When it comes to the NFL draft, the trend in recent years has been quarterbacks, quarterbacks and more quarterbacks.
As ESPN’s Bill Barnwell recently detailed, there has been a first-round quarterback boom in the draft, especially since 2018. That year, five signal-callers were taken in the first round, the most of any year since 1999, and in the drafts since, six more quarterbacks were taken in the first round, five of whom heard their names called within the first six picks.
That trend is expected to continue this year, with five quarterbacks projected to be taken in the first round. Among them is BYU’s Zach Wilson, who has received his fair share of publicity leading up to the draft.
But how does he compare to Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State’s Justin Fields? How do Lawrence and Fields compare to each other? What about Trey Lance or Mac Jones?
Here is a look at each quarterback’s respective college careers.
Weight: 213 pounds
- 2018 — Completed 259 of 397 pass attempts (65.2% completion percentage) as a true freshman. Threw for 3,280 yards, 30 touchdowns and four interceptions.
- 2019 — Threw for a career-high 3,665 yards and 36 touchdowns (eight interceptions), while completing 65.8% of his attempts (268 of 407). He also rushed for 563 yards and nine scores.
- 2020 — Despite missing more than a month due to COVID-19 protocols, Lawrence threw for 3,153 yards, 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He completed 231 of 334 passes, completing a career-best 69.2% of his attempts.
- Career — Threw for 10,098 yards, 90 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in three seasons at Clemson, while also rushing for 943 yards and 18 touchdowns.
CBS Sports — 1
The Athletic — 1
NFL.com — 1
ESPN — 1
Fox Sports — 1
What they’re saying
- “Lawrence has very good decision-making skills, good release quickness and top-tier velocity as a passer. Although Lawrence is still working on the consistency of his footwork and ball placement, his overall touch, timing and anticipation are excellent. He knows how to lead receivers open and spots the ball very well on back-shoulder throws. And he has solid pocket mobility for such a tall quarterback, with quickness in the pocket and a feel for pressure. As a runner, Lawrence has good speed when he takes off. In all, he is a once-in-a-decade type of quarterback prospect.” — ESPN’s Todd McShay
- “From his feet to his eyes to his delivery, Lawrence is quick in everything he does (too fast at times), playing with composed urgency and the body type that should hold up to the violence of an NFL season. The Clemson “quick game” offense helped simplify things for him and his consistency needs continued development, but he is an accurate passer with the creativity and decision-making to execute at a high level. Overall, Lawrence is a generational talent with the physical (size, athleticism, arm talent) and mental (processing speed, intangibles) traits to become one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He projects as the clear No. 1 player in the class and an immediate, scheme-diverse starter.” — The Athletic’s Dane Brugler
- “Refined and polished for his age, Lawrence is the ultimate prototype for today’s brand of franchise quarterback. He has great size. He also possesses elite pocket-passing qualities paired with dual-threat athleticism that makes him an unpredictable weapon on every down if play-callers are willing to expand their playbooks for him. While he’s fairly polished with his approach from the pocket, he has better improvisational talent than many of the quarterbacks who have come up through the quarterback camp circuits from a young age. He has the arm and eyes to make all the throws and to create explosive plays from outside the pocket. ... Lawrence has an extremely high ceiling and a floor as a very good player who will start for a long time.” — NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein
Weight: 209 pounds
- 2018 — Saw time in nine games his freshman season and took over the starting job against Hawaii. Accounted for 1,578 yards passing, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions, while completing 65.9% of his pass attempts.
- 2019 — Played in nine games again and threw for 2,382 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Wilson completed 62.4% of his pass attempts and also rushed for 167 yards and three touchdowns.
- 2020 — A breakout season, Wilson threw for 3,692 yards, 33 touchdowns and three interceptions in his final year at BYU. He rushed for 254 yards and 10 scores, and completed a career-best 73.5% of his passes.
- Career — All told, Wilson threw for 7,652 yards, 56 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, while also rushing for 642 yards and 15 touchdowns.
CBS Sports — 2
The Athletic — 2
NFL.com — 2
ESPN — 2
Fox Sports — 2
What they’re saying
- “Wilson played in a pistol-heavy offense at BYU that featured full-field reads. One of his best traits is his ability to extend plays, as he has the instincts and agility to create after the initial play breaks down, and he does a very good job of adjusting his arm angles to generate throwing windows. His ability to throw receivers open also stands out, as Wilson shows above-average touch against zone looks. He doesn’t appear to have great top-end speed, but he’s an instinctive runner with good quickness and competitiveness.” — McShay
- “A quick-minded player, Wilson competes with the creativity and ball-handling skills to make plays as a passer. He shows a natural feel for placement and touch. While he can be quick to bail and allow his mechanics to break down, he thrives moving the pocket and improvising. Overall, Wilson doesn’t have an ideal body type, but his natural accuracy, off-platform skills and ability to make great spontaneous decisions translate to any level of football. He will compete for NFL starting reps as a rookie.” — Brugler
- “Ascending quarterback prospect who possesses the swagger and arm talent to create explosive plays inside and outside the pocket. ... He’s mobile with the ability to extend plays and hit the chunk play. Wilson’s sophomore year tape shows troubling decision-making, so NFL teams will need to balance his 2019 and 2020 production in the evaluation process. He’s put in a lot of work to get to this point and has the potential to become a good pro. However, he might need to play with a more disciplined approach to reach his ceiling.” — Zierlein
Weight: 214 pounds
- 2018 — Played sparingly as a redshirt freshman, appearing in only six games. Jones only threw 13 passes and completed five, accounting for 123 yards and a touchdown.
- 2019 — As a backup to the oft-injured Tua Tagovailoa, Jones played in 11 games, with four starts. He threw for 1,503 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions, while completing 97 of 141 passes (68.8% completion).
- 2020 — As the full-time starter, Jones had a breakout campaign. He threw for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and four interceptions, completing 311 of 402 passes (77.4% completion). In the national championship game against Ohio State, Jones threw for 464 yards and five touchdowns.
- Career — Largely in one season played, Jones accounted for 6,126 yards passing and 56 touchdowns, to only seven interceptions.
CBS Sports — 3
The Athletic — 3
NFL.com — 19
ESPN — 7
Fox Sports — 3
What they’re saying
- “His pocket presence and ability to maneuver within the pocket really stand out on tape. Jones has shown high-level ball placement on short to intermediate throws and has very good timing and anticipation. He processes things quickly and has outstanding football sense, and he consistently displays the ability to lead receivers to yards after the catch. Jones also understands trajectory and can layer the ball between defenders. But he has a tendency to underthrow the deep ball, and he is not much of a threat as a runner.” — McShay
- “Jones is an especially challenging evaluation because he played in a near-perfect situation in Tuscaloosa with an elite offensive line, running game, pass-catchers and play-calling, which makes it tough to evaluate him independent of his surroundings. However, he still had to make the reads and the throws and he displayed advanced-level poise and anticipation. Overall, Jones doesn’t have elite level mobility or arm strength, but he is good-enough in those areas and he is poised, hyper competitive and doesn’t make mistakes. He projects as a high-floor NFL starter.” — Brugler
- “Jones has above-average accuracy and a season full of eye-catching production. ... His accuracy and ball placement stand out and he throws a very catchable football with consistent touch on it. He’s not much of an improv player but can hurt defenses with his feet once he leaves the pocket. The tape shows too much predetermined decision-making about where he wants to go with the football rather than letting the coverage and his progressions speak to him. While the production looks great, he has clearly benefited from a wealth of riches up front, in the backfield and at wide receiver. He has a tendency to play with some panic when pressure gets after him and could struggle when things aren’t optimal around him. Jones has good backup to low-end starter potential.” — Zierlein
Weight: 227 pounds
School: Ohio State
- 2018 — As a freshman, Fields played for the Georgia Bulldogs, playing behind Jake Fromm. He made an appearance in 12 games, threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 266 yards and four touchdowns.
- 2019 — Fields started immediately after transferring to OSU and had a breakout sophomore campaign. He threw for 3,273 yards, 41 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also rushed for 484 yards and 10 touchdowns, all the while completing 67.2% of his passes.
- 2020 — In the shortened 2020-21 season, Fields still managed to account for 2,100 yards passing, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions, leading Ohio State to the national championship game. He also rushed for 383 yards and five touchdowns.
- Career — In what amounted to two seasons played, Fields threw for 5,701 yards, 67 touchdowns and nine interceptions, while rushing for 1,133 yards and 19 touchdowns.
CBS Sports — 8
The Athletic — 4
NFL.com — 15
ESPN — 3
Fox Sports — 9
What they’re saying
- “Fields has very good accuracy and gets very good zip on vertical throws. He shows a quick release — he can snap his wrist and the ball jumps off his hand. The biggest knock on Fields is that he wants to see his receiver come open, and he will need to do a better job of anticipating throws. He is a good mover in the pocket, and he does a solid job of keeping his eyes downfield while extending plays and locating late-opening targets. Fields has some developing to do as a processor, but if placed in the right system, he should quickly become a top-tier NFL starter.” — McShay
- “A two-year starter at Ohio State, Fields was one of college football’s best players the last two seasons in (Ryan) Day’s multiple spread offense. ... Fields has had the spotlight on him for a long time and he hasn’t wilted while displaying the confidence and competitive toughness that teammates rally behind. He shows excellent tempo when the play is on-schedule, but he must speed up his target-to-target progression reads and improve his urgency when the initial target is taken away. Overall, Fields’ decision-making is more methodical than spontaneous, but he has high-ceiling traits with his athleticism, accuracy and intangibles. He projects as a high-end NFL starter if he can quicken his reads and process.” — Brugler
- “Fields enters the league with dual-threat capabilities but is more of a pocket passer with the ability to extend plays or win with his legs when needed. ... He sees the field fairly well inside the Buckeyes’ quarterback-friendly offense but needs to become a full-field reader and prevent his eyes from becoming transfixed on primary targets. He sticks open throws with accuracy and velocity thanks to a sturdy platform and good drive mechanics. He’s also comfortable throwing into intermediate holes of a zone. A slower operation time and a lack of a twitchy trigger will require him to work with better anticipation and pressure recognition pre- and post-snap. He takes more sacks than coaches will be comfortable with but he also digs his way out of holes and creates explosive plays. Fields operates with a quiet confidence and has experience overcoming adversity. He should continue to improve and become a solid NFL starter within a couple of seasons.” — Zierlein
Weight: 227 pounds
College: North Dakota State
- 2018 — Played in only two games and largely ran the ball. He rushed eight times for 82 yards and two touchdowns. He completely his only pass attempt, for 12 yards.
- 2019 — In what amounted to his only full season leading the Bison, Lance had a record-breaking campaign. He threw for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns (without a single interception), and also rushed for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns.
- 2020 — Lance played in only one game during the fall, opting out of the FCS’ spring season. In that single contest, he completed 15 of 30 passes for 149 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and also rushed for 143 yards and two scores.
- Career — Lance accounted for 2,947 yards passing, 30 touchdowns and one interception in his career at NDSU. He also rushed for 1,325 yards and 18 touchdowns.
CBS Sports — 10
The Athletic — 8
NFL.com — 3
ESPN — 9
Fox Sports — 15
What they’re saying
- “Lance has great arm strength, and he extends plays and makes off-platform throws with frequency. He is efficient dropping from under center and excels at selling play-action. Lance has fast eyes and does an exceptional job with ball security. He shows good downfield touch, but his biggest weakness is a lack of consistently accurate ball placement, especially on shorter throws and throws outside the hashes. He is a bruising runner with good top-end speed. Lance’s relative inexperience (17 starts) and FCS level of competition are concerns.” — McShay
- “A late bloomer at the high school level, Lance had one of the most impressive statistical seasons in college football history in 2019 (42 total touchdowns, zero interceptions), but that is the only full season on his 17-start (all vs. FCS competition) college resume. A unique talent, Lance has the athleticism, arm talent and make-up to be a playmaker. ... Overall, Lance is an unprecedented evaluation and will require time as he adjusts to the speed and complexities of the NFL, but his physical traits, poise and intelligence are a rare package for his age and meager experience. He should compete for NFL starting snaps during his rookie season.” — Brugler
- “Lance is mature for his age, but will be just 20 years old at the time of the 2021 NFL Draft. He’s a rare dual-threat quarterback in that he’s tasked with setting his own protections and reading the full field. Coaches rave about his football IQ and film work. They believe he will come into the league more football savvy than most of the quarterbacks in this draft. Tape shows very average arm strength but velocity should improve with better lower-body drive. While his recognition of coverage danger is a plus, he’s currently more of a “yellow light” quarterback who needs to find a “green light” risk-taking mentality to become a playmaking talent in the NFL. An offensive coordinator willing to blend his run/pass talent with a play-action attack could get the most out of Lance, who should become a good NFL starter.” — Zierlein