We've spent a good deal of time talking about each of the top 2021 NFL draft quarterback prospects' tape and analyzing their strengths and weaknesses. But what happens when we compare those evaluations with statistics in a handful of areas?
We took the top 13 QBs in this class -- Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, Mac Jones, Kyle Trask, Kellen Mond, Davis Mills, Jamie Newman, Ian Book, Sam Ehlinger, Shane Buechele and Feleipe Franks -- and dove in on five key statistical realms. But because the 2020 season was uneven across college football, we had to get creative. ESPN Stats & Information's John Parolin pulled two telling stats from each quarterback's past 13 games for each of those categories. We considered that the approximate sample of a typical season, and it helped account for anyone who either opted out in 2020 or played a shortened campaign.
Then NFL draft analyst Todd McShay evaluated the numbers against what he sees on tape, with some additional context from Parolin. What matches the film, and what doesn't? Numbers don't tell the entire story, but they help support and complement evaluations, and sometimes they can even force a scout to go back to the tape and take another look from another angle. So let's dig in, beginning with how each quarterback handles pressure.
Note: Even after trying to level the field for all QBs by looking at their past 13 starts, there were still some irregularities. First, Mills' sample was just 11 games because that is all he has for his career. Second, Lance's numbers were only available for two of the five sections, as FCS numbers have limited offerings.
Who can extend plays under duress?
McShay: While all of these categories matter, I really dig in on the pressure numbers. What happens when it all breaks down is very important for today's quarterback prospects. NFL pass-rushers will get on you quickly, and I like to see how well a signal-caller can still make things happen when the pockets closes in. We see what we see on tape, but having the numbers line up with that is a good clarifier.
And wow, do Alabama's Jones and BYU's Wilson pop here. Wilson certainly isn't surprising -- one of his best traits is his ability to extend plays, instinctively creating when forced to go off-schedule and adjusting his arm angle to hit windows. But Jones isn't the kind of QB who makes a lot of throws on the run or scrambles for big pickups when the pocket isn't clean. Instead, his ability to process quickly, get through his progressions and maneuver within the pocket stand out. And of course, he had a great offensive line and plenty of weapons to work with at Bama.
Parolin: Let's put Jones' numbers in context. The FBS average for QBR under pressure last season was 10.0, and no other QB in this exercise exceeded 44 (which is, by the way, also a great result). Yet Jones -- who was pressured 101 times last year, averaging 11.1 yards per attempt and throwing 13 TDs to only two interceptions on those plays -- managed to hit 78.3. Joe Burrow is the only first-round quarterback over the past decade to post a better number in a collegiate season (82.6).