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Eight QBs, eight throws that show their talent

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The 2021 NFL draft is less than a month away, and pro day workouts are winding down. With Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Alabama’s Mac Jones and Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond all working out for scouts on Tuesday, the top quarterbacks in the class have all shown what they can do in front of teams.

Let’s focus on the best throwing traits for each of the top eight quarterbacks in this class. From the arm talent that pops on the tape, to the decision-making and high-level second-reaction ability, this group of quarterbacks can check the critical factors needed to produce at the next level. We’ll also include eight video clips that show off these top traits and explain how each signal-caller can reach his ceiling. Some of the traits might surprise you.

We’ll go in order of how ESPN NFL draft analysts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay rank the eight quarterbacks, highlighting what each player does best. And where else can we start but with their consensus top overall prospect:

Height: 6-foot-6 | Weight: 213 pounds
Ranking: No. 1 (Kiper, McShay)

Lawrence’s best trait: Arm talent

The tape tells us that Lawrence is a high-floor prospect because of his elite traits, toughness and football awareness. The processing speed jumps when I watch him, and so does the movement ability both inside and outside of the pocket. Plus, there is a physical element to his game — along with ball-carrier vision — on designed runs. But if we have to focus on one high-level trait, I’m looking at Lawrence’s arm talent.

He has more than enough arm strength to attack all levels of the field. We saw that during the regular season in the win over Georgia Tech, with Lawrence finding his backside read on a throw in the high red zone. Check out the clip below. This is a rocket from the far hash with location, as Lawrence drives this ball to wide receiver Amari Rodgers for the score.

In addition to the vertical or the deep boundary throws that pop on the tape, Lawrence can vary ball speeds, too, throwing with both touch and pace. And even with his elongated motion, which can force the ball level to drop in his windup, his natural arm talent will allow him to attack all three levels of the route tree in the NFL. This is why he’s the clear top quarterback prospect in the class and the overwhelming favorite to be picked by the Jaguars with the No. 1 pick.


Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 228 pounds
Ranking: No. 2 (Kiper), No. 4 (McShay)

Fields’ best trait: Deep-ball accuracy

Fields has the physical tools to project as a high-ceiling prospect who can produce in a schemed pass game that takes advantage of his arm strength and movement ability to attack all levels of the field. Plus, he brings an added element to an offense on boot/movement concepts and designed runs — which point to his traits as both a thrower and runner. But the key area of Fields’ game that I keep going back to is his accuracy on deep throws.

On throws of 20 or more air yards last season, Fields completed 61.3% of his passes, while putting up a QBR of 99.1, with nine touchdown passes and only one interception. That’s outstanding. And, the tape shows that he is a decisive deep-ball thrower, just like we saw in Ohio State’s win over Clemson in the College Football Playoff, when he threw for 385 yards with six touchdowns.

In the clip below, Fields moves in the pocket to reset his throwing window and drives the ball vertically to hit wide receiver Chris Olave. Yes, the arm talent is on display here, but so is the ability to process and navigate inside pocket. It’s a perfect throw. And with that deep-ball accuracy, Fields can be schemed up as a pro on vertical shot plays in a system that caters to his dual-threat traits at the position.

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0:49

Justin Fields heaves it downfield to Chris Olave for a 56-yard touchdown and 42-21 OSU lead.


Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 208 pounds
Ranking: No. 2 (McShay), No. 3 (Kiper)

Wilson’s best trait: Ability to escape and extend plays (second reaction)

With his confident and loose playing style, Wilson is an aggressive, nuanced thrower with “plus” arm talent who will challenge opposing defenses on deep shots, second-level windows and boundary verticals. And given his quick, compact release, I see him as a great fit as a distributor in a West Coast system. That’s where a team can use both spread and run-pass option concepts, which will allow Wilson to read it out with speed — and throw it fearlessly.

The one trait that Wilson consistently shows on the tape? It’s the high-end movement skills, the ability to escape and extend on second-reaction plays — while making throws from multiple platforms. I don’t put a ton of stock into pro days, but there’s no doubt that this was an impressive throw that showed off this skill set.

But let’s watch a throw in a live game. We can see it in the clip below with Wilson throwing the deep in-breaker. He climbs, escapes and slips outside the pocket to throw a laser from an off-platform position. With his traits as a thrower — plus the ability to go off schedule — Wilson has the skill set to play (and excel) immediately.


Height: 6-foot-4 | Weight: 224 pounds
Ranking: No. 3 (McShay), No. 5 (Kiper)

Lance’s best trait: Decision-making/processing ability

With a style of play that reflects his natural physical tools as a dual-threat quarterback, Lance projects as a future NFL starter who can function and produce in a play-action based NFL pass game. There is a lot of upside here for a prospect with only 17 career starts at the FCS level; he has shown both the decision-making and processing ability to succeed in a pro scheme, even if he hasn’t played against FBS talent.

During the 2019 season, when Lance helped lead North Dakota State to a national title, he threw 28 touchdowns with zero interceptions. While there are situations on the tape in which I would like to see him be more aggressive and cut it loose as a thrower, there is no question that he can play within himself off play-action and dropback concepts.

Here’s an example below on a mesh concept. With the defense sending pressure, Lance works from his primary target on the wheel, back inside to the inside sit route. He climbs to avoid the pressure and drives the ball to the middle-of-the-field target.

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North Dakota State QB Trey Lance connects with TE Noah Gindorff after scrambling out of the pocket for 34-yard touchdown.

With Lance, system fit will be important to his success, but his ability to process and diagnose what’s happening after the snap adds to his potential because of the traits he displays inside and outside of the pocket — and as a runner. He added 1,100 yards on the ground for the Bison in 2019.


Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 214 pounds
Ranking: No. 4 (Kiper), No. 5 (McShay)

Jones’ best trait: Ball placement

While Jones doesn’t have the movement ability of the other top four quarterbacks in this class, I see him as a prospect with a high floor because of his ability to throw from the pocket with both accuracy and location. In Alabama’s heavily schemed passing game, Jones completed 77.4% of his passes last season on his way to a national championship. And while you can make the argument that he was playing with loaded group of NFL talent around him, I point to his ability to throw with touch and rhythm, delivering the ball with placement.

Check out the example below from Alabama’s win over Ohio State in the national title game. It’s a schemed throw to Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith to beat three-deep coverage. With the backside cornerback occupied in a 3-by-1 set, there is a deep window to attack. And Jones delivers a “runner’s ball” to Smith, making this throw — with touch — over the top of the trailing defender.

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Florida takes a 17-14 lead over LSU as Kyle Trask links up with Jacob Copeland to score a 19-yard touchdown.

Jones, who has shown enough pocket movement to climb and slide while under pressure, will have to continue his development as a timing thrower who wins with placement to reach his potential at the NFL level. But accuracy really matters, too, and he has shown that he can pinpoint passes at a high clip.


Height: 6-foot-5 | Weight: 240 pounds
Ranking: No. 6 (Kiper), No. 7 (McShay)

Trask’s best trait: Pocket movement

When you turn on Trask’s 2020 tape, you can see his ability to vary ball speeds and throw with accuracy on intermediate concepts, while also attacking over the top of the secondary. He’s a true pocket thrower who doesn’t have the movement traits to create second-reaction plays outside of the pocket. In other words, he’s not going to beat teams by scrambling. But watch Trask in the pocket, however, and you can see that he can navigate traffic with the best of the class. He can climb, slide and reset his throwing window. That’s a different type of skill than leaving the pocket and throwing on the run, and it’s important at the next level.

Check out the example below of Trask’s touchdown throw against LSU in a high red zone situation. With Trask feeling edge pressure, we see the subtle climb in the pocket — and a quick reset of the platform — before throwing the fade ball for the score.

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2:27

No. 8 Texas A&M secures a solid home 43-21 victory over Arkansas thanks to Kellen Mond’s remarkable accuracy, going 21-for-26 with three TDs.

While I see him as a No. 2 quarterback in the NFL, his ability to manage the pocket will give him an opportunity to develop at the position, despite his below-average athletic testing.


Height: 6-foot-4 | Weight: 225 pounds
Ranking: No. 7 (Kiper), No. 8 (McShay)

Mills’ best trait: Anticipation

A former five-star recruit, Mills has an easy arm in the pocket. He can attack vertically, hit layered throws or rip the ball up the seams with his efficient release. We see that on play-action throws or the dropback situations that featured pro-style route concepts at Stanford. But with only 11 career college starts, we have to focus on his developmental upside given his natural throwing traits and footwork to offset his lack of movement ability.

When I watch the tape on Mills, I see a quarterback who can deliver the ball with anticipation and location. Here’s an example from the game versus Colorado below. There’s late rotation in the secondary, and Mills can read it from the pocket, attacking the middle of the field on an anticipatory throw to hit the seam ball.

While Mills doesn’t project as an immediate starter, I see a quarterback with Day 2 value who has some potential given his ability to throw from the pocket with anticipation, location and deliver the ball on rhythm. He could develop into a starter in time, but he needs to land on a team that doesn’t have an immediate need.


Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 217 pounds
Ranking: No. 6 (McShay), No. 8 (Kiper)

Mond’s best trait: Timing and rhythm

Watching the 2020 tape on Mond, I saw a quarterback who projects best as a timing and rhythm thrower in the NFL. Yes, he can be mechanical in the pocket, with up-and-down accuracy on boundary throws, but he has shown the ability to produce in pro concepts off play-action, make plays on movement passes and use his legs to escape and extend plays. And given the offense he played in at A&M, Mond fits best in a heavily defined scheme that creates second-level windows — in addition to the run-pass option game.

Here’s an example below of Mond making a strong, efficient throw on a dropback concept (play starts at 0:51). He reads it and throws with timing to target a zone window on the deep crosser/bender.

While Mond has a ways to go to reach his potential, his floor as a projected rhythm passer will allow him to continue developing with pro coaching — in a league that is shifting to more play-action based route trees. And with his movement ability outside of the pocket, in addition to the QB run game, Mond does bring another element to the field that can be schemed.



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Source — Atlanta Falcons WR Calvin Ridley not participating in minicamp after minor foot surgery

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Atlanta Falcons top receiver Calvin Ridley had a minor foot surgery, explaining his reason for not participating in this week’s minicamp, a source confirmed to ESPN.

Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said Wednesday they had a few players, including Ridley, in different phases of the offseason.

“The entire objective here is to get these guys make sure they are in the best shape heading into training camp,” Smith said. “And ready to roll ultimately obviously for the regular season somebody in a guy like Calvin’s spot.”

Smith said Ridley has been “great” in walkthroughs and in meetings. He just hasn’t been on the field. He declined to say whether or not Ridley had surgery but did say the team has about six players dealing with “different things.” Smith mentioned the club is monitoring soft-tissue injuries because he wants no setbacks between now and camp.

Ridley became the team’s top receiver after Atlanta traded Julio Jones to Tennessee on Sunday.

Ridley had 90 catches for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns last year. The Falcons picked up his fifth-year option last month.

Ridley leads pass-catchers returning for quarterback Matt Ryan, along with Kyle Pitts, Hayden Hurst and Russell Gage.

The NFL Network was first to report news of Ridley’s surgery.

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Cleveland Browns chief of staff Callie Brownson suspended after DUI

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Cleveland Browns chief of staff Callie Brownson has been suspended by the team after being charged with drunken driving, but she won’t lose her job, coach Kevin Stefanski said Wednesday.

Stefanski notes that Brownson was “very remorseful.” Brownson, who has pleaded no contest and could face further discipline from the NFL, was not at Cleveland’s OTAs on Wednesday.

According to court documents, Brownson was charged with drunken driving on May 27 in Brunswick, Ohio. She reportedly was driving 55 mph in a 35 mph zone when she was stopped at 12:27 a.m. Police said her blood alcohol content was .215. The state’s legal limit is .08.

Brownson became the first woman to be a position coach on the sideline during an NFL game when she filled in for tight ends coach Drew Petzing, who was absent for the birth of his first child when the Browns played at Jacksonville this past November. Brownson is assisting running backs coach Stump Mitchell this season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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NFL wants to hold games in Germany, seeks partner city

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LONDON — The NFL wants to expand its international series by holding regular-season games in Germany, launching a process Wednesday to identify a partner city.

Germany boasts a strong NFL fan base and is one of the world’s largest economies, making the country an attractive partner.

The NFL has staged 28 regular-season games in London since 2007 and will play two more in October at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. German fans often travel to London to attend games, the league said.

“We are very excited about the development of our German fan base, and the time is right to identify a partner who can execute a game at NFL standards as part of our international growth strategy,” Brett Gosper, the NFL’s head of UK and Europe, said in a statement.

The NFL has hired London-based The Sports Consultancy to assist, including working with interested cities to develop their proposals.

“This process is designed to explore potential local partnerships, stadium suitability and game logistics,” Gosper said. “We need engaged and motivated host partners that span the public sector, venue, sport, community and major event spheres and can help us deliver a high-impact event and a long-term partnership. Identifying a preferred host city is a key step in bringing regular-season NFL games to our millions of German fans.”

The league said its weekly television viewership in Germany has grown by more than 20% annually since 2017.

German viewership of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl on Feb. 8 set a record.

“Germany is a leading market outside North America for NFL Shop sales, fantasy football participation and sales of the Madden NFL video game,” the league said in its statement.

The NFL staged five preseason games in Germany between 1990 and 1994, and it had a professional team presence in Germany between 1991 and 2007 with the Berlin Thunder, Cologne Centurions, Frankfurt Galaxy, Hamburg Sea Devils and Rhein Fire playing at various times in the former World League/NFL Europe/NFL Europa.

NFL regular-season games have also been played in Mexico and Canada.

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