There’s little doubt Trevor Lawrence will be the first overall pick in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. But that’s no guarantee he’ll pan out at the pro level. Many NFL players have gone number one overall and had middling to no success. For every John Elway, there’s a JaMarcus Russell.
Lawrence isn’t a sure thing — no player is — but some feel he may be close to it. He’s also getting compared to many great players who came before him, which is always a good sign. But which specific all-time great are some people saying Lawrence reminds them of?
Trevor Lawrence’s path to the NFL
Lawrence began playing at Clemson as a freshman, and he dominated almost immediately. That was the first good sign. Along with Alabama, Clemson has become one of two annual powerhouses in college football. Lawrence continued Deshaun Watson’s legacy as a great Clemson QB.
The number one overall pick currently belongs to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Their current quarterback is Gardner Minshew. Minshew hasn’t played poorly in the NFL, but the team likely doesn’t see him as a long-term option. He certainly hasn’t done enough to keep them from trading the pick or not taking Lawrence.
The intense pressure on Trevor Lawrence to produce
Barring a shocking deal (it’s hard to imagine how many draft picks a team would have to trade to get this spot), Lawrence will be headed to Jacksonville. He will then inherit a team that was the worst in the NFL last season.
They do have a new coach in Urban Meyer, who’s had plenty of success in college football. But the NFL is not the NCAA, and Meyer is unproven in the pros. He’ll have a learning curve just like any other new coach, and he’ll have to rebuild this franchise from the ground up to compete.
That puts a lot of pressure on Lawrence. The good news is he likely won’t have to start right away. The Jags have Minshew, who will be a reliable backup. They could also add another veteran quarterback for a little more depth at the position.
The Washington Football Team recently cut Alex Smith. Smith would be a good fit in Jacksonville. He’s nearing the end of his career, but he can play dependable if not excellent football.
No matter who else joins Lawrence at QB in Jacksonville, however, it’s going to be his franchise to turn around. There’s another player who came into a similar situation that did just fine.
Drawing comparisons to all-time greats
In a piece on Lawrence’s potential impact on the NFL, Sports Illustrated compared him to another former great quarterback: Peyton Manning. In 1998, the Indianapolis Colts were struggling and found themselves with the number one overall pick.
The Colts had a bit more talent on offense than the Jaguars do now — they had Marvin Harrison at wideout and Marshall Faulk at running back. But they were similarly bad at the time.
Manning was able to bring stability to the franchise despite their lack of overall talent. It took him a few years, but he did it. Lawrence finds himself in the same spot. The NFL is a win-now league, but you can bet Jacksonville will be patient with Meyer and, in turn, Lawrence. The duo will likely get at least 2-3 years to prove themselves.
If Lawrence is as good as advertised — and based on early returns, there’s no reason to think he isn’t — he may be able to turn the franchise’s fortunes around. There are lots of factors at play, but Lawrence has the potential to do it.