Should your team draft a first-round quarterback? Projecting rookies vs. 10 current NFL starters
NFL 

  • Analytics specialist at ESPN
  • Graduate of BYU

Five teams are likely to draft a quarterback in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft, and several more have had to ask themselves whether they should be one of those five.

For some, it’s obvious. The Jacksonville Jaguars have a glaring need and own the No. 1 pick, meaning they get to take their first choice. The New York Jets, who have the No. 2 pick, have already traded away their only alternative to a rookie. It’s more complicated for other teams.

Let’s dig in to which teams should draft a quarterback and answer this question: What are the chances a Round 1 rookie is better than the quarterback the team currently has, this year and beyond? There are other important considerations, too — rookie QBs are cheap, for example, and some teams are on different timelines than others — but most important is whether a team is really upgrading.

To help us answer the question, we’re using our new quarterback projections, which output predictions for college and pro QBs on the same scale. You can read the full methodology at the bottom, but in short: predictions for 2021 rookies are based on their statistical performance in college, Scouts Inc. grade and age. After quarterbacks enter the pros, their projections are updated based on past NFL performance and age.

While every quarterback has his own trajectory, we will note that our model gives Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, BYU’s Zach Wilson and Ohio State’s Justin Fields extremely similar forecasts, while Alabama’s Mac Jones and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance are a tier below.

There are no certainties in football, and there are none in these projections either. Our projections won’t say one quarterback will definitively be better than another next season, but they will give the chances that one is superior to the other in terms of expected points added per play. And those are the odds teams are betting on. We’ll run through 10 teams other than the Jaguars and Jets that could be considering drafting a quarterback next week.


San Francisco 49ers: Pick No. 3

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