Since the end of the college football season, the NFL Draft quarterback hierarchy has almost universally gone Trevor Lawrence on top by a wide margin, then Zach Wilson, Justin Fields and Trey Lance in the second tier and Mac Jones below them. Over the last few weeks, however, the Jones hype train has picked up serious steam and now it appears to be overtaking the Lance express.
According to Peter King, an NFL coach, "whose team is in the market for a quarterback," said that he's afraid of drafting Lance because, "he's a guy we all needed to see more of, for a lot of reasons."
For those who don't know, Lance only started one season at FCS North Dakota State in 2019 and only played one game in 2020 because the FCS season was moved to the spring and Lance, for obvious reasons, isn't playing in it. That leaves scouts in the tough position of evaluating a quarterback who hasn't played more than one game in over a year and also played against weaker competition than his counterparts.
In his one full season starting, Lance and completed 66.9% of his passes for 2,786 yards and 28 TDs against 0 INTs and ran for 1,100 yards and 14 TDs. However, in one fall game in 2020, he looked pedestrian, completing only 50% of his passes and getting picked off in a 39-28 win over Central Arkansas. He did run for 143 yards and totaled 4 touchdowns, but it wasn't exactly an eye-popping game against a mediocre opponent.
Meanwhile, Jones was outstanding for Alabama in 2020, leading the Crimson Tide to the National Championship, and impressed many scouts at the Senior Bowl. For Alabama, Jones completed 77.4% of his passes for 4,500 yards with 41 TDs and 4 INTs. He finished third in the Heisman ballot.
While Jones was expected to be a first-round pick, over the last few weeks the buzz around him has grown. He's been moving up in many mock drafts, including Mel Kiper's latest, and is being mocked as high as the No. 8 pick now. Most mock drafts still have Lance ahead of Jones, but it's clear Jones is closing the gap.
A year ago, after his outstanding sophomore season at North Dakota State, some were projecting Lance to be the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft. He has a cannon arm and is extremely mobile. However, as you dig deeper you notice flaws, like his propensity to run if his first option is covered and the fact that he doesn't throw to his second option often, which suggest poor field vision. The fact that he didn't play this past season and only played one season against lower competition is also a red flag for teams looking for a player who can step in immediately and start.
That doesn't mean Jones will be taken over Lance. It just means the conversation is happening. Six months ago it probably wasn't. But if this past year has proven anything, it's we should all be prepared for things to change in an instant.