NFL Draft: Future remains bright for Trevor Lawrence despite uncharacteristic championship performance

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow outplayed Clemson's Trevor Lawrence in the College Football Playoff National Championship. There is no debate that it was otherwise. However, the narrative that Lawrence played horrible or lost any shine off his draft prospectus would be overblown. 

His 48.6 percent completion rate was much lower than the 65.8 percent that he accumulated over the course of the season. He was rushed and rattled against the Tigers and Ohio State the prior week. The numbers support an uncharacteristically errant day for the 6-foot-6 quarterback. However, he never put the ball in harm's way outside of the Kristian Fulton interception that was brought back due to a pass interference call. 

The box score will reflect 18 of 37 passes completed for 234 yards. He attempted a combined three shovel or pop passes that were retracted from this analysis because every quarterback should be able to complete those. There were some other logged attempts that were not included, which will be explained, and some passes that were marked accurate or otherwise even if the play did not count. 

The Georgia native's passes were broken down into three sections -- left side, middle and right side -- and by depth -- short (0-10 yards), intermediate (11-20 yards) and downfield (21+ yards). Lawrence completed just 2 of 7 downfield attempts. He went 6 of 12 in each of the short and intermediate columns. His most effective targets (4 of 5) were intermediate throws made to the right side of the field. His least efficient was a tie (1 of 5) between the intermediate left and short middle. 

Thirty-two of his passes were labeled as either accurate or essentially inaccurate whether they were overthrown, underthrown or thrown behind. Of those 32 passes, 19 were considered to be accurate. These did not always result in a completion because of a penalty or the intended receiver simply did not catch it. There was one incompletion labeled as accurate because it was the only place the ball could have gone without being intercepted. There was a throw early in the fourth quarter that was incomplete but labeled accurate because it likely would have been on target had it not been for a pass interference. 

Thirteen passes were inaccurate (ten overthrown, two underthrown and one thrown behind). One of those overthrows led to wide receiver Amari Rodgers being hung out to dry on a downfield throw. Rodgers was hit by safety Jacoby Stevens and visibly shaken. 

As a true freshman last season, Lawrence had five turnover worthy plays, according to Pro Football Focus. He was their highest graded true freshman quarterback ever. The quarterback was consistent at all levels of the field en route to a National Championship. It is entirely possible, although speculative, that the team was still riding the high of the prior year and that is why the 2019 regular season started so slow. As the season progressed, Lawrence started to look more and more like the quarterback prognosticators came to expect. By year's end, his statistics looked similar to 2018 and the analytics were reflecting well on him. According to Pro Football Focus, he was working his way back into the Heisman conversation because of his poise under pressure, accuracy at all levels and his ability to tote the rock as well. The sophomore had 103 carries for 563 yards and nine touchdowns this season. It served as a springboard for the team's College Football Playoff semifinal victory over Ohio State. 

Lawrence has now played two seasons of college football but is still a very young player with a lot to learn. NFL talent evaluators will look at his size, arm strength and protection of the football to verify the eye test of his potential. There is a whole other season of college football to be played before he is eligible to enter the 2021 NFL Draft. No one knows how it will play out, but it would be a surprise if Lawrence and Ohio State's Justin Fields were not the top two options for quarterback-needy teams. 

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