The “Year of the Quarterback” is always a popular catch-phrase this time of year.
When it comes to the 2021 NFL Draft, however, it applies. Sporting News’ latest mock draft has five quarterbacks in the top 10 picks.
Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, BYU’s Zach Wilson, Alabama’s Mac Jones, Ohio State’s Justin Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance are expected to be taken in the first round, which would be one short of the record-setting six QBs selected in Round 1 of the 1983 NFL Draft. Florida’s Kyle Trask, Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond and Stanford’s Davis Mills are Day 2 wild cards who could sneak into Round 1 if a team loves them enough.
So how does the 2021 NFL Draft’s QB class compare to 1983 and other quarterback-rich first rounds? Sporting News takes a closer look:
MORE NFL DRAFT: Complete 7-round mock | Top 100 big board
Which QBs will go in first round?
SN’s Vinnie Iyer projects five QBs in the first round of our 2021 NFL Mock Draft. That talented group includes Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Alabama’s Mac Jones and North Dakota’s Trey Lance.
Here is a look at those QBs and their projected landing spots.
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Lawrence finished with 10,098 yards, 90 TDs and 17 interceptions at Clemson. He won the national championship in 2018 and was the Heisman runner-up last season. He is projected to go No. 1 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Zach Wilson, BYU
Wilson passed for 7,652 yards, 56 TDs and 15 INTs at BYU the last three season. He finished eighth in the Heisman voting last season. He is projected to go No. 2 to the New York Jets.
Mac Jones, Alabama
Jones led Alabama to a perfect season and national championship in his first full season as a starter. He finished his career with 6,126 passing yards, 56 TDs and seven INTs. Jones finished third in the Heisman voting. He is projected to go No. 3 to the San Francisco 49ers.
Trey Lance, North Dakota State
Lance led North Dakota State to an undefeated season and FCS championship in 2019. He passed for 2,786 yards, 28 TDs and no interceptions that season and rushed for 1,100 yards and 14 TDs. He is projected to go No. 4 to the Atlanta Falcons.
Justin Fields, Ohio State
Fields passed for 5,373 yards, 63 TDs and nine interceptions at Ohio State during back-to-back College Football Playoff runs the last two seasons. He finished second in the Heisman voting in 2019 and seventh last season. He is projected to go No. 9 to the Denver Broncos.
MORE: Ranking the top 10 QBs in the 2021 NFL Draft
NFL Draft record for QBs taken in Round 1
Six. In 1983, a record six quarterbacks were taken in the first round. That group included three quarterbacks that ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in John Elway (No. 1), Jim Kelly (No. 14) and Dan Marino (No. 27).
Other first-round quarterbacks that year included Todd Blackledge (No. 7), Tony Eason (No. 15) and Ken O’Brien (No. 24).
If there was ever a “Year of the Quarterback,” this was it.
How many times did five QBs go in first round?
Twice. The 1999 NFL Draft featured five first-round quarterbacks. That group included Tim Couch (No. 1), Donovan McNabb (No. 2), Akili Smith (No. 3), Daunte Culpepper (No. 11) and Cade McNown (No. 12). McNabb was the only quarterback among those five who started in a Super Bowl.
The 2018 NFL Draft also featured five first-round quarterbacks. That group included Baker Mayfield (No. 1), Sam Darnold (No. 3), Josh Allen (No. 7), Josh Rosen (No. 10) and Lamar Jackson (No. 32). Allen led the Bills to the AFC championship game last season, and Mayfield and Jackson reached the AFC divisional round.
How many times have QBs been picked 1-3?
Twice. Couch, McNabb and Smith were taken with the first three picks in 1999.
The other year was 1971, when Jim Plunkett (No. 1), Archie Manning (No. 2) and Dan Pastorini (No. 3) were the three first-round quarterbacks selected.
There has not been a first round in the common draft era where four quarterbacks were selected with the first four picks.
What is the record for most QBs in top 10?
The 2018 NFL Draft had four top-10 picks in Mayfield, Darnold, Allen and Rosen. Three quarterbacks were taken in the top 10 in 1971, 1999, 2011 and 2020.
This record could be at least tied, if not broken, in 2021.
Is this a trend?
The numbers of first-round quarterbacks selected continues to increase. Here is a decade-by-decade look at first-quarterbacks selected.
There were four quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft in Joe Burrow (No. 1), Tua Tagovailoa (No. 5), Justin Herbert (No. 6) and Jordan Love (No. 26).
If five QBs are taken in the first round in 2021, then it would tie the two-year record of nine set in 1983-84.
Could a sixth QB be taken in first round?
That is unlikely. Florida’s Kyle Trask is projected as a late second-round pick by SN, and Jamie Newman, Kellen Mond and Davis Mills are considered Day 3 picks.