Prospect Profile

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Michigan DE Aidan Hutchinson

At the beginning of the 2021-22 college football season, no one expected hometown Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson to become a favorite for the No.1 overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft. Months later and days away from the first round of the Draft, Hutchinson is almost certainly one of four prospects being considered by Jacksonville for the honor of No.1 draft pick. 

Hutchinson was a consensus four-star recruit at Divine Child HS in Dearborn, MI. His recruitment process was drama-free as he decided to attend nearby University of Michigan, the alma mater of his father, Chris Hutchinson, who played for the Wolverines back from 1989-92. Aidan appeared in every game of his freshman and sophomore year, breaking out a bit as a starter his second season with 68 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 10.0 tackles for loss, adding four quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles. Hutchinson was set to start for the second straight year opposite Kwity Paye for the COVID-shortened season, before his year came to an early end after suffering a fracture in his leg that would require season-ending surgery.

Coming into his senior year, Hutchinson had 98 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 11.5 tackles for loss, adding seven quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles to the stat line for his career. The numbers are nothing to scoff at, especially when you consider that most of them are solely from his sophomore year, but, still, no one really put Hutchinson in the same realm as the expected first overall pick at the time, Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux.

Fast-forward now to the end of Hutchinson’s senior season. Hutchinson set a school record with 14.0 sacks in a single season, more than tripling his output from his first three years combined. He tacked on 62 tackles and led the teams in tackles for loss and quarterback hurries with 16.5 and 12, respectively. After a dominant performance versus rival Ohio State that saw the 21-year-old tally 3.0 sacks and 3.0 tackles for loss, Hutchinson shot up draft boards, pushing what was likely a first-round selection into conversations for the No. 1 overall selection.

When it was all said and done, after the season and the Combine and the pro day, Aidan Hutchinson sat atop the Draft prospect rankings of both Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network and Dane Brugler of The Athletic. Hutchinson is built to be a pass-rusher. He’s extremely strong with quick feet and efficient hand use. He knows he can win relatively easily at the college level, so he tends to tolerate a bit more contact than is necessary, something he’ll need to avoid at the next level using the multitude of pass-rushing moves at his disposal. He’s a weight room warrior, but likely won’t be able to add much more weight at the next level. He’s probably maxed out his size. He has a high motor and quick recognition, but his instincts in the running game can hurt him occasionally. He’s often posed as a slightly lesser version of the Bosa brothers with a bit less bend.

Hutchinson attended this year’s Heisman ceremony, but left empty-handed. He’ll be in Las Vegas this Thursday and is sure to leave this time with a brand new jersey and hat. The odds of them being teal, black, and gold are extremely high, and, if they are, he may just be on a mission to reinstitute the moniker of “Sacksonville.”

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux

Long considered the favorite to be chosen No. 1 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft, Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is feeling some momentum behind his name again, according to ESPN’s Matt Miller. The 21-year-old, who Miller said is the first or second defensive end on most teams’ boards, will travel to Vegas next week with expectations of hearing his name early into the night. 

Thibodeaux was a consensus five-star recruit coming out of Oaks Christian HS just outside of Los Angeles. Considered by many as the second-best defensive end in the class at the time, Thibodeaux reserved his time for only the best, taking official visits to Alabama, Oregon, Florida, and Florida State, with FSU getting a little help from then-head coach Willie Taggart, who recruited Thibodeaux during his time at Oregon. Thibodeaux signed and enrolled early at Oregon, becoming the gem of a top-ten recruiting class for the Ducks.

In three years in Eugene, Thibodeaux did exactly as he was recruited to do, leading the team in sacks and tackles for loss all three seasons. He finished his career with 19.0 sacks and 35.5 tackles for loss, only failing to amass double-digit TFLs in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, when he had 9.5 through seven games. He also added 14 quarterback hurries over his career, leading the team last year with 8.

In early February, Thibodeaux started to see his draft stock affected in a way not uncommon to Oregon alumni. In an interview with Bleacher Report, as reported by Paul Kasabian, ESPN’s Todd McShay spouted his opinions on the top prospect saying, “I heard a lot about Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, including concerns that he just doesn’t play with the same fire as some other top prospects…it wouldn’t shock me if Thibodeaux fell out of the top five.”

These questions of effort and maturity are concerns that were draped on former Oregon draft picks Justin Herbert (Bleacher Report’s Michael Weinreb) and Penei Sewell (James Crepea of The Oregonian) as they were preparing to enter the league, as well. Whether warranted or not, those concerns didn’t stop Herbert or Sewell from becoming top-ten draft picks who have excelled so far in their young NFL careers.

Thibodeaux’s success has a ton to do with his power and strength. He moves off the snap with ferocity, usually granting him the advantage in setting the edge on run plays or bull-rushing on pass plays. He makes quick, decisive moves at the line of scrimmage and shows an impressive pursuit speed, both attributes that contributed to his impressive tackle for loss numbers. His speed and strength off the ball certainly help give him good pass-rushing tools, but he needs to improve his technique to become a consistent threat to the quarterback. If he can develop and incorporate some hand usage and bend into his arsenal, Thibodeaux could be dominant at the next level. For now, his punch-and-extend, bull-rush, and shoulder-dip moves should be plenty serviceable against NFL tackles.

His fall down draft boards was reflected in the analyst rankings with Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network ranking Thibodeaux as the 10th best overall prospect and Dane Brugler of The Athletic slotting him in at 8th overall. Both analysts have Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson ranked above him at 1st overall. Hutchinson’s dominant performance against Ohio State late in the season was a large component in supplanting Thibodeaux as the Draft’s top prospect. They also have Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker slotted above Thibodeaux, but Walker doesn’t necessarily play the same role on the defensive line as Thibodeaux. Jeremiah also puts Walker’s former teammate, Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson II, over Thibodeaux, while Brugler slots Johnson II a few spots behind the Oregon defender.

As the Draft draws ever nearer, predictions have become murkier and murkier. Once hailed as a future No.1 draft pick, some mock drafts have Thibodeaux falling deeper into the top ten. Miller’s tweet at the beginning of this article seems to indicate that teams are coming back around on the Oregon Duck with his name being grouped in the top five with Hutchinson, Walker, Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal, and NC State offensive lineman Ikem Ekwonu. Regardless, it seems almost guaranteed that we’ll hear the commissioner call Thibodeaux’s name, position, and school within the first ten picks on Thursday night.

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Liberty QB Malik Willis

The story of Malik Willis is the story of a second chance, the story of finding where you fit best. After making a move that most would’ve viewed as a demotion or a resignation that the NFL was not in his future, Willis proved the doubters wrong and became one of the Draft’s most sought-after quarterbacks from the smallest of stages. 

Willis came out of Roswell HS in Atlanta as a consensus three-star athlete. His recruitment was fairly quiet, as he only received offers from fourteen schools with only three of them being from Power 5 conferences. Willis didn’t receive much attention until the offseason after his junior year and he committed to Virginia Tech that summer. Unfortunately for the Hokies, Auburn made a late push for Willis, flipping him in late December, a week before he arrived on campus in Alabama as an early-enrollee.

Willis spent two years at Auburn backing up Jarrett Stidham. In a recent interview with Tzvi Machlin of Sports Illustrated, Willis admitted that his immaturity at the time likely kept him from succeeding at Auburn. After two years, he decided to transfer and found his way to joining Hugh Freeze at Liberty University, a school that had only joined the FBS ranks two years prior.

After sitting out for a year, due to transfer rules, Willis was named the team’s starting quarterback and decided to set the college football world on fire. In his first season at the helm of the Flames’ offense, Willis had eye-popping numbers, despite the COVID-shortened season. In ten games, Willis completed 64.2% of his passes for 2,250 yards, tossing 20 touchdowns to 6 interceptions. He tacked on a casual 944 yards rushing, nearly averaging 100 yards per game, along with 14 additional touchdowns on the ground. The Flames were ranked as high as 21 throughout the season with their only loss being a one-point road defeat at NC State. In their bowl game, they were matched up with fellow small-market phenom Coastal Carolina in an exciting overtime affair that left Willis victorious over the Chanticleers.

Willis decided to return for his redshirt-senior year and led the Flames to an impressive 8-5 against a tougher schedule than the prior year. Despite constant pressure from a less than reliable offensive line, Willis put up career passing numbers throwing for 2,857 yards with 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He again added a huge component on the ground, racking up 878 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns.

The obvious asset that Willis brings to the table over the other quarterbacks in the Draft is his legs. He has a quick burst and excellent vision on designed runs and options. The Cardinals, Ravens, 49ers, and plenty of other teams have shown that an offense that incorporates run-pass-option plays (RPOs) can have a ton of success in the NFL if you have a quarterback who can run it effectively.

That being said, Willis is a quarterback, and a good one at that. He’s impressed NFL teams in meetings with his intelligence and ability to pick up on NFL concepts. He has elite arm strength and flashes the ability to fit the ball in tight windows. There are some technique/coaching issues that may help him improve his consistency and touch. He can take some gas off the ball effectively but needs to improve the arch he puts in the ball’s flight. There are quite a few things for Willis to improve on, but he has so many tools already that the potential from these improvements gives him the highest ceiling of any quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft.

It’s become a popular thought around the league that two quarterbacks will be taken in the Top 10 picks of the Draft with their likely destinations being with the Falcons, Panthers, Giants, and Seahawks. The NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah has Willis ranked as the 27th best overall prospect in the Draft and Dane Brugler of The Athletic has Willis just behind fellow quarterback prospect Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh at 32nd. Despite ranking behind Pickett in both rankings, most analysts agree that Willis has the higher ceiling of the two and, due to his potential, Willis has every right to expect to be the first quarterback taken off the board later this month.

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett

Kenny Pickett‘s status as one of the top quarterback prospects available in the 2022 NFL Draft is the result of hard work and an example of taking advantage of every opportunity presented. He will have a chance to continue overachieving later this month when he is likely to hear his name called early on the first night of the Draft. 

Pickett will watching the Draft with his family and fiancé from his hometown in New Jersey. Jersey was where it all started for Pickett, a consensus three-star recruit from Ocean Township HS. Despite ranking as 247Sports’ 10th-best pro-style quarterback of the 2017 class (33rd-ranked pro-style quarterback in the site’s composite rankings), Pickett only fielded offers from eleven schools, only four of them from a Power 5 Conference. He received his first offer from nearby Temple shortly following his sophomore year of high school, but, not content with only one scholarship offer, Pickett attended several camps starting with in-state Rutgers and branching out to several ACC schools like Boston College, Duke, North Carolina, and Virginia.

After receiving more offers from the likes of Toledo, Monmouth, Buffalo, Texas State, UConn, and Coastal Carolina, Pickett made the decision to commit to the first school that offered him and joined the Owls’ 2017 class. About a month later, following the conclusion of his junior year, his first Power 5 offers came in from Boston College and then Pittsburgh, about two weeks apart. Five days later, Pickett de-committed from Temple, intrigued by the momentum of larger schools. Three days after opening up his recruitment, Pickett took his first unofficial visit of the summer to Pitt. He returned two weeks later and the Panthers landed a commitment from the rising-junior. Pickett graduated high school early and enrolled at Pitt in January of 2017, eager to get to work.

Pickett spent most of his freshman season on the bench behind starter Ben DiNucci and backup Max Browne, who transferred in from USC. He made his debut late in a Week 6 loss to Syracuse and appeared twice more for late relief work in losses to NC State and Virginia Tech. With the season all but over and Pittsburgh sitting at 4-7 going into a season finale against the ACC Coastal Champion Miami Hurricanes, who were ranked #2 in the College Football Playoff rankings at the time, Pickett became the first true freshman to start a game for Pittsburgh at quarterback since Pat Bostick in 2007. Pickett ruined Miami’s victory lap finale completing 62.1% of his passes for 193 yards and a touchdown while adding 60 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in a 24-14 upset of the second-ranked Hurricanes in his first start.

Pickett took that starting opportunity and never relinquished it, returning to start every game of his sophomore season and leading the Panthers to their first ever ACC Coastal Championship with a 7-5 regular season record (6-2 in the ACC). Pickett’s stats didn’t jump off the page as he only threw for 1,969 yards, throwing 12 touchdowns to 6 interceptions.

Pickett took a large step forward in his development in his junior season with new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple increasing the emphasis on the Panthers’ passing attack. The Panthers once again finished the regular season 7-5, but this time with Pickett throwing for 3,098 yards with 13 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. In Pickett’s COVID-shortened senior year, he put up similar production with 2,408 yards and the exact same number of touchdowns and picks as the previous year in three fewer games.

Due to COVID-19, Pickett was given the rare opportunity to return for one more year of eligibility, and it was easily the best decision of his career to do so. Pickett had a prolific season, leading the Panthers to their first ever ACC Championship. He was named a first-team All-American and finished 3rd in Heisman voting. Pickett’s statistics in his last year exploded off the page as he threw for 4,319 yards with 42 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, adding 233 yards and 5 touchdowns on the ground.

Pickett now enters the Draft as one of the top quarterback prospects on the board, commonly grouped with Liberty’s Malik Willis as one of the top-2. Pickett has a lot of variables that NFL teams covet: ideal size, excellent accuracy and anticipation, and impressive athleticism that allows him to escape trouble. He can throw from multiple arm angles, something that’s become popular in the NFL lately, and is comfortable throwing on the move. He has a tendency to get antsy and throw the ball before getting his feet set, which can affect ball-placement, and some in NFL circles have talked about his hand size and the fact that he throws with gloves on. It’s a fun news story, but most people in those circles do not view his hands as an issue, as the acceptable NFL ball size-range largely overlaps with the NCAA ball size-range and shouldn’t affect his ability too much at the next level.

It’s looking more and more likely that at least two quarterbacks will be taken in the Top 10 picks of the Draft with their likely destinations being with the Falcons, Panthers, Giants, or Seahawks. The NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah has Pickett ranked as the 24th best overall prospect in his rankings and The Athletic’s Dane Brugler has Pickett at 31st overall. Pickett should get used to the idea of being a first-round draft pick, as it is all but certain at this point, and might want to start trying out the moniker of “Top-10 draft pick,” as that’s looking more and more likely every day.

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Arkansas WR Treylon Burks

Treylon Burks has spent his entire life living in Arkansas. The kid is Arkansas born and raised. After only three years of play at the University of Arkansas, NFL teams are dying to give Burks his first home outside of The Natural State. 

Burks left Warren High School as the top-ranked player in the state, despite missing most of his senior season due to a torn ACL. The multi-sport athlete signed to continue his education in-state and made an immediate impact. As a true freshman, Burks gave the Razorbacks 475 yards receiving. Although, Burks is a big-body receiver (measured at 6’2″ and 225 lb. this weekend in Indianapolis), the freshman was so explosive in the open field that his coaches gave him kick- and punt-returner duties. Burks took the opportunity and ran with it, being named 2nd Team All-Sec as a return specialist his freshman year.

In the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Burks broke out in a big way, racking up 820 yards and 7 touchdowns in only 8 games. With all eyes on him and expectations sky-high for the 2021 college season, Burks soared. Despite constant double-teams as the only perceived receiving threat for the Razorbacks, Burks still managed to catch 66 balls for 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns. He even managed to add on 112 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown to the ledger.

As a pro, Burks screams No. 1 receiver material. He has the physical, big body to dominate in jump ball scenarios along with run-after-catch ability to be a threat outside the red-zone, as well. He tracks and adjusts to the ball well in the air and his catch radius will give his future quarterback a bit of leeway to just throw the ball in his general direction. His versatility from college with returns and some rushing attempts have appropriately earned him multiple comparisons to a big-bodied Deebo Samuel.

In The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s prospect position rankings from December, Burks was listed as the third best receiver behind Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and Alabama’s Jameson Williams. Many mock drafts see Burks as the second or third wide receiver generally taken off the board behind Wilson and USC’s Drake London. Burks is nearly a consensus first round pick, with many evaluators predicting him to gone by the second half of the first round.

Regardless of when he gets picked up, the lack of any NFL teams in Arkansas guarantees that Burks will soon be heading for a new destination. Whichever team gives him a call on draft night is going to receive an NFL-ready, Day 1 starter ready to compete with NFL corners. Look for teams who currently lack a true No. 1 receiver to pull the trigger somewhere in the middle of the first round, if not earlier.

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Utah LB Devin Lloyd

Devin Lloyd is what happens when hidden talent works hard to shine. Lloyd was a 3-star recruit out of Otay Ranch High School where he had to play not only offense and defense but special teams, as well. His tape at safety, wide receiver, and punter earned him one Power Five offer: Utah. He chose to make the move to Salt Lake City, committing to Utah over UNLV, Colorado State, Sacramento State, San Jose State, and Utah State. 

From there, Lloyd took the long way to the NFL. He redshirted his true freshman year and spent most of his redshirt-freshman year on special teams. As a redshirt-sophomore, Lloyd earned a starting spot at rover and led the team in tackles. Over Utah’s five-game 2020 season and full return to football in 2021, Lloyd never relinquished the title as the Utes’ lead tackler while moving to the team’s mac (middle) linebacker position. Over his last three years with the team, Lloyd tallied 249 tackles over 33 games, adding 43.0 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks.

It’s easy to see that Lloyd lit up the stat sheet as he gained more and more experience leading the defense. It’s harder to understand when watching his film. Lloyd’s defensive approach in a bit unorthodox. Film-watchers will note his inconsistency diagnosing plays or his sometimes indirect flow to the ball. Call it luck, call it instinct, call it raw talent, but despite those technical red flags, Lloyd’s production is consistent and dominant. The best comparison for this phenomenon that comes to mind is an offensive prospect from a few years back. Between his game film and horrible performance at the NFL Combine, Orlando Brown Jr. had scouts raising questions over the tackle’s technique. He dominated at the college level, but was the switch to the big leagues going to overwhelm his poor technique? Brown is currently the only offensive tackle to make the Pro Bowl each of the last three seasons. I don’t think it’s a stretch to expect similar success for Lloyd.

Despite his inconsistencies in technique and reading the offense, Devin Lloyd dominates. He’s an incredibly physical, every down linebacker. His wide frame and aggression make him hard to shake and, if you happen to sneak by him, he has great burst to pursue. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah called him “an angry missile with long arms.”

Lloyd tops The Athletic’s Dane Brugler’s positional rankings for linebackers. In Brugler’s updated Top 100 big board, Lloyd sits near the top as the seventh overall player available in the 2022 NFL Draft. In mock drafts, Lloyd’s gone anywhere from 7th to the Giants to 9th to the Broncos to 14th to the Eagles.

Lloyd is a sure Day One-pick that will immediately be on watchlists for Defensive Rookie of the Year. The redshirt-senior from Utah will be ready to take his experience leading the Utes’ and use it to become the focal point of one lucky franchise’s defense.

PFR’s 2021 NFL Draft Prospect Profile Series

In the lead-up to the 2021 NFL Draft, we’re taking a closer look at some of the brightest stars in this year’s class. There’s more to come, but here’s a look at our Prospect Profile series thus far:

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle

If you haven’t been tracking Jaylen Waddle for the last three years, you could be forgiven. Early on in his career, Waddle was largely overshadowed by the likes of Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III – two eventual first-round picks. After they left Tuscaloosa, Waddle was primed to assert himself as Bama’s top wide receiver in 2020.

[RELATED: A Closer Look At LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase]

In his first six games, Waddle went off for 28 catches and 591 yards — good for 21.2 yards per catch on average — plus four touchdowns. He also kept up his strong work in the return game, giving evaluators even more opportunities to gawk at his speed on film. Unfortunately, his final return of the regular season came against Tennessee, couching his season up until the National Championship game against Ohio State.

Despite the ill-timed injury, Waddle remains one of this year’s most highly-coveted prospects. His injured ankle even kept him from running the 40-yard-dash for scouts this year — that hasn’t slowed him down either. Waddle was clocked at 4.37 seconds before he even stepped foot on campus. And, depending on who you ask, he could even be a shade faster than Ruggs on the field. Ruggs, for reference, clocked a 4.27-second 40-time last year.

With explosiveness and sustained speed down the field, it would almost be too easy to compare Waddle to Chiefs star Tyreek Hill. Almost. Both players have the ability to wreck one-on-one coverage with their speed and, like Hill, Waddle can accelerate, stop on a dime, and throttle his way past the coverage. Former teammate Najee Harris – viewed by many as the best running back in the 2021 class — also sees the similarities.

He’s small but he’s dynamic. He’s explosive. Really really explosive,” Harris told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “The closest thing to Tyreek Hill. You gotta see him in person. How he plays how he gets in and out of cuts. How he stops and goes 60 [mph] right away.”

The knocks on Waddle are few and far in-between. Many of them were out of his control. Waddle never put together a full season like LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase did in 2019 (1,780 receiving yards and 20 receiving touchdowns, both SEC records), but he was buried behind an All-Star cast in 2018 and 2019. Then, 2020’s ankle injury effectively ended his year. His hands aren’t quite as reliable as Chase’s either. Still, Waddle has already crossed a lot of the “cons” off of his list – concerned chatter about his catching ability and upper body strength have turned into mere whispers. Blessed with serious wheels, route running, and tons of tools to make opponents miss, Waddle has cemented himself as this year’s WR2 or WR3, depending on how you rate him vs. ‘Bama teammate DeVonta Smith.

Chase ran away with the WR1 crown at his pro day when he posted a 4.38-second 40-yard dash, a number that even surprised the LSU star (“I was going for a low 4.4,” Chase said.) If Chase’s absolute ceiling is No. 4 overall after three QBs come off the board, then Waddle’s should top out at the Bengals’ No. 5 pick. After that, it’s the Dolphins at No. 6 and the Lions at No. 7, two clubs that want/need a game-changing WR like Waddle. Even with lots of variables in play, it’s hard to imagine Waddle waiting past the top ten.

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: North Dakota State QB Trey Lance

After just 17 starts at North Dakota State, quarterback Trey Lance is ready to turn pro. He also barely played in 2020 after NDSU nixed the season, but his tremendous 2019 season is still fresh in everyone’s minds. He may be green, and he’s yet to celebrate his 21st birthday, but Lance figures to be one of the first names called in the 2021 draft.

[RELATED: NFL Draft Prospect Profile — Florida TE Kyle Pitt]

Lance arrived on campus in 2018 and attempted just one pass as a frosh. In 2019, he ascended to the starting job and put himself squarely on the NFL radar. As a sophomore, Lance threw for 2,786 yards, 28 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Meanwhile, NDSU took full advantage of his running ability as he racked up 1,110 rushing yards off of 169 carries, good for a 6.5 average per attempt. In 2020, he led the Bison to a 39-28 comeback victory in their lone game against Central Arkansas. Despite the rust, he rattled off 143 rushing yards on 15 carries. He also threw the first interception of his collegiate career, but that can certainly be forgiven.

Aside from Trevor Lawrence, many feel that Lance is the most NFL-ready QB of this year’s bunch. Still shy of legal drinking age, Lance is known for putting in lots of film room time, and that showed throughout his ’19 season. Just a few months ago, Lance was seen as a second-tier QB, a consolation prize for middle-of-the-order teams missing out on Lawrence, BYU’s Zach Wilson and Ohio State’s Justin Fields. Now, he’s very much in the same conversation.

So, where will Lance land? Some saw him as a fit for the 49ers after their move up to No. 3, but there’s increasing chatter that they’ll go with Alabama’s Mac Jones instead. Unlike Lance, Jones was able to provide lots of footage for evaluators last year as he set a new national record by completing 77.4% of his throws. He lacks the mobility of Lance, but the Niners may see him as the safer choice of the two.

For the other QB-needy teams on the board, Lance offers tantalizing upside. If Lance can adjust to the pro game and work from the pocket a bit more, the sky is the limit. Falcons GM Terry Fontenot probably recognizes that, which is why he’s reportedly hesitant to pass up a Matt Ryan successor at No. 4. And, if the Falcons trade the pick, there’s a good chance that the team moving up will be eyeing Lance. Right now, it seems like the No. 3 pick is Lance’s ceiling. And, while floors are always hard to peg, it would be a surprise to see him get past No. 7. If the Lions don’t use that pick to take Jared Goff‘s successor, another team could slide in to get their preferred passer.

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: BYU QB Zach Wilson

Could Zach Wilson leapfrog Trevor Lawrence as the No. 1 overall pick in April? No, probably not. New Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer has taken a refreshingly candid approach to the draft process in recent weeks, telling everyone within earshot that the Clemson star will be his quarterback of the future.

“I’d have to say that’s the direction we’re going. I’ll leave that up to the owner when we make that decision official. But I’m certainly not stepping out of line that that’s certainly the direction we’re headed,” Meyer said. “Trevor checks all the boxes, you know?

Lawrence may be one of the best QB prospects — or pro talents, period — in recent draft memory. Still, Wilson offers lots of promise in his own right. He’s fresh off of a breakout season in which he completed 73.5% of his throws, good for second in the nation. Meanwhile, he placed third with 33 passing touchdowns and lobbed only three interceptions. And, for good measure, Wilson added ten rushing touchdowns in his 12 starts.

Wilson’s mobility is a big part of his appeal. In fact, some see a bit of Johnny Manziel in him — which is not necessarily the pro comparison that young QBs want. Like Manziel, Wilson has shown the ability to escape pressure. He also comes from an affluent background, and draft evaluators tend to nitpick everything about players this time of year. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the similarities are strictly limited to his highlight reel.

I’ve heard Zach Wilson is an incredible kid, but again, [he’s] a little bit new on the scene,” Schefter said (via KNBR). “Have to vet it out, check him out, make more calls, but I know people that know him pretty well, and they speak pretty highly about him.”

The other major knock on Wilson comes from his so-so decision making in 2019, a season that was cut short by thumb surgery. But, last year, Wilson kept the turnovers to a minimum and consistently found the open man. He’ll be asked to work in the pocket more frequently at the pro level, but his ability to extend the play when the pocket collapses will still serve him well in the NFL. At his pro day, the BYU product showcased that for all to see, intentionally throwing a pass across his body and nailing his target dead-on.

Some critics may also wonder about Wilson’s durability — aside from the aforementioned thumb injury, Wilson underwent thumb surgery after his frosh season. Now, he’ll be facing bigger, stronger, faster defenders with just ~210 lbs on his 6’2″ frame. Still, no prospect is perfect (not even Lawrence), and Wilson profiles as one of the very best QBs in this year’s class.

Right now, just about everyone has Wilson ticketed for the Jets at No. 2. It’s not quite as certain as Lawrence going No. 1, however. Mac Jones, Justin Fields, and Trey Lance are also in the mix, but it seems more likely that those will be the names available for the 49ers. Even if the Jets throw a curveball, we’d be surprised to see him slide much further.