Which Quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft Class Is Statistically Superior?
If it wasn't clear previously, it is now: quarterback mediocrity ain't gonna cut it in the NFL.
We've seen several different iterations of this thinking the past few years. Alex Smith's career year wasn't enough to keep Patrick Mahomes locked in the garage. The Arizona Cardinals dumped Josh Rosen after one year, opting to take Kyler Murray first overall. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers let Jameis Winston walk even though he consistently had passable efficiency numbers. Then the Los Angeles Rams did everything they could to move on from Jared Goff, selling the farm to bring in Matthew Stafford.
Simply getting competent play isn't how you become a perennial contender, and team decision-makers are acting accordingly. If you want a true "franchise" quarterback -- one who can help you hang with teams like the Chiefs -- it's all about the ceiling, baby.
That's going to play a key role when evaluating the 2021 quarterback draft class. Gone are the days when we focus on avoiding busts. Instead, we need to shift our focus more toward gleaning upside.
We're going to have the same issues there as we do overall. So many factors go into projecting college quarterbacks that you're never going to get it perfectly right. But we can at least guide ourselves in the right direction, finding commonalities between the incoming class and the top needle-movers at the position and going from there.
So, before we dig into this year's class, we first have to decide: what, exactly, are we looking for in these guys? Which data can tell us whether a player has upside or not? Let's dive into that first and then see how that applies to this year's class.
Searching for Upside
In the past, we've split quarterbacks into two groups: former first-round quarterbacks who had at least one top-15 season in Total Net Expected Points (NEP) and those who didn't. NEP is the expected points metric we use at numberFire, and Total NEP includes expected points added as a rusher along with deductions for expected points lost on negative plays such as sacks, incompletions, and interceptions. If you couldn't get even one top-15 season, you clearly weren't cutting it.
That's still true. Since 2000, 60 quarterbacks have gone in the first round. Of those, 35 have logged at least one top-15 season. That means the other 25 have yet to do so, and that's obviously far from ideal. These are largely your Jamarcus Russell, Paxton Lynch, or Johnny Manziel type guys.
What we can glean from this sample is that a quarterback's resume coming out is important. There's a big split between those players who logged at least one top-15 season in Total NEP and those who didn't. For our purposes here, only quarterbacks who have been in the league for at least three seasons were included in the "No Top-15s" category.
Throughout the piece, whenever referencing the number of "games" played, it'll be in how many games that player logged at least 10 pass attempts. Their age is simply how old they were during their final collegiate season. QBR is ESPN's Total QBR, which adjusts for strength of schedule and factors in rushing. Finally, Passing Efficiency Rating and AY/A (Adjusted Yards per Attempt) are separate measures of passing efficiency, unadjusted for the schedule the player faced. The efficiency numbers listed are from the player's final year in college.
|Average Collegiate Resume||Age||Pick||Games||QBR||Pass. Eff. Rat.||AY/A|
|At Least One Top-15||21.5||6.8||33.1||79.7||157.8||9.2|
Based on this, it's clear that NFL decision-makers are pretty good at what they do. Of the 35 players with at least one top-15 finish, 20 were top-5 picks. Only 5 of the 20 quarterbacks without a top-15 finish went inside the top 5. We can give evaluators plenty of flack, but the higher you go, the better your odds of success.
This also made it obvious that college efficiency stats were at least noteworthy. The non-busts had a solid gap in QBR, Passing Efficiency Rating, and AY/A. AY/A, specifically, helped illustrate who was in danger of being a bust.
Those lessons are still pertinent as we shift our focus to be more around upside than floor. We're still going to weigh in how well a player performed in college, and where they go in the draft will still matter. But hunting for upside also brings our focus in another direction.
Specifically, age and experience can play a big role in all of this. If we want to decide who the true boons among first-round quarterbacks have been, we have to be more narrow in our focus. Simply getting one top-15 finish means we're deeming David Carr, Vince Young, and Mitchell Trubisky to be success stories, and that couldn't be further from the truth.
Instead, we want to zero in on the guys consistently among the top-10 players at the position. As such, we can look at just players who have been in the top 10 in Total NEP in one-third of their qualified seasons (at least 200 drop backs). That may feel too generous still, but this cuts our list down to just 14 names. That's only 23.3% of the first-round quarterbacks since 2000, which feels far more appropriate. This list is where you get to guys like Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, and Deshaun Watson, better indicators of how we can identify upside in a prospect.
Here's how those two groups break down. The efficiency gap is still present, but the movement in the age and experience categories is noteworthy.
|Average Collegiate Resume||Age||Pick||Games||QBR||Pass. Eff. Rat.||AY/A|
|One-Third in Top 10||21.3||9.4||35.9||78.6||159.3||9.2|
Those may not look like big differences. But when the stars are both younger and more experienced, that should get your attention.
Of the 14 players with one-third of their seasons in the top 10, only two had fewer than 30 games of experience coming out. Those guys are Cam Newton and Josh Allen. But both guys were coming off of their age-21 season, as was every other player who made the cut here with fewer than 35 games under their belt. You were either young or hyper-experienced, and a good chunk of the list checked both boxes.
We can see the value of this when we group our 60 former first-rounders into buckets based on their age and experience. The age buckets will be older (coming off of their age-22 season or older) and younger (age-21 season or younger). The experience buckets will vary based on the age because you'd likely need a higher level of experience to justify taking an older quarterback versus a younger one. So, for the older prospects, we'll make the cutoff for "experienced" to be 35 games with at least 10 pass attempts. For the younger guys, we'll lower that to 30, indicating they likely at least got some action their first year in college.
This is where the importance of age and experience becomes even more obvious. Here is a look at how often players in each bucket produced top-5, top-10, and top-15 seasons in Total NEP. In other words, how often do players in these buckets provide difference-making seasons? If you're in the younger and experienced bucket, it's pretty dang often.
|Older and Experienced||14.7%||35.8%||54.8%||95|
|Older and Inexperienced||2.9%||2.9%||18.8%||69|
|Younger and Experienced||23.8%||42.9%||59.5%||84|
|Younger and Inexperienced||6.3%||16.7%||39.6%||48|
The "younger and experienced" bucket wins this contest in a landslide. And remember, this doesn't factor in efficiency at all.
When running the numbers like this, you are at risk of getting caught up in having just one outlier boost the numbers of everyone in the group. Here, Rodgers is in the younger and experienced bucket, and he has eight top-five Total NEP finishes all by himself. That'll move the needle.
But seven of the 18 other quarterbacks in this bucket also had at least one top-five season. Other names on the list are Mahomes, Watson, Stafford, Lamar Jackson, and Ben Roethlisberger, all of whom are bona fide studs. Most of the true rockstar first-rounders at the position have come from this bucket.
If you're not going to be younger and experienced, you likely need to check at least one of the other boxes and bring some massive efficiency to the table. The true danger comes when you're neither young nor experienced.
As you can see, first-round quarterbacks in that bucket have logged 69 qualified seasons in the NFL. Only two of those 69 resulted in top-five finishes in Total NEP, and no others wound up in the top 10. Those two finishes came from Carson Wentz in 2017 and Ryan Tannehill in 2020, and neither guy is on the same level as names like Mahomes, Watson, and Rodgers. If a prospect comes in at an older age without a ton of experience, alarms should be flashing in front of our eyes.
That's going to be relevant for analyzing the 2021 class, as you'll see in just a second. If you're older and inexperienced, the chips are very much stacked against you.
It's helpful that those players do provide massive efficiency, and efficiency matters, as well. Here's the same breakdown as above except split among players with a final-year AY/A at 9.0 or higher.
|Collegiate Efficiency||Top 5s||Top 10s||Top 15s|
|Final-Year AY/A of 9.0 or Higher||14.1%||32.2%||53.7%|
|Final-Year AY/A Below 9.0||11.3%||21.9%||38.4%|
Efficiency is great if you have it, and clearly it's better to be bad than good. But being efficient alone doesn't mean you'll turn into a good pro.
That's the backdrop for the discussion today, and those factors are what will impact the rankings of the quarterbacks in this class.
With that in mind, let's dive into the new batch of signal-callers. Because draft stock matters so much, we're going to limit the pool to just quarterbacks with a Scouts Inc. draft grade of 75 or higher. This leaves us with seven quarterbacks left standing: Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, Mac Jones, Kyle Trask, and Kellen Mond.
For each player, we'll list their statistical profiles along with a past prospect who had a similar profile. It's worth noting that whether that player panned out or not has no bearing on whether this player will; it's more about the success of players in similar buckets than one individual. The comps also don't account for athleticism or rushing, both of which are key factors in whether a prospect is a difference-maker in the NFL. Basically, the comps are more for funsies than anything.
After weighing the data above, who stands out most out of this year's group? The answer will not be a surprise.
1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Age: 21 | Games Played: 37 | QBR: 84.2 | Passing Efficiency Rating: 169.2 | AY/A: 10.2 | Top Statistical Comp: Jared Goff
Only one player at the top of this class brings youth, experience, and efficiency. That guy is the consensus top pick, Trevor Lawrence. He's the real deal.
Lawrence enters having thrown at least 10 passes in 37 games in college, well above our threshold of 30 games to fit in the young and experienced bucket. His 10.2 AY/A this past year ranks just fifth out of the seven players at the top of this year's class, but it's still a high-quality number. It will rank 13th among all first-round picks since 2000 once he's officially drafted, and his Total QBR will rank 14th. It's not jaw-dropping, but it's far from bad.
It's also important to note the context around this year's numbers. Not only did Lawrence lose Tee Higgins to the draft, but fellow receiver Justyn Ross missed the entire season due to a spinal injury. We'll often see quarterback play regress with a depleted supporting cast. Lawrence, though, posted his career-best AY/A, topping 9.3 for the third consecutive season.
Checking all three of our key boxes here is a pretty rare feat. Of the 60 first-rounders since 2000, only 11 have entered following their age-21 season or younger with at least 30 games played and an AY/A of 9.0 or higher. That group includes Mahomes, Roethlisberger, Stafford, Goff, and Robert Griffin III, all of whom have at least one top-five season in Total NEP. It also includes Justin Herbert, who looked last year like he might join the list of top-five finishers at some point down the line.
That's why we can say that Lawrence has a good ceiling. He's from a bucket that has produced superstars, and the scouting consensus is that he's the no-doubter to go first overall. Lawrence seems to have a good floor, too.
Of our 11 young, experienced, and efficient passers, only 3 have yet to log a top-15 finish in Total NEP. Two are Paxton Lynch and Teddy Bridgewater, both of whom went much later in the draft than Lawrence will. The lone bust near the top of the draft was JaMarcus Russell. With so few misses for quarterbacks like this, there's no need to second-guess things: Lawrence is the top guy here by every measure.
The Goff comp for Lawrence may seem rough, but it isn't for two reasons. First, Goff has three top-15 and two top-10 seasons in Total NEP. He has as many top-10 seasons as Stafford in six fewer seasons in the league, so Goff may not have been worth his contract, but he's far from being a "bust." Plus, the comps are based solely on passing resumes. Goff was never providing as much juice on the ground as Lawrence can.
Blend it all together, and it's hard to find things to even nitpick with Lawrence. He's deserving of the hype and worthy of the first overall pick. The true debate in this class begins after Lawrence is off the board.
2. Zach Wilson, BYU
Age: 21 | Games Played: 27 | QBR: 88.8 | Passing Efficiency Rating: 196.4 | AY/A: 12.6 | Top Statistical Comp: Tua Tagovailoa
If we're tiering things based on who checks what boxes, Lawrence is in the first tier by himself. The second tier is Zach Wilson and Justin Fields, and you could justifiably go with either one.
But after considering each guy's full resume, Wilson settles into the two hole.
In many classes, Wilson might find himself as the top quarterback option. There's a lot to like here, no matter which data you value.
Wilson doesn't quite fit into the ever-valuable young and experienced bucket, but he's close. He earned BYU's starting job in mid-October of his first season and posted a 9.2 AY/A for the year. Had he started from the jump, he could have gotten to 30 games that way.
He also could have crossed the threshold had he stayed healthy in 2019. Instead, Wilson entered the year with a surgically repaired shoulder, hurt his hand in late September, and missed a month and a half of play. So if we're looking for guys who forced their way into playing time early and held those jobs throughout, Wilson fits that mold.
With a clean bill of health, Wilson hung some silly stats as a junior. He ranks second among this group in both Passing Efficiency Rating and AY/A. The guy he trails -- Mac Jones -- is both older and less experienced than Wilson. If Wilson goes in the first round, his final-year AY/A will rank fourth among first-round picks since 2000 (fifth if Jones is also a first-rounder).
The only pushback on Wilson is his schedule. If you compare it to other guys in this class, it's clearly the easiest of the group. Here's the average opposing defensive SP+ rank for each of the FBS quarterbacks, what percentage of their throws came against top-50 defenses, and how they performed in that split.
|Quarterback||Average Opp. Rank||Attempts Versus Top-50 Ds||AY/A Versus Top-50 Ds|
It's a cliff dividing Wilson at the bottom and the rest of the pack. That should influence how we view his raw numbers. However, Wilson's Total QBR -- which accounts for that schedule -- was fourth best in the country, and his 10.8 AY/A against top-50 defenses ranks second in the class. It's a valid thing to note, but it shouldn't push us off of Wilson.
Two key things for generating upside at quarterback are a big arm and the ability to scoot. Wilson checks both those boxes.
Normally, to get a toolsy player in the Josh Allen mold, you have to sacrifice collegiate efficiency and take a leap of faith that they'll develop. For Wilson, no such extrapolation is necessary. He has those tools and has already demonstrated the ability to use them in a lethal manner. There are no questions about the ceiling with this guy.
For teams near the top of the draft like the New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons, there's certainly some question about whether to dive into the quarterback market or stick with the status quo. If the incoming crop of rookies were less talented, you'd be able to justify running it back and beefing up elsewhere. But if you can get a guy like Wilson on a rookie deal, the optimal move seems obvious. Wilson is much more than just a consolation prize for those who miss out on Lawrence.
3. Justin Fields, Ohio State
Age: 21 | Games Played: 22 | QBR: 91.7 | Passing Efficiency Rating: 175.6 | AY/A: 10.1 | Top Statistical Comp: Johnny Manziel
A couple of times this year, Fields struggled against tough competition. He threw for less than 150 yards in the Big Ten Championship Game against Northwestern and went for just 194 on 33 attempts versus Alabama. Those outings seem to have increased the skepticism around Fields as a prospect.
They shouldn't, though.
As you can see in the chart in the section on Wilson, Fields was facing top defenses the entire season. Only one of his eight games was against a defense ranked outside the top 40 in SP+, and just three were ranked outside the top 15. His average opposing defense ranking of 24.6 will be the toughest of any quarterback drafted (in any round) since 2010, as will his 87.6% of attempts versus top-50 defenses.
Even with that brutal schedule, Fields still put up impressive numbers.
If we toss the seven quarterbacks in this discussion into the pool of 60 first-round picks since 2000, we get 67 total quarterbacks. Fields would rank 18th out of those 67 in AY/A, ranking right behind Lawrence. This -- for one reason or another -- is just a class with a bunch of high-efficiency quarterbacks, and that shouldn't make us view Fields as anything less than spectacular.
The one stat in our toolbelt that does account for schedule is Total QBR. There, Fields ranked second in the nation behind just Jones at 91.7. Only five previous first-rounders have had marks higher than 91 in that department. After you consider the context, Fields' 2020 season was just as impressive as when he put up an 11.2 AY/A in 2019.
That's not to say that Fields is devoid of red flags. He has just 22 games with 10 pass attempts on his ledger, which isn't entirely his fault. Georgia messed up in prioritizing Jake Fromm over him, and then COVID-19 hurt his 2020 volume. But even with high efficiency, less experienced younger quarterbacks do come with increased shakiness.
Since 2000, six first-round quarterbacks have been in the young and inexperienced bucket with a final-year AY/A of 9.0 or higher. That group includes Cam Newton -- an obvious hit with four top-10 Total NEP seasons -- and Kyler Murray, who notched his first top-15 season in Total NEP this year. But it also includes Dwayne Haskins, Alex Smith, Johnny Manziel, and Tua Tagovailoa. Three of those are largely misses, and it's too soon to tell on Tagovailoa.
The other red flag here is that Fields can hang onto the ball too long, putting him in tough positions. His 8.3% sack rate this year is highest in this group by more than two percentage points and will rank second among first-round picks since 2010 once he's selected. That's in part because Fields had to play some tough games behind an offensive line decimated by COVID-19 absences, but he also averaged 3.11 seconds to throw, according to Pro Football Focus' draft guide. The second-highest mark among guys in this class was Trey Lance at 2.92.
Sacks kill drives, and you hope Fields will eventually grow out of this tendency. The plus side is that the ball-clutching can occasionally also turn into a huge play.
It's a tradeoff for sure, and it does give Fields a wider range of outcomes. But the top end of that range is just as good as Wilson's.
With Fields, you're getting a top recruit out of high school who put up dominant numbers two straight years against a killer schedule, and he can hurt you with both his arm and his legs. That's the recipe for upside, even if the floor isn't necessarily elite, and it justifies a selection at the top end of the first round.
4. Trey Lance, North Dakota State
Age: 20 | Games Played: 16 | QBR: N/A | Passing Efficiency Rating: 173.8 | AY/A: 11.0 | Top Statistical Comp: Alex Smith
With both Fields and Wilson, you had two-plus years of sample to draw from. For Trey Lance, it's just one year plus one game in 2020, and all of it came against FCS competition. The floor here is non-existent, and it allows us to make the second tier be just Wilson and Fields.
Lance does, though, have some of what you're looking for if you're selling out for upside.
The big thing is Lance's age; he won't turn 21 until May, making him 14 months younger than Fields and nine months younger than Wilson. If Lance goes in the first round, he'll be just the ninth since 2000 to do so before completing his age-21 season.
That group of hyper-young passers has its hits and its misses. You do have an MVP winner in Jackson and some other solid options, but there are some big whiffs, too.
Jackson, Stafford, Josh Rosen, and Josh Freeman are all different from Lance because they had at least 30 games of experience coming out; Lance barely has half that. But in general, having youth on your side is a plus, and it's lightyears better than being older if you're going to be inexperienced.
Although Smith is the top statistical comp for Lance, Michael Vick might be the better true comp. Both had minimal pass attempts in college (343 for Vick and 318 for Lance) but could absolutely gut you with their legs. One difference is that Lance can either run past you or through you.
Lance ran 169 times for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2019, and when you add that to his 11.7 AY/A, you can see why people were clamoring for him.
The question is whether that 11.7 AY/A is legit. And that's not because of the competition. North Dakota State won the FCS National Championship, so they faced tough teams. The problem is that because the program is so good, Lance often had wide open receivers, giving him easy paths to completions.
Lance also just didn't throw that much in college, as illustrated before with his career 318 pass attempts. En route to the title last year, Lance exceeded 25 pass attempts just once, and he had more than 250 passing yards just once, as well. He did so much damage with his legs -- and NDSU was so good -- that he simply didn't have to throw that much.
That shouldn't count as a knock on Lance, but it does increase the uncertainty. That uncertainty goes up because there were times when Lance would get these open receivers and just airmail the pass.
But one throw shouldn't erase all the good Lance did. And there was plenty of that, as well, with a cannon arm in addition to his skills as a runner.
If you've got athleticism and a big arm, history has shown us you have upside. And Lance's stats and age reflect that upside. It's the uncertainty around his throwing when the windows tighten that make his range of outcomes wider, making him a distant fourth behind Lawrence, Wilson, and Fields but still worthy of being a first-round pick.
5. Mac Jones, Alabama
Age: 22 | Games Played: 19 | QBR: 96.1 | Passing Efficiency Rating: 203.1 | AY/A: 12.8 | Top Statistical Comp: Joe Burrow
Don't let the comp get you too excited here; there are big differences between Joe Burrow and Mac Jones, and those differences will justify the perception gap between the two. There just aren't many guys who put up numbers as huge as Jones' in their final year of college.
If Jones winds up going in the first round, his 12.8 AY/A will rank fourth-highest among first-rounders since 2000. The only guys ahead of him -- Tua Tagovailoa, Kyler Murray, and Baker Mayfield -- all went in the top five selections. Jones' stats this year were historically good.
Like Fields, he also did this against tough competition. He was facing top-50 defenses for 77.9% of his pass attempts, and his 12.8 AY/A in that split was identical to his full-season split. His AY/A against top-50 defenses is tied with Mayfield for the best among all quarterbacks drafted in any round since 2010.
That's why Jones -- despite just one year as a starter and a non-elite prospect pedigree -- is getting first-round consideration. He played his way into this discussion. But the red flags do exist in several different areas.
From a collegiate profile perspective, Jones' lack of experience and age are a frightening combo. Only five first-rounders since 2000 have left college with 20 or fewer games played. Of their 21 qualified seasons in the NFL, only 5 (23.8%) have even resulted in a top-15 finish in Total NEP. Tannehill this year was the first time any of them had been in the top 10, and that happened in his eighth qualified season. Murray seems en route to success, but he was also 11 months younger than Jones coming out.
You saw earlier the pitfalls of drafting older, inexperienced quarterbacks. But not all of them -- frankly, none of them -- have the same efficiency of Jones, outside of Burrow. So, can we move the needle if we add in that caveat?
Luckily for Jones, not many guys fit in this bucket. In fact, only five first-rounders have had fewer than 35 games of experience through their age-22 season while holding an AY/A of 9.0 or higher in their final seasons. That's a plus for Jones. But the guys who do fall in that bucket leave a lot to be desired.
|Older, Inexperienced, Efficient||Top 5s||Top 10s||Top 15s||Total Seasons|
Outside of Burrow, the other four have a combined 4 top-15s and 0 top-10s in 18 qualified seasons. That's even though all of them went within the first three picks.
That's red flag number one. Red flag number two is the concerns around Jones' system.
Jones lost Jaylen Waddle early in the season, putting a small dent in this argument. However, Jones' 8.8-yard aDOT was the lowest of this group of quarterbacks, per Pro Football Focus, and he had the second lowest rate of passes that traveled at least 10 yards downfield. Losing Waddle is noteworthy, but when you still have Heisman winner DeVonta Smith and Najee Harris, you don't have to do all the heavy lifting.
Finally, Jones doesn't have the same tools as the other players, making his path to upside more obscure. Specifically, Jones doesn't add value as a rusher, something you will get out of most of the rising stars in the NFL today, including Burrow.
If we were to base the rankings purely on each guy's final-year stats, Jones would be at the top of the list. He was fantastic this past season, and that's commendable. But between his age, lack of experience, collegiate system, and lack of value as a rusher, there's enough here to put him firmly behind his younger counterparts.
6. Kyle Trask, Florida
Age: 22 | Games Played: 24 | QBR: 88.0 | Passing Efficiency Rating: 180.0 | AY/A: 10.9 | Top Statistical Comp: David Carr
Almost everything that was counted as a negative for Jones could be copied and pasted here for Kyle Trask. He's just the diet version of Jones with fewer jaw-dropping stats and all the same red flags.
Trask -- who will turn 23 in March -- didn't gain Florida's starting job until his age-21 season when Feleipe Franks fractured and dislocated his ankle. Trask played admirably from there on out with an 8.8 AY/A, but he was older then than both Wilson and Lance are now. Our expectations should have been high given those circumstances.
Trask followed that up with an even more impressive 2020 season, boosting his AY/A to 10.9. That stayed high at 10.2 against top-50 defenses, and he hung 400 yards and 4 touchdowns on both Georgia and Tennessee. He had to settle for 400 yards and just 3 touchdowns against Alabama. It was a fantastic year.
It's just everything beyond that pushing Trask down this list. He's a half year older than Jones, had just five more games of experience, and also didn't provide much as a rusher. When he had to play without his four best pass-catchers in the Cotton Bowl, Trask turned 28 attempts into 158 yards, no touchdowns, and 3 picks. We shouldn't hold that against him because it's such a brutal situation, but it absolutely didn't erase concerns that Trask was propped up by his supporting cast.
Based on the track record of other prospects similar to Trask, the upside here seems severely capped. As always, there's a chance any prospect could thrive given the right circumstances, and that door is open for Trask, too. He'd just need to be an outlier relative to past comparables to get there, and it's hard to bank on a player hitting an outlier outcome.
7. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
Age: 21 | Games Played: 46 | QBR: 74.9 | Passing Efficiency Rating: 146.9 | AY/A: 8.5 | Top Statistical Comp: Kyle Boller
Kellen Mond is the bizarro world version of Jones and Trask; he's hyper-experienced and still very young, but he never put up numbers that would blow you away. We have seen prospects from this mold come through previously, though, which is a glimmer of hope for Mond.
If Mond were to go in the first round (which does seem to be a long-shot), he would be the first player coming off their age-21 season with more than 42 games of experience. Only four first-rounders total had more games played, and Mond's only four games off Carson Palmer's chart-topping number of 50. We've had plenty of time to see what Mond can do.
Unfortunately, not all of that was necessarily glowing. He never had an AY/A higher than this year's mark of 8.5, and it was just his second season topping 7.0.
This isn't because Mond's AY/A was dragged down by interceptions; there just weren't many explosive plays. His raw yards per attempt was 7.7 this year and 7.1 for his career. Nobody else in this group was under 9.3 raw yards per attempt for the season. Mond threw 20-plus yards downfield at the lowest rate in the group, per Pro Football Focus, explaining the lack of spice.
Again, though, the age and experience combo is a valuable one. That's true even when players haven't necessarily lit it up with their efficiency.
Since 2000, six first-rounders have had 30-plus games of experience through their age-21 season but an AY/A lower than 9.0. Two of them have won MVP awards, and another is a full-fledged superstar.
|Younger, Experienced, Inefficient||Top 5s||Top 10s||Top 15s||Total Seasons|
What's also interesting about that group is that none of them were top picks. All six were taken with the 10th pick or later, and Rodgers and Jackson went outside the top 20. Watson, Rodgers, and Jackson were three of the five players who had finished in the top 10 in Total NEP in one-third of their seasons who didn't go within the top 10 picks.
This is why Mond will be interesting during the draft. If NFL talent evaluators deem him worthy of being a first-round pick, it should get our attention. He's unlikely to have the draft capital that suggests he'll be a starter right now; if that changes, showing that the NFL has a high opinion of him, we should boost our opinion, as well.
But even if Mond doesn't go early, he fits the mold of what you want from a non-first-rounder. Last year when we dug into scouting reports of quality quarterbacks who went outside the first round, the common thread was that many were both athletic and accurate. Mond checks the athleticism box for sure. The accuracy remains to be seen, and the offense he ran at Texas A&M didn't scream "upside" as a passer. But Mond's profile is at least interesting enough where we shouldn't fully ignore him regardless of where he ultimately gets drafted.