2021 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Trevor Lawrence (Fantasy Football)

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The cat has been out of the bag for a long time: Trevor Lawrence will be a Jacksonville Jaguar.

There is a temptation in Lawrence’s prospect evaluation to go in two different directions before actually compiling everything we need:

  • Hyperbolic Praise– ‘He’s a generational QB and that’s what they’ve been saying since he was recruited’
  • Contrarian Criticism– ‘I’m going to go the other way and this dude is overrated’

The problem is there is GroupThink on both extreme sides and I hope to go into this process with an open mind. A question I’ve been asking myself recently while watching film: what were these players asked to do? and what can they do? For Lawrence, what did he accomplish at Clemson losing only two games and what did the coaching staff ask him to do on a routine basis?

Let’s look at Lawrence’s college production profile, his athletic measurables and spend the majority of the time analyzing what shows up on film. At the end, I’ll give my thoughts on his place in rookie drafts and some comparables in the NFL.

Editors Note: This article is part of our Rookie Profile series going on until the 2021 NFL Draft. For more on each rookie, check out Andy, Mike, and Jason’s exclusive rookie rankings and production profiles found only in the Dynasty Pass, part of the brand-new UDK+ for 2021.

College Production Profile
Year Class G Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A TDs Ints
2018 FR 15 259 397 65.2 3,280 8.3 30 4
2019 SO 15 268 407 65.8 3,665 9 36 8
2020 JR 10 231 334 69.2 3,153 9.4 24 5
Career 40 758 1,138 66.6 10,098 8.9 90 17

That freshman season was memorable beyond just winning the National Title. Lawrence delivered on the hype coming out of high school as the #1 recruit in the nation. He stamped his ticket to being the future 1.01 in drafts. He’s the only QB to grade over 90.0 as a true freshman in Pro Football Focus’ history.

While the accuracy numbers and yards per pass attempt grew, he also found spots as a runner totaling 17 rushing TDs over those final two seasons while protecting the ball and not committing costly turnovers. He leaves Clemson as the best QB in the university’s history, the owner of multiple ACC records, and calmly leading as the face of the NCAA through a season of turmoil with poise and dignity both on and off the field. You couldn’t ask for much more from a college athlete than what Trevor Lawrence gave Clemson and I feel like I’m almost understating what he did with that statement.

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Measurables
Height Weight Hand Size 247 Sports
6’5 5/8 213 10 in
5-star Recruit

Lawrence’s recent pro day was devoted solely to him as his impending labrum surgery on his left non-throwing shoulder occurred four days after. While there was little to prove from a pro day, his measurements gave us a clearer picture of what Jacksonville will be working with. 212 pounds was lighter than his playing weight. In terms of physical comparisons, it’s hard to find a true template in the NFL that fits Lawrence. Herbert is a bit thicker, Ryan Tannehill isn’t as tall, Vince Young had 4.48 speed. He’ll likely bulk up and weigh closer to 220-225 when training camp season rolls around. With his length and escapability, Lawrence presents the best of both worlds in terms of his physical traits as a prospect. He is compared to Andrew Luck as a franchise QB but Lawrence is much more smooth and deceptive as a runner.

What’s On Tape

My method for watching film is simple: get out a pen and pad of paper. Watch each passing attempt taking note of the down and distance and simply write down what I see. For a QB, I focus on accuracy, aDOT, footwork, locating 2nd reads, and how they stand in the pocket under pressure. For Lawrence, I took eight of his games:

Games Viewed: Notre Dame (2020), Ohio State (2020), Syracuse (2020), Pittsburgh (2020), Virginia Tech (2020), LSU (2019), Ohio State (2019), South Carolina (2019), Alabama (2018)

1. Mixing size, mobility, and pocket presence is gold.

The offense for Clemson just worked when you factor in everything they were able to do with Lawrence’s skillset. I wouldn’t say he’s elite as a runner or awareness but when you combine his skillset for someone almost 6’6, it’s giving you a tool chest to work with as opposed to a couple of wrenches. The offensive line’s ability to set him up with running lanes was an interesting insight to draw towards his next level of competition. Zone reads are effective but also are able to be swallowed up regularly if your tight-ends or runningbacks miss an assignment blocking.

In the Pittsburgh game, the Tigers overmatched them from sheer athleticism and Lawrence’s ability to sidestep rushes, step up in the pocket, and deliver the ball (even when getting hit) was apparent. I counted five plays in that game where the defense and coverage dictated a negative play and the results were a first down. Much like Burrow last year, he just found a way to allude or set up defenders to gain extra yardage which are “back-breakers” for opponents.

2. Throwing to the outside numbers works.

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The intermediate throws are what I want to see from a QB prospect. Any throw that hits 10-19 yards on a deep out is like cooking with gas. I brought this up in Justin Herbert’s Rookie profile last year not as can he but did he make this throw consistently. Herbert had the arm strength but he wasn’t asked to do it a ton. Lawrence, on the other hand, could make those long, across-the-field throws happen with regularity which eventually set up the post and seam routes. Here’s an example in early in the Syracuse game where Lawrence is shuffling to his left on the runner and throws a dart on the money. These are the type of plays that open up your playbook where using his mobility can work towards either end of the field. This cross-body throw is much more difficult than if he ran right.

He also has the arm strength available to routinely go after deep shots although I wouldn’t say the ball “zips” out of his hand. It’s not a flick but more fired and with his frame, you envision a pitcher. Among the elite tier of prospects, Trey Lance is the only other QB on the same plane in terms of “arm talent”. But more than sheer depth of the target, Lawrence’s deep ball has touch on it as well giving his receivers such as Tee Higgins, Amari Rodgers, Cornell Powell, and Justyn Ross time to “get under” the ball.

3. His accuracy is fine but not elite.

This isn’t a huge knock in the sense of him somehow having a mechanical flaw. Instead, his accuracy got away from him a few times in Lawrence’s two lone losses in his collegiate career against the toughest of competition in the highest-profile environment in college football’s playoffs. No big deal.

In both games (LSU & Ohio State), his accuracy fell away by throwing high. The LSU game was rough in terms of Lawrence being off-target and routinely letting the ball sail on his wide receivers. In the second half, the Tigers were in comeback mode against Joe Burrow and company and didn’t have answers on third down. He also had multiple attempts that should’ve been picked off. The other loss against Ohio State was arguably Lawrence’s worst first half of any game of his collegiate career. Going into halftime, Clemson was down 35-14 and I counted seven throws from Lawrence that were completely uncatchable and so off-target that his wide receivers had no chance.

As I’ll mention more below, the amount of screens he was asked to throw definitely inflates some of the completion and yardage totals. Compared to the rest of this class, his production profile numbers aren’t the end of the story.

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In the ACC Championship game versus Notre Dame, there isn’t a ton to gripe about his tape especially when he was named the game’s MVP with 322 passing yards, two passing TDs, and another 91 and a score on the ground. But apart from a few big plays, it was checking down and quick screens that seemed to be part of the gameplan.

What’s Not on Tape

This is arguably the most crucial part of any scouting analysis, in my opinion. It is easy to splice together highlight reel takes and forget that we are looking at college football players; in other words, the majority of players the prospect faced will never be playing on an NFL field and likely will be vying to be your financial planner or turning to high school coaching. We cannot only glean from film watching based on what our eyeballs are showing us. Sometimes it’s best to ask yourself the question: What am I not seeing? This involves asking questions and reflecting.

Here are a couple of takeaways of what didn’t show up:

1. A ton of second and third reads.

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Watching Lawrence’s tape there were times where his #1 read on the play was apparent from the get-go. This goes back to the question I asked at the beginning: what was he asked to do? Many college QBs are given a gameplan where they only have to analyze half of the field. It’s simplified because you want to put your quarterback in a position to succeed and get the ball in their playmakers’ hands. When you also look at the type of receivers he’s had to play with he’s had is also a tremendous blessing. But Lawrence’s game, at least in the 2020 film, was built on two areas of the field: at the line of scrimmage and deep.

In 2020, he led college football in “screen yards” for a reason while also accumulating a 113.4 passer rating and ten TDs on 20+ yard pass attempts. But both of those areas are mostly predetermined before the snap where Lawrence has made up his mind and is going with the primary read on the play.

There were moments in the Virginia Tech game where he seemed to force plays against a physical defense. The end of game score looks like a blowout and Lawrence scored twice on the ground but he also had a number of costly turnover-worthy play including this one in the end-zone:

We could nitpick anyone’s game and find interceptions where they misread a defense. For Lawrence, he’s able to make plays on the run and throw with anticipation even when things break down. It just needs to be noted that many of the plays seem designed to make his primary read and go with it.

2. Not a ton of big hits

I mentioned a similar takeaway in Joe Burrow’s Rookie Profile last year. When you watch Lawrence’s film, you see that he is a deceptive runner for someone his size. Justin Herbert is a bit bulkier and can move but Lawrence has the “giddy-up” to pick up chunk yardage or keep the ball and get in space on zone-reads. However, with that ability, there is a bit of risk when it comes to getting to the next level of the field with linebackers and safeties headhunting. Here’s an example in the 2019 Ohio State game:

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His playing style isn’t reckless but you can walk away from his seeing his mobility with a couple of different viewpoints:

  • Lawrence is a smart runner who knows when to avoid pressure.
  • His offensive line was elite and he received as good as protection as anyone in the NCAA.
  • He avoided “big hits” at an unsustainable rate. In other words, they will come.

For fantasy purposes, Lawrence’s rushing ability is more akin to Daniel Jones than maybe Josh Allen. If that comparison gets you down realize that Jones has added 26 rushing yards per game. I’ll leave out his 29 fumbles in 27 career games but that type of rushing floor is a cushion welcomed for fantasy. But his rushing style is what makes him enticing. Just don’t surprised if he learns to let up after a few big hits in the pros.

2021 Fantasy Outlook

It’s hard to copy and paste what Urban Meyer has done in college and think it will be the same offense in Jacksonville. Lawrence is outfitted with a decent array of weapons with D.J. Chark Jr., recently signed Marvin Jones Jr., and second-year Swiss army knife Laviska Shenault Jr. In other words, if you are a namesake of your father, you are set up with the Jaguars. Kidding aside it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Lawrence finishes year one inside the top-15. I did a full in-depth analysis on Can Rookie QBs Sustaining WR Production? if you want to project out the rest of the Jaguars’ offense.

In Superflex leagues, he’s the 1.01 for me given his mobility. However, in normal rookie league drafts, he slides towards the back of the first round given the plethora of playmakers at the WR position available. In redraft, Lawrence isn’t on the radar although he certainly could have streamable moments in 2021. The Jaguars still need to outfit him with an offensive line at the tackle spots as I’m not convinced Cam Robinson is the long-term solution despite the team placing the franchise tag on him.

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