The 2021 NFL draft could make history Thursday night. Currently, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Wilson, and Mac Jones are projected to be selected with the first, second, and third picks. This is a rare occurrence but it has happened before.
The history-making pick could come in the fourth spot. If a quarterback is selected there, it would be the first time in modern NFL draft history that teams have selected quarterbacks with the top four picks.
This year’s NFL draft quarterback class is very deep
It should come as no surprise that the 2021 quarterback class could make NFL draft history. This class is one of the deepest and most talented in recent memory. The draft will begin with the Jacksonville Jaguars selecting Lawrence from Clemson. Lawrence has been projected as the first pick of the 2021 NFL draft ever since winning a National Championship in his freshman year.
The New York Jets have also been connected to a specific quarterback for a while now. Most experts agree that they will take Zach Wilson from BYU with the second pick. The San Francisco 49ers traded up to three in order to take a quarterback this year. Opinions are split as to which top prospect they will take.
Whichever quarterbacks are left after the 49ers select Jones, Fields, or Trey Lance should both go off the board shortly thereafter. This would tie the 2018 NFL draft with five quarterbacks taken in the first round. If Kellen Mond from Texas A&M or Davis Mills from Stanford sneaks into the first round, it would tie the legendary 1983 NFL draft for most quarterbacks taken in the first round with six.
Quarterbacks have been selected with the first three picks in the NFL draft before
Four quarterbacks going in the first four picks would make history but three quarterbacks picked in the first three spots has happened twice before. The first time was at the 1971 NFL draft. That draft featured the Boston Patriots, New Orleans Saints, and Houston Oilers selecting Jim Plunkett, Archie Manning, and Dan Pastorini respectively.
Manning and Pastorini would go on to be Pro Bowlers while Plunkett was the only one to win a Super Bowl as a starting quarterback. Interestingly, Plunkett won that Super Bowl after taking over as the starter for the 1980 Oakland Raiders when Oakland’s starting quarterback, Pastorini, went out with a broken leg.
Quarterbacks again went first, second, and third in the 1999 NFL draft. This time it was Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, and Akili Smith going to Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati respectively. McNabb took the Eagles to five NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl although he never won the big one. Couch and Smith were not nearly as successful as McNabb. They are now considered two of the biggest first-round quarterback busts in NFL draft history.
What will happen with the fourth pick?
Will this year’s draft make history? That depends entirely on the Atlanta Falcons. The team owns the fourth selection and could do one of two things that would make this draft go down in history. They could keep the pick and select a quarterback. Current quarterback Matt Ryan is 35 years old and the Falcons do not have another quarterback on the roster right now.
The other history-making option is to trade the pick to a team that wants to draft Fields, Jones, or Lance. The Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, Washington Football Team, Chicago Bears, and Pittsburgh Steelers all have either long or short-term needs at the position. This is why the fourth pick will be fascinating to watch on Thursday. We may see something we’ve never seen before in the NFL draft.
Draft history courtesy of Pro Football Reference