Tue, 13 Apr 2021

2021 NFL Draft Prospects for Vikings: Quarterbacks

Minnesota Vikings
07 Apr 2021, 04:37 GMT+10

Craig Peters

In the lead-up to the 2021 NFL Draft, Vikings.com is taking a position-by-position look at prospects who have garnered a range of attention from national outlets. The series will include rankings, stats and background information for multiple prospects. We'll also include comments that experts shared during interviews.

Vikings status at quarterback

Two retirements, two trades and rumors of other quarterbacks being jettisoned across the country made this one of the most intriguing NFL offseasons at the position, but the Vikings have kept continuity around Kirk Cousins. The QB is entering his 10th NFL season and fourth in Minnesota with familiar coaches, a dynamic running back and a receiving duo that combined for 162 receptions, 2,325 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Cousins is secure as the starter, but questions remain about the Vikings plan to protect the pocket. Veteran Sean Mannion became a free agent on March 17 but has been credited for his approach to the backup gig. Jake Browning, who joined Minnesota as an undrafted free agent in 2019, and Nate Stanley, a 2020 seventh-round pick, could go mano a mano during camp, or could be part of a three-player evaluation process in vying for the role.

Ask the analyst

Jordan Reid, a former QB and coach at North Carolina Central University who is now a Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network and a co-founder of ClimbingThePocket.com, is offering takes on this year's class of quarterbacks. A three-year starter at North Carolina Central, Reid holds the program's single-season record for completion percentage (62.3) and is eighth on the school's all-time passing yards list (3,524). Follow him on Twitter @Jordan_Reid for his analysis.

Do you agree with the consensus that Trevor Lawrence is the best?

Reid: "Yeah, he's been the best for a while, honestly, a 34-2 career record when he was at Clemson. He's kind of been in the spotlight since 2018 when he was the top overall recruit. A lot of people were saying, 'Could he live up to the hype?' I definitely think he surpassed it, winning a national championship, stepping into the spotlight. What he did against Alabama as a true freshman was just remarkable, and then, his only two losses came in the College Football Playoffs, to LSU and then Ohio State, so I think the record speaks for itself, as far as what he has accomplished."

Which QB do you believe has the highest ceiling?

Reid: "After Lawrence, I would say Justin Fields, just because he's a guy I like a lot, but he has some things he needs to work on, as far as from a processing standpoint. I think there's some things in the Ohio State offense that have kind of hindered him a little bit, as far as development, but as far as what he brings to the table, right away into the NFL and the upside he does possess, I definitely think it's Justin Fields."

Which of those categorized in the "top five" by most has the lowest floor?

Reid: "Of course it's going to be Trey Lance, just because of the limited amount of starts that he does have. He's only at 17 in his career. He and Mac Jones only have 17 right now. I would say both of those guys have the lowest floors because of the small sample size. Since the year 2000, there's only been five guys that have started 17 or fewer games and have gone on to be first-round picks: Kyler Murray, Cam Newton, Mark Sanchez, Mitchell Trubisky and Dwayne Haskins, so obviously a mixed bag of guys, as far as how they turned out, so now you throw Mac Jones and also Trey Lance into that, so you really don't know what's going to happen with those guys. That's why I say they have the lowest floor."

With Cousins in place as the starter, what could you see the Vikings doing in the draft?

Reid: "They seem to be in a comfortable position with Kirk, especially with how they have invested in him, so I don't think they're going to bring in a guy in the first two rounds, but now you're talking about late Day 2, early Day 3, I definitely could see them taking one there if they're looking for a developmental guy, if it's a Davis Mills from Stanford. He's one I could see them having some appeal to, and also Kellen Mond. I think they could have some interest there, too. Those are two guys that they could have circled, as far as that could interest them in the mid-rounds."

Expert rankings

NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah currently has five quarterbacks in his overall Top 50: 1. Trevor Lawrence, 4. Zach Wilson, 7. Trey Lance, 8. Justin Fields and 32. Mac Jones.

ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., has the same five quarterbacks in his overall Top 25: 1. Lawrence, 6. Fields, 7. Wilson, 12. Jones and 13. Lance.

Rankings for each player within the quarterback position group by Jeremiah, his NFL Media counterpart Bucky Brooks, Kiper, analytics site Pro Football Focus and The Athletic's Dane Brugler are listed below.

Takeaway: In addition to Lawrence's unanimous status as the top QB and overall pick, Brooks, PFF and Brugler agreed with Jeremiah and Kiper on the top five quarterbacks.

Prospects

Note: Heights and weights are from each player's profile on NFL.com (linked for each player's name).

Trevor Lawrence

School: Clemson | Year: Jr. | Ht: 6-foot-6 | Wt: 221 pounds

2020 stats: 10 games; 231-of-334 passing (69.2 percent), 3,153 yards, 24 TD, 5 INT, 169.2 NCAA passer rating; 68 rushes for 203 yards and 8 TD

Reid's Recon: "Just a cerebral player, very heady, very aware, just the picture-perfect definition of what you'd draw up a quarterback from scratch, he's exactly what you would want, so he's definitely worthy of the hype."

Zach Wilson

School: BYU | Year: Jr. | Ht: 6-foot-3 | Wt: 210 pounds

2020 stats: 12 games; 247-of-336 passing (73.5 percent), 3,692 yards, 33 TD, 3 INT, 196.4 NCAA passer rating; 70 rushes for 254 yards and 10 TD

At or near the top of the mountain: Wilson led the NCAA in 2020 with 11.0 passing yards per attempt, ranked second in passer rating (196.4) and completion percentage and ranked third in passing yards and scores. Wilson's passer rating is the sixth-highest in a single season all-time.

Justin Fields

School: Ohio State (after Georgia) | Year: Jr. | Ht: 6-foot-2 | Wt: 228 pounds

2020 stats: 8 games; 158-of-225 passing (70.2 percent), 2,100 yards, 22 TD, 6 INT, 175.6 NCAA passer rating; 81 rushes for 383 yards and 5 TD

Back-to-back: After beginning his college career at Georgia in 2018 with limited action, Fields transferred to Ohio State. He won Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors in each of the past two seasons after leading the conference in passing yards and touchdowns (3,273 and 41 in 2019; 2,100 and 22 in 2020).

Trey Lance

School: North Dakota State | Year: Sophomore | Ht: 6-foot-4 | Wt: 226 pounds

2020 stats: North Dakota State played one game in the fall; 15-of-30 passing (50.0 percent), 149 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 107.1 NCAA passer rating; 15 rushes for 143 yards and 2 TD

Incredible run: A member of the 2017 Minnesota Vikings All-State Team for his prowess at Marshall High School, Lance red-shirted in 2018 before turning in an incredible 2019 season. He helped North Dakota State go 16-0 and used his legs to finish the incredible run. Lance rushed 30 times for 166 yards and a score in the FCS National Championship on Jan. 11, 2020. That performance included a 44-yard touchdown on a third-and-23 to give the Bison a two-score lead early in the fourth quarter.

Mac Jones

School: Alabama | Year: Redshirt-Jr. | Ht: 6-foot-3 | Wt: 217 pounds

2020 stats: 13 games; 311-of-402 passing (77.4 percent), 4,500 yards, 41 TD, 4 INT, 203.1 NCAA passer rating; 35 rushes for 14 yards and 1 TD

Record breaker: Jones topped 2019 Heisman Trophy winner and 2020 No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow's NCAA record for highest passer rating in a season just one year after Burrow's 202.0 topped the marks of Tua Tagovailoa (199.4 in 2018 at Alabama) and Kyler Murray (199.2 in 2018 at Oklahoma).

Kyle Trask

School: Florida | Year: Redshirt-Sr. | Ht: 6-foot-5 | Wt: 240 pounds

2020 stats: 12 games; 301-of-437 passing (68.9 percent), 4,283 yards, 43 TD, 8 INT, 180.0 NCAA passer rating; 64 rushes for 50 yards and 3 TD

Airing it out: Trask led the NCAA in pass attempts and touchdowns, and he ranked second in completions and passing yards in 2020. Trask had five games in which he attempted at least 40 passes last season.

Davis Mills

School: Stanford | Year: Senior | Ht: 6-foot-4 | Wt: 225 pounds

2020 stats: 5 games; 129-of-195 passing (66.2 percent), 1,508 yards, 7 TD, 3 INT, 139.9 NCAA passer rating; 30 rushes for 37 yards and 3 TD

Reid's Recon: "He definitely is one that is highly intriguing. Was a big-time recruit coming out of high school in the 2017 class. He had a knee injury, tore his ACL, and kind of fell off the map. It kind of lingered going into his Stanford career, so he wasn't ready to start right away. He red-shirted. A really small sample size for the most part, but there's a lot of intrigue there with him, and I can see some teams probably taking him in the third round. I think that would be a comfortable area, and it would not surprise me if it was even higher, especially with the lack of options after [the top] five guys."

Kellen Mond

School: Texas A&M | Year: Redshirt-Jr. Senior | Ht: 6-foot-2 | Wt: 205 pounds

2020 stats: 10 games; 188-of-297 passing (63.3 percent), 2,282 yards, 19 TD, 3 INT, 146.9 NCAA passer rating; 74 rushes for 294 yards and 4 TD

Reid's Recon: "He set pretty much every single record at Texas A&M, but he does have some fine-tuning that he needs to do. He would be a very, very nice project for the Vikings to have."

Jamie Newman

School: Georgia (after Wake Forest) | Year: Redshirt-Sr. | Ht: 6-foot-3 | Wt: 235 pounds

2020 stats: opted out of playing after transferring to Georgia; 2019 at Wake Forest: 12 games; 220-of-361 passing (60.9 percent), 2,868 yards, 26 TD, 11 INT, 145.3 NCAA passer rating; 180 rushes for 574 yards and 6 TD

Rusty in return: Newman was one of five quarterbacks who played in the 2021 Reese's Senior Bowl (along with Mond, Feleipe Franks, Ian Book and Sam Ehlinger; Jones attended but did not play). Newman was the only QB of the group who had opted out, and Pro Football Focus said he didn't show as well as he had in 2019 at Wake Forest. PFF's Mike Renner wrote the following: "In the week of practices, Newman earned a 33.5 passing grade, and his six turnover-worthy plays were the most of any quarterback in attendance. Then in the game, it was more of the same with a 51.8 passing grade and five sacks on 20 dropbacks."

Sam Ehlinger

School: Texas | Year: Sr. | Ht: 6-foot-1 | Wt: 222 pounds

2020 stats: 10 games; 194-of-322 passing (60.2 percent), 2,566 yards, 26 TD, 5 INT, 150.7 NCAA passer rating; 113 rushes for 377 yards and 8 TD

Texas two-step: Ehlinger finished his career with 94 passing touchdowns and 33 on the ground. He also became the second quarterback from a Power Five Conference to record more than 11,000 passing yards and 1,500 or more rushing yards, joining fellow Longhorn Colt McCoy. NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein credited Ehlinger's toughness and intangibles with helping him turn in four "solid but somewhat unspectacular years at Texas."

Ian Book

School: Notre Dame | Year: Redshirt-Sr. | Ht: 6-foot | Wt: 210 pounds

2020 stats: 12 games; 228-of-353 passing (64.6 percent), 2,830 yards, 15 TD, 3 INT, 144.3 NCAA passer rating; 116 rushes for 485 yards and 9 TD

By the book: Brugler noted Book's career productivity and the fact that he went 30-5 as a starter with the Irish, writing, "Although undersized, Book is a gutsy dual-threat passer with quick feet and natural throwing skills on the move. From the pocket, he is hesitant with his reads and at his best on three-step drops, calling for quick timing throws. Overall, Book needs to improve his trigger and touch as a pocket passer, but he is an instinctive, athletic play extender and a proven winner, projecting as an NFL reserve capable of locking down a backup job."

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