overall he shows most of the required traits necessary for a quarterback to have success as a professional. He reminds me of more aggressive Alex Smith, they’re similar athletes who make good quick decisions and thrive when surrounded with supremely talented skill position players.
Second round pick, Developmental Quarterback with eventual starter ability.
Games watched: Mississippi State, Ohio state, Ole Miss, Georgia, Auburn