With one game left to play in an injury-riddled Week 2, 11 teams remain winless. The Saints and Raiders both picked up their first wins in Week 1, so Monday Night Football be damned! Let’s take a way-too-early look at the current race for the #1 pick. As Joey Mulinaro said in his NFL fan post game presser when asked if it was too early to look at mock drafts: “I mean, I’m always looking at mock drafts. So 0-2 is definitely not too early to look at mock drafts.”
With Trevor Lawrence, one of the most hyped quarterback prospects in NFL history, expected to headline the 2021 draft class, some team will be getting their hands on a potential franchise quarterback. However, there are many young quarterbacks in the league with potential already filling starting jobs. So many in fact, that 31 teams passed on the chance to sign Cam Newton this offseason who is performing like a borderline MVP candidate through the first two weeks. Which teams are so committed to their current quarterback situations that they would pass on Trevor Lawrence if they were to get the #1 pick?
Just for fun, let’s look at each 0-2 team and decide for them. Do I think all these teams will all be bad enough to be in serious contention for the #1 pick? No, but that’s what makes this fun to do now.
This is a tricky one considering Tua Tagovailoa hasn’t even seen the field yet. A lot could depend on what we see from Tua this season, if anything. Moving on from a highly-drafted quarterback after just one season when given the chance to draft a star with the #1 pick isn’t unprecedented, as Tua’s short-lived former teammate Josh Rosen can tell him. With all that said, Tua’s a great prospect in his own right and gave Lawrence a run for his money in debates about the best quarterback in college football for a time there. Unless Tua sees the field and is brutally terrible this year, it’s hard to imagine Miami moving on so soon.
New York Jets
Of the current 0-2 teams in the NFL, the Jets are one of the most serious contenders for the #1 pick. Sam Darnold is in his 3rd year in the league, but hasn’t been surrounded with much talented by New York’s front office. His best weapon is either an over-the-hill and oft injured Le’Veon Bell or Jamison Crowder. He hasn’t been spectacular, but it’s unfair to pass judgement on Darnold given his current situation. Even still, based on what we’ve seen so far, Lawrence is the better prospect. Jumping ship on Darnold isn’t totally fair, but hope springs eternal and Trevor Lawrence offers New York a clean slate to reset and get another chance to build around a young quarterback. Hopefully they don’t mess this one up too.
New York Giants
With Saquon Barkley done for the year, the Giants are already spiraling towards a tumultuous season. It may only be Daniel Jones’ second year and he has shown some arm talent and athleticism so far, but he wasn’t exactly thought to be an elite prospect coming out of college. Many considered the Giants selecting him 6th overall a reach. Jones might be ok, but Lawrence can be special.
This is a fun one. Remember what Eagles GM Howie Roseman said after the drafting of QB Jalen Hurts in the 2nd round last year?
“We’re quarterback developers. We want to be a quarterback factory.” He’ll get a chance to live up to those words if he gets the #1 pick in next year’s draft.
In all seriousness, this is perhaps the toughest decision of all the 0-2 teams. Carson Wentz is good, even really good at his best, but is he great? Add on his injury history and pricey contract and the decision isn’t so easy for Philadelphia. As of today, it’s hard to imagine the Eagles moving on from Carson Wentz, but if he goes down with another injury this season all bets are off. I won’t just assume Wentz will get injured though, even if it makes this whole scenario of the Eagles getting the #1 pick all the more likely and this thought experiment worth it. If we’re evaluating things today based on the current situation, it’s just barely a “no” on Lawrence, but a lot can change in a matter of months.
This one is pretty easy. Joe Burrow is already raising eyebrows and looks poised to be a great quarterback in the NFL. At the very least, he should have a good enough first year to make the Bengals feel confident about passing on a player like Lawrence. The Burrow-Lawrence debates would be a hot topic on sports talk shows around the country, even more than they were when the two faced off in the National Championship Game. Just like in that matchup, Burrow should win out, at least for now. Once they’re in the NFL together, we’ll see.
The Lions are among the most interesting teams on this list. On paper, it might be perfect for Lawrence. Detroit has an out in Matthew Stafford’s contract after this season and could easily transition the team to Lawrence. They have a number of young and talented offensive weapons that don’t make it such a bad team to end up with (at least in the short-term) for a player like Lawrence. In certain ways, the Lions would provide Lawrence with a landing spot a lot like the one Joe Burrow found himself in with Cincinnati. Stafford is approaching his mid-30s and has never been anything more than good for Detroit. They can move from one #1 pick at quarterback to the next and blow Matt Patricia out in the process, jumping on the trend of pairing a young quarterback with an offensive minded coach. Perhaps Josh McDaniels would be interested…
The Vikings would be in a tough spot, having just given Kirk Cousins a big contract extension. Moving on from a mediocre 32-year old Kirk Cousins for a potential prodigy is a no-brainer, but jumping ship on Cousins would come with a steep price tag. Even still, it’s a pill Minnesota would have to swallow given the opportunity to upgrade at quarterback. Even if Lawrence isn’t quite as good as Cousins in year one, his long-term viability and immense potential make him too intriguing to pass up for the Vikings.
Deshaun Watson has his skeptics, but there don’t appear to be many in Houston. Watson just got a big contract extension and, unlike Cousins, is still young enough to give the Texans hope for the future. Lawrence supplanting his Clemson predecessor in the NFL would almost be fitting, but it’s unlikely. The Texans could deal off Watson, but he’s proven to be a really good quarterback and the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. It’s ultimately not worth both the dead cap hit and risk of the unknown to move on from a proven commodity in Watson for a prospect, albeit a great one, in Lawrence.
The Teddy Bridgewater era is not off to a great start, but there’s still time for him to turn it around. In the event that he doesn’t and the Panthers end up with the worst record in the NFL, drafting Lawrence is the logical decision. Further more, getting out of Bridgewater’s deal isn’t quite as painful and costly as it would be for some of the other teams on this list to move on from their current quarterbacks. With Drew Brees and Tom Brady both in the twilight of their careers, and Matt Ryan (who we’ll get to in just a second…) not exactly a spring chicken either, Lawrence gives the Panthers a head start on the future in the NFC South and a chance at being the dominant team in the division for the balance of the 2020s.
Speaking of Matt Ryan, the Falcons sit at 0-2 through no fault of his. Ryan is putting up MVP caliber numbers through two weeks, averaging 361.5 passing yards per game and totaling 6 touchdowns with just 1 interception. Nevertheless, Ryan will turn 36 next offseason and the chance to reset at quarterback given the aforementioned aging quarterback field in the NFC South may be too intriguing for the Falcons to pass up even if Ryan puts together a great season. If anything, Atlanta might be more focused on the fact that Ryan’s trade value would be helped by a great year than giving real consideration to passing on Lawrence to milk the last four or five years of football out of Matt Ryan.
It’s almost poetic. The “most hyped quarterback prospect since John Elway” falls into the lap of John Elway. Yes, Denver likes Drew Lock, but they don’t love Drew Lock. If they did, they would’ve drafted him in the first round. Lock hasn’t exactly proven to be a steal either. He’s looked like exactly what Denver valued him as. A second rate quarterback. With talented, young pass catchers flooding the roster and a quarterback mentor in the front office, it’s too perfect of a situation for Lawrence. With Lock banged up and Cortland Sutton out for the year, the Broncos have a real chance to be terrible. Lawrence to Denver makes a whole lot of sense.
Photo: (Duane Burleson – AP Photo)