Trevor Lawrence entered the college football realm with an ungodly amount of hype -- and he somehow exceeded the expectations from the jump with a dazzling, nearly unfathomable true freshman season that culminated with the toppling of the Alabama empire in the national title game.
Then, as a 19-year-old Clemson quarterback, Lawrence arrived as a future No. 1 overall pick. He went 20-of-32 for 347 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions against, basically, a junior varsity NFL defense. And that season and win over the Crimson Tide at such a young age was telling -- Lawrence was unusually ahead of the curve.
But Lawrence was far from the first passer who appeared on the NFL radar after a spectacular debut campaign at the collegiate ranks. Unlike many before him, Lawrence sustained his greatness in each of the next two seasons to cement himself as not only the sure-fire No. 1 overall pick in whichever draft for which he declared, but arguably the best quarterback prospect ever and indisputably the finest the NFL has seen since at least Andrew Luck -- or to some, since Peyton Manning.
Here's quick rundown of Lawrence's attributes and refined skills that together make him the obvious choice for the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 1 overall.
The NFL is rapidly moving away from the surgically accurate, stoic pocket passers who operate dink-and-dunk systems and ushering in a new wave of rocket-armed quarterbacks with the willingness and ability to effectively push the football down the field on a regular basis. And from the moment we saw Lawrence back in 2018, his arm talent was awe-inspiring.
Since the start of 2018, Lawrence was third in completions with at least 20 air yards and 33 of those passes went for touchdowns. The ball explodes out of his hands on long balls and when he needs to fit the football through a tiny window. Importantly too, Lawrence can tap into his arm strength while on the run or when he doesn't have the opportunity to set his feet -- that's arm talent, and Lawrence has loads of it.
Another element of the young quarterback movement in the NFL centers around athleticism. Teams need their quarterbacks to be capable of creating plays with his legs -- whether that be extending a play and letting it rip down the sideline from outside the pocket or scrambling for a first down in a critical situation.
And that is what sets Lawrence apart from other "top" quarterback prospects in recent memory. He's a supremely gifted, smooth athlete. In fact, Clemson had no qualms about utilizing him in the designed run game because of how big, explosive, and deceptively agile Lawrence is. He had at least one rush of 10-plus yards in in eight of 10 games this season. In 2019, there were eight contests with at least a run of 15 yards, and he had the 67-yard touchdown scamper in the comeback win over Ohio State. As a freshman, he had 10 outings with a rush of 10-plus yards.
Lawrence will mostly be touted for his passing prowess, but dude really can run.
Lawrence won't be mistaken for Drew Brees or Tom Brady in the NFL when it comes to ball placement. But on passes at the intermediate level and down the field, Lawrence routinely demonstrated he had high-level control of where the football would ultimately land.
Sure, there'll be a pass or two each game that sails. But there'll be significantly more dimes at all levels of the field from Lawrence. Clemson's offense wasn't shy about using the screen game during his tenure, but for as often as Lawrence let it rip down the field, a career 66.6% completion percentage is impressive.
Because he was running the show like an NFL veteran as a freshman with the Tigers, Lawrence had plenty of time to hone his ability to quickly move through his progressions, a cardinal aspect of playing the quarterback position at a high level in the NFL. In his 35 games at Clemson, Lawrence consistently demonstrated his willingness to stand tall -- even in the face of an oncoming defender -- and glide through his reads from inside the pocket.
There are times when he's a little overly antsy -- seemingly unsure of whether he should take off and run, or stand in -- but much more often than not, Lawrence will rapidly get off his first target if he's not open or coverage shifted in his direction and move to No. 2 or No. 3 on a given play. That savvy skill allowed Lawrence to routinely make good decisions with the football. He's more aggressive than he is timid, but it was rare to see him completely confused by coverage or hang onto the football too long. And fortunately for Lawrence, even if either of those two things happened, his supreme physical tools usually allowed him to get away with it.
After that immaculate freshman season, we knew Lawrence was on track to eventually go No. 1 overall. Over the next two seasons -- and particularly in 2020 -- as the amount of phenomenal skill-position talent around him diminished, Lawrence sharped his skills and continued to show no fear about running the football or when he needed go off-script. He's become the prototype for the modern-day quarterback prospect.