When evaluating an entire NFL Draft class, you start to form groups of prospects in your head, a collection of players with similar skill sets, athleticism, and physical profiles.
To provide a unique view of the quarterback position through this lens, I've pieced together the class as a whole by type. Here's a look at four different groupings, along with one sleeper. This is a good article to bookmark to (hopefully) enhance your viewing experience during the 2021 NFL Draft.
Arm-talent freaks with supreme athletic gifts and major pocket-passing abilities
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Zach Wilson, BYU
Justin Fields, Ohio State
This trio represents those with the most franchise-quarterback abilities, the finest NFL-ready passers in the class. At times, Lawrence fails to see underneath defenders, and can miss high. Other than that, he's the prototype for today's elite quarterback. Wilson has a lightning-quick release, a deceptively strong arm, natural improvisational skills and plays with creativity as a runner. Plus, he routinely throws strikes to all levels of the field. For one reason or another, Fields is being viewed by many as a tier below Lawrence and Wilson. That's just not the case. He's the most pinpoint accurate quarterback in the class -- to all levels of the field -- has a live arm and is the most athletically gifted at his position, too. And, yes, he can get through his reads, he just tends to hold on to the football a tick too long at times but is capable of Deshaun Watson-esque escapes from pressure.
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High-level athletes who need coverage-processing and ball-placement polish
Trey Lance, North Dakota State
Feleipe Franks, Arkansas
Lance is raw. Everybody knows that. And with one year of starting experience at North Dakota State as a 19-year-old in 2019, there's no shame in his rawness as a passer. And by raw I mean he's not someone who'll rifle through his reads in under two seconds then throw it with elite ball placement to his third progression very often. Yet, from an athleticism standpoint, Lance is on par with Fields -- particularly as a designed runner -- and he'll instantly have one of the top 10 strongest arms in the NFL this fall. Most of his accuracy issues come when throwing from an unbalanced base.
It's easy to forget about Franks, because he disappeared from the spotlight after losing his starting job at Florida, then transferring to Arkansas. But let me tell you -- Franks' 2020 film was more impressive than his previous seasons in Gainesville. The chaotic scampers inside the pocket calmed, and the wild misses on easy throws subsided. He looked much more like the No. 5 overall pro-style quarterback recruit in the high school class of 2016. At over 6-foot-5 with a long delivery that sends ropes all over the field and surprising burst for his lankier physique, Franks is one of the more naturally gifted quarterbacks in this class. He just needs to fine-tune some of the advanced components of playing his position -- most namely pocket navigation and coverage reading.
Average athletes with average arms and pinpoint accuracy
Mac Jones, Alabama
Kyle Trask, Florida
Jones is the more polished version of Trask. The two SEC rivals couldn't be more similar from a strengths-and-weaknesses perspective. Both have immense control of where the football goes once it's released. Both show flashes of the inherent skill of subtly avoiding pressure while inside the pocket. Neither have strong arms by NFL standards. And both are low-level athletes for the quarterback position. And let's not forget both played with an embarrassment of riches at receiver, tight end, and offensive line in college.
Jones gives you a touch more athletic twitch and fewer misses altogether, which is why he's a more highly touted prospect.
Jack of all trades, masters of none: Good athleticism, good arm, good accuracy
Davis Mills, Stanford
Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
Jamie Newman, Wake Forest
Mills has become the consensus favorite sleeper at the quarterback spot in the class. The former No. 1 overall pro-style quarterback recruit in the 2017 class never really took off with the Cardinal yet when everyone got to his film, they saw serious flashes. He looks like Andrew Luck throwing the football -- and it's not just a Stanford comparison. Crisp, over-the-top release that produces deceptive arm talent and typically on-point ball placement. He has adequate mobility, too.
Mond, another big-time recruit, morphed from one-read-then-go scrambler to deft pocket passer playing in Jimbo Fisher's vintage offense at Texas A&M, and while his overall game is inconsistent, his high-level play is of first-round caliber.
Newman is the largest enigma in the class, mostly because we really only saw a little more than a half a season in which he produced like an early-round draft pick in a gimmicky RPO-based offense at Wake Forest, then he opted out before what would've been a gigantic opportunity at Georgia. The aggressiveness and accuracy down the field, coupled with suddenness and speed as a runner and impressive pocket-drifting instances, make him fascinating.
Shane Buechele, SMU
Buechele took a comparable road to that of Franks, a former top 5 recruit -- No. 3 dual-threat passer in the 2016 class -- who transferred from a marquee program and had more success in his new locale.
While at SMU, the majestic downfield strikes and creative scrambles were regular occurrences. There are moments when he makes accurate off-platform tosses. There are other times when he tries to throw on the run and things get ugly. He never became a lightning-quick processor in college, but with the way the game is spread today, that's become less important than it was when offenses were more condensed in the past.
Because he was a great athlete in college with a strong arm and a bevy on tight-window rips through the second level, he'll at least start being average in those areas in the NFL. Buechele has legitimate intrigue as a Day Three prospect who has the sheer talent and experience to outplay his draft position.