PewterReport.com analyzes the top players in the 2021 NFL Draft with its’ position previews. Mark Cook kicks things off previewing the quarterback position with a comprehensive look at what the Bucs have and what they need at quarterback, while also providing a detailed list of this year’s top quarterbacks. In addition, Scott Reynolds offers up the team needs and the annual PewterReport.com Bucs’ Best Bets – the most likely quarterback for the Bucs to select in Rounds 1-3, and in Rounds 4-7.
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What The Bucs Have At Quarterback
Table of Contents
Bucs QBs Blaine Gabbert and Tom Brady – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The Bucs only have one quarterback on the current roster – Tom Brady, who signed a one-year extension this offseason. Tampa Bay would like to have Blaine Gabbert back, but according to sources his asking price is more than the team is willing to pay at this point. A return with Ryan Griffin is still a possibility, as well but not a big priority at the moment.
What The Bucs Need At Quarterback
Brady is recovering from offseason knee surgery but should be ready in June. The Bucs players decided to opt out of in-person offseason workouts, so signing another quarterback isn’t critical at this point. Expect Gabbert to return as Brady’s backup.
As for the No. 3 spot on the depth chart, the Bucs could draft a young passer to develop or possibly re-sign Griffin after the draft if the team passes on a rookie QB. Don’t look for Tampa Bay to draft a quarterback at No. 32, but the Bucs could take a QB like Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond, Florida’s Kyle Trask or Stanford’s Davis Mills in the middle rounds – possibly as high as the late second round. A big pocket passer like Arkansas’ Feleipe Franks has the size and arm strength that fits Bruce Arians’ system and could be a late Day 3 option.
Lawrence has been the consensus top quarterback in college football since he set foot on the field at Clemson. His play over the past three years has given us little reason to think he shouldn’t be the first player off the board on April 29. The Jaguars will make Lawrence the No. 1 overall pick later this month with hopes to revive the franchise now led by former Florida and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. Lawrence, a three-year starter, passed for over 10,000 yards and 90 touchdowns with just 17 interceptions at Clemson. Lawrence won a national championship as a freshman in 2018 and was the Heisman Trophy runner-up that year.
2. BYU QB Zach Wilson – Junior – 6-2, 214, N/A
Wilson has rocketed up draft boards since the college football season ended and after a stellar pro day, it would be a shock if he isn’t the second quarterback off the board due to a cannon for an arm and above average accuracy. He was second in the FBS in completion percentage in 2020 (76.5) with 3,692 yards and 33 touchdowns with just three interceptions. Wilson also rushed for 10 touchdowns in 12 starts for the 11-1 Cougars.
Where Fields goes is still a mystery, but his college production and the traits he showed while starring for the Buckeyes will get him drafted in the Top 10. In terms of overall athleticism, Fields is head and shoulders above the class in this year’s draft. That was showcased in his two pro days. Fields had an excellent junior season in Columbus, taking the Buckeyes to the title game and finishing his final season at Ohio State completing 70.2 percent of his passes for 2,100 yards, 22 TDs, and six interceptions. He also rushed for five scores in his eight starts.
4. Alabama QB Mac Jones – Redshirt Junior – 6-2.5, 217, 4.82
Jones’ production and success at Alabama is unparalleled by any other quarterback in this year’s draft. But no other quarterback had the supporting cast around him like Jones did in college. That becomes the question now for NFL front offices, which must decide if it was Jones driving the Crimson Tide train or just along for the ride. Reports have linked him as high as the third overall pick to the 49ers after a junior season where he threw for 4,500 yards with 41 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
5. North Dakota State QB Trey Lance – Redshirt Sophomore – 6-4, 224, N/A
Lance is a developmental project after only playing in one game in 2020, but that likely won’t keep him out of the top half of the first round due to his upside. His pro day was good, but didn’t wow scouts like some of the other prospects this year. Yet teams love his ability to move in the pocket and his strong arm. In 2019 he completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,786 yards, 28 touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for 1,100 yards with 14 touchdowns on the ground, making him an attractive prospect for quarterback-needy teams.
Mond has all the physical traits – arm strength, accuracy and mobility – that appeal to NFL teams and has been a steady riser since the college football season ended. He helped himself with a solid week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl where he was named MVP and also his improvement each season under center for the Jimbo Fisher-coached Aggies. Mond, who is Texas A&M’s all-time leading passer, finished his final college season throwing for 2,282 yards, 19 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He added 74 carries for 294 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
Trask is a very polished and advanced pocket passer, partly because he isn’t as athletic as some of the other quarterbacks in this year’s class. There are some questions about his arm strength, but he proved his toughness and smarts during his two seasons under center in Gainesville. Trask earned second-team All-SEC honors in 2020 after he led the FBS with a school-record 43 passing touchdowns and a school-record 4,283 passing yards with eight INTs in 12 starts. Trask added three touchdowns on the ground as well.
Mills had a solid recent pro day showing off a strong arm, excellent size and good athleticism. Mills missed some early time in 2020 with COVID but still managed to throw for 1,508 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions to go along with 37 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. While Mills has a number of traits NFL teams are looking for, his lack of starting experience (just 11 collegiate starts) will hamper his draft stock.
Best Of The Rest In The 2021 NFL Draft
9. Notre Dame QB Ian Book – Senior – 6-0, 211, 4.65
Book will struggle to make an NFL roster due to his lack of dynamic playmaking ability and size. More in terms of a game manager, he could be a solid camp arm that could stick on a practice squad but likely won’t see his name called during the draft weekend until Day 3, if then. Book, gritty and tough, finished his 2020 season going 228-of-353 for 2,829 yards and 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He added nine touchdowns on the ground.
Newman played for Wake Forest before transferring to Georgia last season but ended up opting out due to COVID. In 2019, which was his last season playing, Newman earned honorable mention All-ACC honors completing 60.9 percent of his passes for 2,868 yards with 26 TDs and 11 INTs in his 12 starts. Newman has some NFL attractive qualities, but is thought to be a developmental prospect by most NFL scouts.
After a good, but not spectacular, final season at Texas, Ehlinger accepted an invite to this year’s Senior Bowl but really failed to impress. Ehlinger was a workhorse for the Longhorns, finishing his Texas career with more than 11,000 career passing yards and 1,500 career rushing yards, but was never able to take his game to the next level. Ehlinger, a great young man in the community and a solid teammate, is thought to be a backup in the NFL at best, and likely won’t hear his name called until late in this year’s draft.
Franks has always carried the label “potential,” but rarely has lived up to it during his time at Florida and then Arkansas in 2020. Franks has a strong arm, and at 6-foot-6, has the stature of an NFL quarterback. But he doesn’t check all the boxes in terms of reading defenses and making the best decisions. Franks likely ends up a Day 3 pick and could compete for a third-string roster spot in the league. Franks completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 2,107 yards with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions for the Razorbacks.
Bucs’ Best Bets: Quarterback
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 1-3: Florida QB Kyle Trask
Trask is a quarterback that has been on the Bucs’ radar for some time due to his production from the pocket at Florida. While not particularly mobile, he reminds some within the Bucs organization of Brad Johnson due to his pocket presence. Trask has good, but not great arm strength. He’s a touch passer with great accuracy, as evidenced by a 68.9 completion percentage for 4,283 yards with 43 TDs and just eight INTs.
Trask has played big in big games in the SEC and is a gritty competitor, evidenced by 408 yards and three TDs against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. He had five 400-yard passing games as a senior, including a pair of six-TD games against Ole Miss and Arkansas. Trask has some of the “it factor” that head coach Bruce Arians likes in a quarterback, plus the toughness to hang in the pocket and make all the throws. Trask could be drafted in the second or third round and develop for two years behind Tom Brady.
Bucs’ Best Bet – Rounds 4-7: Arkansas QB Feleipe Franks
Arkansas QB Feleipe Franks – Photo by: USA Today
Franks is a project, but has an intriguing skill set that fits an Arians-style offense. With a tremendous, 6-foot-6, 234-pound frame and a strong arm, Franks is the prototype pocket passer. Add in the fact that he ran a 4.59 in the 40-yard dash and Franks has the mobility that rivals that of Blaine Gabbert. Unfortunately, he has some of Gabbert’s decision-making, too, which is why he’s a Day 3 prospect.
Franks had an up-and-down career at Florida before fracturing his ankle and ultimately losing his starting job to Kyle Trask. That prompted him to transfer to Arkansas where he improved his draft stock with a good senior season as a team captain, highlighted by his 17 TDs and four INTs. While not nearly as polished and NFL-ready as Trask or Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond, Franks has some upside and will need some time to develop. If the Bucs draft him in the fifth round or later he’ll have two years to learn from Tom Brady, which would be highly beneficial.