Trevor Lawrence is the most coveted quarterback prospect in recent memory. The hype has been building at a rapid pace since Lawrence's outstanding freshman season back in 2017. Even in high school he was tabbed as a future No. 1 overall pick, and nothing has changed since.
Some of his pro comparisons are outrageous, but the Clemson QB has every box checked: arm strength, mobility, athleticism, ability to read the field, the clutch gene, big hands, whatever you can think of. He will be the first name called in the 2021 NFL Draft and will head to Jacksonville soon after.
Chris Simms does not agree with the consensus and went against the grain (catching a lot of flak in the process) by releasing his QB prospect rankings for this year's draft today, listing BYU's Zach Wilson over Lawrence. Perhaps he talked to the teams who reportedly also have Wilson above Lawrence on draft boards.
If you, like me, do not consume college football religiously and/or grind prospect tape (Ryan Phillips is responsible for that sort of thing at The Big Lead), this is a scalding take. Lawrence has been wearing the crown of the Next Big Thing for years. While the hype is probably overblown a little, Lawrence's play and stats back up what everyone believes.
Wilson, meanwhile, is a fast riser in this year's draft class and nobody outside of draftnik circles heard his name before the calendar turned to 2021 and mock draft season began in earnest. He has a lot of talent, throwing for 3,692 yards and 33 touchdowns last season. But enough to unseat Lawrence and his three years' worth of momentum? I don't know about that.
I cannot say definitively that Simms is wrong to think this because he, as an analyst for NBC, has spent far more of his time breaking down prospects than I probably ever will. He was also a pro quarterback, so there's that too. I can tell you two things for sure, though: Simms is definitely in the minority with the opinion that Wilson is a better prospect than Lawrence, and Simms has earned the benefit of the doubt with his recent QB prospect takes.
Over the last three years, Simms has been pretty spot-on with his draft analysis. Last year, he had Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert as his top two prospects. Not nearly as bold a ranking as the one above, but he was still right. In 2019, which is looking like quite a disastrous QB draft, he had Kyler Murray at No. 1 followed by Drew Lock. The returns are still early, but both of those guys look better than Dwayne Haskins or Ryan Finley, while the jury is still out on Daniel Jones.
2018 was Simms' most impressive act. In a draft where Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold were touted as the best prospects available, and were the first two quarterbacks picked, Simms had Lamar Jackson as his top QB in the draft, followed by Josh Allen, with Mayfield third. Lest we forget, the lead-up to that draft was rife with takes about how Jackson would be better off playing a different position, and he won MVP as a quarterback two years later. Allen is a similarly electrifying talent who has led his team to the playoffs two out of three years as a starter. Mayfield is coming around, but as of now definitely belongs behind those two, and Simms was ahead of the curve.
It is also worth noting that he recorded an entire feature video for Bleacher Report ahead of the 2017 NFL Draft touting Patrick Mahomes as the most special talent in the draft. That wasn't necessarily an unpopular opinion at the time; the questions about Mahomes entering the draft that year was not about his talent but if he could harness it effectively. Still, a positive mark on Simms' resume here.
So maybe he does know what he's talking about and isn't just ranking Lawrence second to drive engagement. I mean, that could be a part of the equation. The game is the game in sports media, after all. But Simms' recent history with this sort of thing suggests that his opinion is worth considering.