A consensus is growing in NFL scouting circles that four quarterback prospects have emerged as likely first-round selections in the 2021 NFL Draft, multiple sources said, with the truncated college season coming to a close and what will likely be a Covid-altered offseason scouting landscape ahead.
It remains to be seen if the combine and team pro days will be conducted as they were pre-Covid (many scouts and agents are preparing for a very different combine structure). And the college season has been anything but normal. But draft preparation is well underway and four quarterbacks continue to generate the most attention and are shaping up as first-round picks.
Clemson's Trevor Lawrence is considered can't miss, and I have yet to talk to a scout or executive who is not completely convinced that Lawrence will be the first player selected. It's seen as even more of a fait accompli than Joe Burrow was a year ago ... and there was very little doubt about that, either, by the combine.
Ohio State's Justin Fields has fallen under a little more scrutiny as the season went on, and with the Big 10 season greatly curtailed by COVID-19, the window to scout Fields has been limited. His talent will land him in the top five most likely, scouts tell me, though his ability to process at the highest levels and handle adversity will be topics of conversation this spring.
The biggest riser, by far, has been BYU's Zach Wilson. Wilson is an elite playmaker who has good size (6-3) and went from a fringe first-round prospect in the summer to a potential top 10 pick. He will surpass 3,000 yards passing and is completing 73 percent of his passes while averaging over 11 yards per attempt with 27 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
"Lawrence is the best quarterback in the draft and it's really not all that close," said one executive who has watched them extensively. "There is a big dropoff from him to Fields, and Wilson has really closed the gap with Fields. By the draft, he may have passed him. Seriously, this kid is really good."
North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance is the most difficult of the four to project, as the pre-draft scouting period will be imperative for him. His school played just one game this fall, moving to a spring season, but Lance has already declared for the draft and will not take part in those games and practices. Scouts I spoke to expect him to still be among the first 32 selections, but assessing where is pretty difficult at this point.