I’ve studied the NFL draft since 1979 and seen a lot of quarterbacks. Some great, some terrible. Some first round picks that reached the Hall of Fame and some top 10 picks that were full busts.
When recently asked where Clemson is Trevor Lawrence As one of the top rated quarterbacks I’ve ever studied, I just said, “He’s up there.” But I really wanted to dig deeper and check his grade in comparison to the others over the past 40 years. What follows below are the top 10 quarterbacks on this list based on my pre-draft grades. It doesn’t reflect their NFL performance, but rather where I had them rated the day before their respective designs.
You will find that this list and order is a little different than when I did something similar in 2011. That’s because I added Andrew Luck From the 2012 class and a quarterback who still plays in 10th place. As I went through my grades and scouting reports, I found that the 2011 list was not entirely accurate as some scouting reports from March were being used against my last scouting reports from April. Don’t worry – I am not hiding from how high I was on some legendary busts as you will see below.
Let’s take a look at my top rated quarterbacks since 1979, and I’ll include snippets from my most recent scouting reports, brief notes on how their career ended and where Lawrence fits into the 2021 class:
Design class: 1983
Selection: No. 1 overall, Denver Broncos
What I wrote back then: “Perhaps the best assessment of his talents came from Cardinal coach Paul Wiggin, who said: ‘He has the confidence and field instincts of John Brodie, the special human qualities of Archie Manning and the physical qualities of Terry Bradshaw.’ In my final rating, Elway received the highest marks in all categories. He has no noticeable weaknesses and is the prototype QB. Without question, Elway is an all-pro NFL QB that has the ability to make room for into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “
Career advice: Elway started 231 games for the Broncos and won two Super Bowls to end his 16-year NFL career. His 300 career touchdown passes rank 12th all-time. He entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.
Design class: 2012
Selection: No. 1 overall, Indianapolis Colts
What I wrote back then: “Luck has it all – size, incredible intelligence, accuracy, and a great work ethic. I compare him a lot to Peyton Manning, but luck is more sporty. Because of this, expectations of happiness will go through the roof. He has all of the makeup to deal with this type of pressure and enjoy a career that lives up to all of the hype. “
Career advice: Glück made four Pro Bowls in his seven-year career before him abruptly retired prior to the 2019 season. He was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2018 after missing the entire 2017 season with injuries. He ended his career with 171 touchdown passes and 83 interceptions.
Design class: 1998
Selection: No. 1 overall, Indianapolis Colts
What I wrote back then: “It won’t provide the extra dimension of a Steve Youngbut I can’t think of a player I’d rather be the center of attention, leading my football team into battle. With the independent agency, the teams change staff every year. The need for consistency and leadership at QB is more important than ever. Manning will win at the pro level and win big, provided, of course, he gets the necessary support from his teammates and the organization. “
Career advice: Manning threw 28 interceptions as a rookie, but then settled in an elite quarterback. He has been named first-team all-pro seven times, regular season MVP five times, and won two Super Bowl titles, one with the Colts and one with the Broncos. He will enter that Hall of Fame in the 2021 class later that year.
Design class: 2021
Preliminary draft Scouting report:: “Lawrence is the clear top prospect in this class. He is No. 1 to the jaguars and will get the chance to lead the turnaround of this franchise together with trainer Urban Meyer. He has everything NFL teams want a starting quarterback from size to arm talent to the ability to process reads and make the right throw. Lawrence ended his Clemson career with 108 touchdowns (18 rushings) and only 17 interceptions in three seasons. “
Lawrence had Operation to repair damage to the labrum in his left shoulder last month. He told Stephania Bell from ESPN that his rehab is going better than expected and that he should be ready for training camp in July.
Design class: 1983
Selection: No. 14 in total, Buffalo Bills
What I wrote back then: “Kelly has built impressive stats throughout his career and, like John Elway, played against very tough competition (six bowl teams in 1981). Outside of Elway, Kelly is the most gifted of the QBs to emerge from the college ranks this season. The transition to professional football should go smoothly – he would have been one of the first five drafted players if he hadn’t been injured, but he should still play in the middle of the first round, depending on the results of tests on the shoulder near the draft I feel like Kelly has been one of the top QBs in the NFL in three years. “
Career advice: Kelly disdained the bills for the upstart USFLand played two seasons for the Houston Gamblers. He joined Buffalo in 1986 and played 11 seasons for the Bills, leading them to four direct Super Bowls. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002.
Jim Kelly delayed the start of his NFL career in 1983 when he signed with the USFL’s Houston Gamblers. F. Carter Smith / AP
Design class: 1990
Selection: No. 7 in total, Detroit Lions
What I wrote back then: “A key factor in getting such a high rating is the leadership he has, as well as his intelligence, demeanor and overall presence. I could pursue his qualities as a player and person forever, but I need room for the other perspectives.” Should he be the first QB chosen in a draft, he is that good! If he goes to the right team, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he leads his club to the Super Bowl at the beginning of his professional career. Even if he doesn’t, you can be pretty sure that he will enjoy a successful career and receive prestigious awards while in the NFL. “
Career advice: Ware made just six starts in four NFL seasons, throwing five touchdown passes and eight picks. Rodney Peete was the Lions’ favorite starter under Trainer Wayne Fontes.
Design class: 1993
Selection: No. 1 overall, New England Patriots
What I wrote back then: “I have praised his ability and potential since he joined the WSU campus in 1990, and nothing has changed since then to lessen my excitement. Like all young, mature QBs, he needs to develop a little more sensitivity. No QB im College football, either this year or for years to come, can touch Bledsoe in terms of raw physical potential. Because of that, he’s the # 1 overall player on my judging panel and clearly the most sought-after candidate in The Draft. “
Career advice: Bledsoe had a good career, but he is perhaps best known as the the guy who lost his starting job to Tom Brady – and Brady became the greatest quarterback of all time. Bledsoe brought the Patriots to the Super Bowl in 1996 and also started games for the Cowboys and Bills after leaving New England. He threw 251 career touchdown passes.
8th. Ryan Leaf, Washington
Design class: 1998
Selection: No. 2 in total, San Diego chargers
What I wrote back then: “Physically, he always had what it takes to be one of the first selected players. However, it was his attention to detail last summer and his willingness to invest the time on the practice field that overdid him in terms of developing Leaf is the The guy who can single-handedly put a team in the profit column, which is the ultimate mark of greatness on a pro level. “
Career advice: Leaf vs. Manning was a massive debate in 1998 and the Colts made the right choice with the top pick. Leaf had a dismal career, going 4-17 in his career as an NFL starter. After three, he was released from the Chargers “turbulent” Seasons. “Ryan had too many off-field issues that I should have paid more attention to,” said the former Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard said years later. Leaf ended his career with 14 touchdown passes and 36 picks.
Ryan Leaf had all of the tools to be a future star, but they were never translated in the NFL. USA TODAY Sports
Design class: 1989
Selection: No. 1 overall, Dallas Cowboys
What I wrote back then: “Aikman has an outstanding physical / athletic talent that is under 4.7 at nearly 220 pounds. He tosses everything out of his ear and uses his quick release buckle to avoid potential bags. His mobility is a real plus, that.” It allows him to move the bag and drop the ball Exactly while rolling to either side. He is considered a super blue chopper capable of turning a basement dweller into a competitor early in his professional career. Like all boys QBs, however, will take time to improve his professional-level skills, and he will be at a disadvantage because he lacks the overall experience of former outstanding personalities like John Elway, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly and Vinny Testaverde, who really only spent two full years at college Have played level. “
Career advice: Aikman went 0-11 as a beginner, but he and the Cowboys turned it around. He won three Super Bowl titles and made six Pro Bowl teams in 12 seasons. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006.
Design class: 2018
Selection: No. 7 in total, Buffalo Bills
What I wrote back then: “Allen knocked down the pre-draft process and is in the mix to be number 1 overall. He’s shown improvements in the Senior Bowl and Combine and he has a high ceiling. Allen is super raw but really can do his numbers weren’t great in 2016 (28 touchdown passes, 15 interceptions while completing 56 percent of his passes), and his numbers weren’t great in 2017 (16 touchdown passes, six interceptions while completing 56.3 percent of his passes), however the NFL teams will consider the talent around him. The Wyoming offense lost 47 touchdowns from the team in 2016, along with the middle. I think Allen’s numbers are going to be a lot better in an NFL offense with NFL players. He did winning some strong used film together in the Cowboys’ Bowl, throwing three touchdown passes in the first half even while recovering from a shoulder injury. “
Career advice: Allen broke out in Buffalo in his third year, completing 69.2% of his passes and throwing 37 touchdown passes with just 10 picks. He finished runner-up on the MVP poll while running the accounts for the AFC title game. Allen, who turns 25 this summer, has joined the top group of NFL callers.
Next on the list
The scores here are all very similar, but here’s who’s next, in no order: