Two weeks ago, my editor asked if I would do the Quarterback Watch article this week and I said yes without hesitation. I can only assume my acceptance was met with laughter on his end knowing that Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State's Justin Fields, BYU's Zach Wilson, North Dakota State's Trey Lance and Alabama's Mac Jones were all inactive for this week's slate. Those are arguably the five best quarterback prospects available in the 2021 NFL Draft. The joke, as I would later learn, was on me.
Through the ashes comes the tale of a productive quarterback from the Lone Star State and a polarizing transfer from Houston.
Ian Book, Notre Dame
Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec was once-heralded as the next great prospect to come through South Bend but Notre Dame's decision to roll with Book led to his transfer. Jurkovec came out firing against his former team and looked good initially before fading into the abyss. His counterpart, Book, displayed nice touch and good ball placement. Two of his three touchdowns were exactly where they needed to be and the third -- all to senior wide receiver Ben Skowronek -- was way behind where it should have been placed.
Book did a nice job sensing pressure and moving the pocket. The senior from California finished the game having completed 20-of-27 passes for 283 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions; bringing his season-long total up to 11 touchdowns and one interception. He added 10 carries for 85 yards and a fourth touchdown on the ground.
D'Eriq King, Miami (Fla.)
King is listed at 5-foot-11 but those that have seen him in person believe he is closer to 5-foot-9. The Houston transfer has good speed but is never going to be confused for Kyler Murray. Coming into this season, the senior had an unorthodox throwing motion and did not display much zip behind his passes. To King's credit, he is driving the ball more this year but his accuracy on downfield attempts is still poor.
The Hurricanes offered a taste of the optimal offense with King under center. Any team deploying King as a quarterback at the NFL level would need to incorporate some run-pass options into their base offense. He has better athleticism than the average NFL quarterback but his arm talent is subpar. There are creative NFL teams that could create packages for him. King finished with a 63.2% completion percentage, 255 yards and one touchdown. He added an additional touchdown on the ground.
Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
Ridder is a lanky quarterback capable of throwing off platform. He runs a lot despite showing average NFL mobility. The Louisville native showed horrible ball placement and was inaccurate on downfield attempts last season. The junior showed a live arm over the weekend against East Carolina. He was driving the ball and throwing with accuracy downfield to the point that ECU head coach Mike Houston confronted Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell after the game for running up the score late.
In a 55-17 win over the rival Pirates, Ridder completed 24-of-31 passes for 327 yards and three touchdowns as well as eight carries for 75 yards and a fourth touchdown.
Kyle Trask, Florida
Trask has thrown for at least 268 yards in each of his team's six games. Saturday against Arkansas was no different. He finished with as many touchdowns as incompletions. The pocket passer from Texas finished completing 23-of-29 passes for 356 yards and six touchdowns. The consummate teammate, Trask overcame the absence of star tight end Kyle Pitts by throwing two touchdowns to the backup -- Keon Zipperer.
The senior is tough and poised in the pocket. Teams will never be afraid of his ability to get yardage on the ground because he lacks speed but he has the ability to manipulate defenses. Trask held the safety with his eyes on one play before tossing it over the top for an easy touchdown to Zipperer. On another touchdown, he motioned forward as if orchestrating a quarterback draw before zipping it out to wide receiver Trevon Grimes on the boundary. Trask throws with elite ball placement and gets the ball out quickly. His understanding of the opposition has allowed him to play at a much faster pace in 2020.
As of today, Lawrence, Fields, Wilson and Lance appear to be the four best quarterback prospects available in the 2021 NFL Draft. Trask has forced himself into that second tier quarterback conversation along with Alabama's Mac Jones and a few others.